Fool me once shame on you image - sharonsayler.comApril 1st – April Fools Day….  I’ve never really liked this day. What is that old saying? “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me….”

“Fool” is such a loaded word, full of guilt and shame… and I often hear “How could I have been such a fool?”

We’ve all had that moment where we realize we’ve been taken advantage of, where we stop and say, “How could that have happened?”

So, why do we fall for a lie and can we spot a liar?  The short answer is, as in much of life, “It depends.”

The television show “Lie To Me” made spotting a liar seem a lot simpler than it really is. There are many telltale signs that someone is lying, except when the liar believes his or her own lie such as a sociopath or psychopath might.  This post is not about being taken in by a sociopath or psychopath.

Why do some people see it coming and others don’t? Given the stakes, it makes sense that trust would develop with time. It isn’t always about intelligence. Although, having specific expertise or knowledge does help you see the signs.  If you are an expert on a subject, finding a distortion or falsehood is easier, as in the case of a complex financial ruse.  Yet we don’t always operate from what makes cogitative sense.  We often trust based on emotion and later rationalize on biased logic.

What is it that you want? That is what you are vulnerable to.
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For deception to work quickly, there has to be a benefit, often emotional, that gets a person to believe quickly…even if the benefit is “He/she likes me!” “Buy it now. It’s the last one,” or “If you don’t get it, someone else will.” A person’s perceived benefit varies with one’s life experience. The benefit has to be worthwhile to the listener but not so high as to be unbelievable.

The deception connection begins with a testing of your beliefs and may include a little falsehood here and there to see how you react and where your boundaries are. This is where you as the listener might begin to feel that something isn’t right but people often work harder to dismiss those feelings than to prove or disprove what you have just heard and seen.

At its root, deception and lying are a cooperative act. If the ‘deceiver’ is not believed, the lie has lost its power. Yet, most of us want to believe others.  We are motivated by the expectation of reciprocity along with social proof or group affinity. Social proof is often observable through the statement of “everyone else is doing it why shouldn’t (can’t) we?” An example of affinity is belonging to the same religious organization or charity. It can even occur when you like the same types of things.  For instance, we may both have poodles, and I’m good so you must be good.  To the extreme, a professional con artist finds out you are a huge Star Trek fan, then they begin to casually drop in references to Kirk and Spock – bingo – at the subconscious level you begin to believe they are just like you, including trustworthy.

On any given day we are deceived multiple times, from outright lies to little white lies to “No, those don’t make you look fat,” and the clues to detect deception can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Recent research reveals that the “verbal methods of deception detection are better than nonverbal methods” despite the common assumption that nonverbal detection methods are more valuable according to the Association for Psychological Science. So, throw your assumptions out the door, we can’t always spot the liar, howeversome of the telltale signs to watch for are:

  • Liars tend to freeze their upper body and movements become jerky.  Touching their face, throat, hair or mouth instead of gesturing, especially with an open, up-facing palm is common.  Timing and duration of spontaneous gestures and expected emotions are out of synch.  For example: saying “yes” while shaking the head “no.”
  • Eye contact that is extreme.  Too much or too little eye contact are both telltale signs. They look you in the eyes too much as they have heard the old adage about looking you in the eyes indicating that they’re trustworthy. Too little eye contact is related to guilt or shame.
  • A fake smile.  The crows feet of the eyes cannot be faked – the real smile is in the eyes and other muscles of the face. Emotions are often limited to mouth movements when someone is lying or faking. A tight-lipped grin or smirk as the lie is almost complete indicates that they subconsciously think they have gotten away with it.  They may also have an asymmetrical smile of contempt as a way of saying, “You’ve been dismissed.” It’s associated with moral superiority and is shown by one lip corner being pulled up and inward.
  • Attitude and emotions are big indicators – and often overlooked. The display of emotion is exaggerated, delayed, or is of extended duration, then suddenly stops without a lasting facial quiver or micro-expressions. A long pause or repeating the question is an effort to stall for time to think.
  • Too much irrelevant detail and strict chronological detail or a mismatch in language. They are willing to cooperate, willing to brainstorm and are happy to change the subject. May try righteous indignation, harsh humor or teasing if challenged.  They tend to use very formal language such as “I was not there” instead of “I wasn’t there.”  They may also use distancing language such as “I did not have sex with that woman,” instead of I didn’t have sex with her. Qualifying language such as “To tell you the truth,” “In all candor,” or “You know what I’m talking about,” are all signs that someone is trying to convince you they are telling the truth. You have to ask yourself, why are they trying so hard?

The above five signs are just part of a long list of possible ways to spot deception or an incomplete truth. Too many people discredit their own emotional / intuitive guide. Trust those gut feelings. The above tips should be viewed as red flags and when each are seen as a single movement or statement, they are not proof of deception. It’s the entire message along with a cluster of behaviors that are more important than someone who is uncomfortable with eye contact, for example.

Trust those gut feelings. The above tips should be viewed as red flags and when each are seen as a single movement or statement, they are not proof of deception. It’s the entire message along with a cluster of behaviors that are more important than someone who is uncomfortable with eye contact, for example.

No foolin’ here either. I’d love to get to know you – let’s talk. NO SALES!  Please just comment below and we’ll get the process started. I so look forward to learning about you, what you do and your struggles and visions for helping to change the world…

Have a great day whatever your adventure – keep smiling

To Success! To Life!




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As a behavioral communications expert and founder of Competitive Edge Communications, I help high performing executives become confident communicators and leaders. They learn to enhance their natural charisma through developing their verbal and body language messages to quickly influence, inspire and persuade.
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