lie detector

Words matter: how to catch a liar in the act

September 18, 2012
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pinocchio Words matter: how to catch a liar in the act

Fine tuning your sleuthing skills

Catching a liar can be difficult, especially if that person is good at it. Most people don’t walk around with lie detector tests in their trunks, so your best bet is to rely on your Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy’s sleuthing skills to determine the truth from falsities.

If said skills are a little rusty, a recent report from Psychology Today gives tips on how to catch a liar.

The secret is in the qualifiers

One of the key identifiers of a liar is their ability to play upon tag qualifiers like “that” and “this.” Whenever we question someone we think isn’t telling the truth, scenarios often play out like this:

  • Jim’s boss: Jim, some of the people in the office said they saw you rush into the break room this morning, drink the last cup of coffee, and not start a new one for the people who may want a cup after you. Did you do that?
  • Jim: I never did that boss.

Jim knows he’s technically telling the truth since he didn’t rush into the break room, he actually sauntered in and then proceeded to drain the pot, thank you very much. Since his boss posed the question including a small bit of information that wasn’t true, he was able to say he didn’t do that. What he did was similar, but it wasn’t that exact action that was described.



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The answer? Be more direct

Obviously this feels like splitting hairs and such petty things shouldn’t occur in the workplace. But if you have a suspicion that someone isn’t telling the truth, watch out for qualifier tags and be more direct.

When Jim responds saying I didn’t do that, follow with “well if you didn’t do that, what did you do?” This forces Jim to give you a direct answer rather than the questioner having to keep producing suggestions that Jim can deny and skirt around.

The takeaway

Granted this method may work better on your kids than your peers, but the method can at least work as a red flag that the person has done something wrong but isn’t admitting to it and is getting around it by adding in qualifiers.

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.



Weigh in...

  • mfm

    Unfortunately petty things do occur in the workplace, often times more-so than in any junior high environment. There is a lot more at stake however where our livelihoods are concerned. I would not hesitate to split every hair on someone’s body if it meant the difference between me keeping my 6 figures/yr and someone else keeping them…

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