Organisational Change Management Volume 2

17. Lying

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. Most of us are guilty of enhancing or twisting the truth or not telling the full story!!!!!!

. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts
- 60% of adults can't have a 10 minute conversation without lying at least once
- 31% of people lie on their resumes
- 40% lie to their doctor
- 90% lie on the online dating profile

.Lying can be toxic for any organisation; it is more than a moral issue. Telling lies derails reality and creates a false reality. This prevents you from dealing with exactly what is going on in your world, ie you are not actually handling the right issues/challenges.

. By telling the truth, people become more transparent, flag problems up front, by  providing all the necessary information to address every issue immediately, etc. This creates a better cultural environment for creativity, success, etc

. Generally, people lie for 2 reasons: to make a gain or avoid a pain. Subsets of these reasons include to shift blame, save face, avoid confrontation, to get their own way, be nice and appear more likeable.

When most people lie, their non-verbal responses inform the audience that they are not telling the truth. Most lies are white lies, ie they are told

" a way of allowing us to live together without violence and aggression because often we prefer to hear subtle distortions of the truth than cold hard facts......white lies are part of the social fabric and stop us emotionally hurting or insulting each other with cold, hard, painful truth..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Lies can also be classified as beneficial, malicious and deceptive lies. The beneficial lie is used by a person who intends to help others. The deceptive lie is the dangerous one because the liar intends to harm or disadvantage the victim for their own benefit. Part of lying involves concealment and falsification. In concealment, the liar doesn't actually tell everything, information is withheld. In falsifying, false information is presented as if it was true.

"...malicious lies, or rumour-mongering are often used as weapons in competitive situations. Malicious liars set out to destroy the character and reputations of their victims, usually with devastating and lasting results..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Some are natural liars who do not have a conscience and are confident of their ability to deceive. Sometimes in adulthood these natural liars become trial lawyers, salespeople, negotiators, actors, politicians and spies.

. There is an observable gender difference in lying

"...Men and women tell about the same number of lies. It's the content of their lies that differs. Women tend to lie to make others feel better and men lied to make themselves look good. Women lie to keep the relationship safe. Women find it most difficult to lie about their feelings. Women lie to avoid an argument..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Owing to women's better understanding of body language and voice signals than males, men get caught lying more often than women

"...known lies can be detected because they involve emotions that leaked out as visual and verbal red lights. The bigger the lie and more emotions involved, the more clues will be displayed by the liar..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002


"...brain scans reveal the average woman has between 14 and 16 key locations in brain hemispheres when she is communicating face-to-face. These locations are used to decode words, tone of voice changes and body signals.......A male typically has only 4 to 7 of these locations because male brains have evolved to specialise in spatial tasks rather than in communications..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

This correlates with female brains being organized for multi-tracking which allows women to deal with a number of pieces of information at one time. Thus women are able to read body signs, listen to what is being said while, at the same time, talking. Males, with their mono-tracking brains, focus on one piece of information at a time and consequently miss many of the body signals

. Research on lying shows

"...a complex loop of activities, involving areas of the prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobes. To lie effectively, it seems that the brain has to first come up with the truthful response, then use further mechanisms to suppress it, produce a fresh, false response and monitor its own performance. Small wonder that we find it hard to lie continually..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Some clues to unmask the liars

Some liars will leave references to themselves out of their lies and avoid using the words "I"or "me". Others will have a perfectly rehearsed script. Thus if you believe a person is lying, ask them to repeat the story several times. Usually by the third time, their version is different.

Furthermore, owing to the stress associated with lying, a liar's voice becomes more high-pitched than normal. In addition to pitch, speech speed and volume can be indicators of lying as voice quality changes

"...When a person is experiencing stress, the associate tension causes a tightening of the vocal cords that gives him a squeakier voice, and may increase the speed and volume. Studies showed around 70% of people increase their pitch when lying. Conversely, if the liar is carefully thinking through the lie to be sure he/she delivers it effectively, he/she may begin to speak more slowly, decrease the volume and slow down their speed. When someone has been unexpectedly caught bending the truth, their speech is likely to be peppered with "ums, ahs, ers, stutters and pauses"because they haven't had enough time to rehearse their lie. This is more noticeable in males than females as males have fewer facilities in the brain for language control......keep in mind that the signals being discussed here show a person is experiencing some kind of stress and does not guarantee that they are lying..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Furthermore, if the liar believes his/her lies, such as political or religious fanatics, then he/she may not show any stress-related signals

. Analysing body language (see Volume 4) can help determine if somebody is lying

Liars display a number of signs that deviate from the usual behaviour. For example, they might blink less frequently than normal during the lie, and then speed up to around eight times faster than usual afterwards. Furthermore,

"...both men and women significantly display increasing hand-to-face gestures when they are doubtful, uncertain, exaggerating or lying. Men's gestures are easier to spot because they are bigger than women's, and men use more of them. These include eye and nose rubbing, ear pulling and collar tugging..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Remember: it is the cluster of signals that is important. With non-verbal responses, the combination of responses is more important than any one single gesture. If someone rubs his eyes, they may genuinely be itchy, sore or tired. You need to see at least 3 signals before you can assume that the person is lying

The false smile can be another "give-away"when lying

"...A real smile......comes fast and is symmetrical - the left side of the face mirrors the right side. A false smile comes slowly and is not symmetrical..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Another indication is in the eyes. Holding eye contact has different cultural meanings. In many Asian and South American countries and Japan, for example, maintaining extended eye contact is considered impolite or aggressive, while in Western and European cultures not maintaining eye contact can indicate that the person is not telling the truth. Furthermore, practised liars are competent at maintaining eye contact while lying. On the other hand, increased blinking is an important signal as it's a sign of increased tension and the eyeballs drying out from too much focused eye contact. Furthermore, the direction in which someone's eyes move when asked a question can help identify a liar. This shows which part of the brain is being used and is a signal that's impossible to fake.

Another possible signal is right-handed liars look towards the left; left-handed liars look to the right.

Some other signals (mostly involuntary) that a person gives when lying include

- holding a finger to the mouth

- nodding their heads while saying "no".

- evading questions

- omitting information from answers

- the nose is inflated (as increased blood flow causes erectile tissues within the nose to swell resulting in the hairs inside the nostril standing up. Thus the nose becomes itchy (resulting in more frequently nose touching)

- facial muscles twitch

- unable to hold eye contact or too much eye contact

- crossing of arms and/or legs

- tightlipped or false smile

- the pupils of the eye narrow, ie dilate

- talking faster than normal

- verbally saying "yes"but shaking the head to suggest a "no"

- hiding hands, ie hands in the pockets

- mispronouncing words or mumbling

- friendliness/laughing overstated

- moving the head a lot when talking

- sweating

- remembering too little or too much detail

- delivering abrupt answers to questions and leaving long gaps or no gaps at all

- repetitious 'ums' and 'ahs'

Methods to reduce the chances of being lied to

- sit in a higher chair. This is a not-so-subtle form of intimidation

- uncross your legs, open your arms and lean back

- do not give any indication that you know they are lying

- invade their personal space, ie when you get close, they will get uncomfortable

- mirror their posture and movement as this establishes a rapport and they will find it harder to lie

- "speak in their style"by listening to how they think, ie visual, auditory or kinesthetic (see Volume 3 for more details)

- give them an "out", eg pretend you didn't hear them correctly or tell that that you don't understand what they said

- stay calm; never show surprise or shock; treat everything they say with the same importance. As soon as you react negatively you'll lose any chance of hearing the truth

- don't accuse and keep away from aggressive questioning

- give them one last chance to correct the lie

. Some of the most commonly used words and phrases that can signal that a person may be attempting to lie include honestly, sincerely, frankly, gut feeling, undoubtedly, without a doubt, believe me, I'm not kidding, would I lie to you, with respect, etc. The use of the expressions "OK"and "Right"to force the listener to agree to the speaker's point of view is another technique about which to be vigilant. Sometimes the words "just"and "only"are used to minimize the significance of the words that follow, ie to relieve a person's guilt or to put the blame for unpleasant consequences elsewhere. Remember: a phrase is not a guarantee of dishonesty and should be read in context. However, here are some examples of phrases sometimes used to peddle lies:

- trust me

- I have no reason to lie

- truthfully speaking

- I am telling you the truth

- why should I lie

- to be totally frank/honest/truthful with you

- would I do something like that

- honest to God

- I swear on my mother's grave

- as God is my witness

- I swear to God

- may God strike me down/dead

- my parents taught me better than that

- I'm a loyal employee

- I'm not that sort of person

- I'd never stoop to such a thing

"...the point is that people of moral character don't need to continually try to prove it...... they live by it and you can see it..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Furthermore, it is easier to lie on the phone than in either face-to-face conversation or Emails. An Email means that there is a recorded copy. While on the phone, the body language cannot be observed and there is no written record.

. Some recent research (Fiona Smith, 2010g) suggests that people in positions of power make better liars. Lying bosses displayed few involuntary signs of lying and stress, such as involuntary shoulder shrugs, accelerated speech, the level of stress hormone cortisol in their saliva, cognitive impairment and emotional distress. Generally people in power show higher testosterone levels and lower cortisol levels.

(sources: Alan Pease, 2002; Geoff Hancock, 2004; Robert Winston, 2003; Alison Kahler, 2009; Fiona Smith, 2010g),


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