Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

“Liar Liar… ” Ten ways to spot one

my-shorts-on-fireHello everyone, time for more Tall Tales by Big Names. Lying in public, misuse of power, cheating and wrongdoing are headlines once again.

Catch up  here  on  Lance Armstrong, whose apology made his disgrace worse; and here on  MP Craig Thompson, who  sounded most like a sneaky six year old when shown evidence of prostitutes, junkets, cash advances, dates, times, amounts…. “It wasn’t me…I can’t remember… I was set up”. Now facing  150 charges of fraud  he at least has the sense  to let his lawyer do the talking.

The best new material is from the endlessly entertaining Independent Commission Against Corruption.  Try a taste:  ‘Moses Obeid and The Truth Test’:

Mr Obeid had denied knowing about his family’s investment in the Yarrawa coal deal only to be confronted by a 20-minute tape in which they talk extensively about their involvement in the deal.

Beyond the rage that chokes any tax-paying, law-abiding voter when this sort of thing comes out, the idea that we’ve been so totally misled is quite  unsettling.  Are they all at it? Does being truthful make you the crazy one? What can I do to keep  safe?   

Time Magazine  tells us that “The best liars tend to be the least troubled by their dissembling and produce the fewest outward clues”, which is some consolation if you’ve been duped.  And then there’s the wisdom of George Costanza, (“one of  the most deceitful duplicitous deceptive minds of our  time”)  “It’s not a lie… if you believe it”.

More seriously, Canadian researchers  are training mental health and legal professionals how to read the signs that tell you someone is lying. They say that high-stakes liars  tend to “leak” their true emotions from their faces. The corrugators, the so-called ‘grief muscle’s in the middle of the forehead…don’t get activated as they would if someone were really in agony…Skilled liars will use fewer words and fewer sentences and, contrary to popular thinking, they have no trouble maintaining eye contact with the target of their deception…

So here is what you need to know.

Ten ways to spot a liar:

  1. Liars tend to stare too long and too hard;
  2. Overly controlled, rigid body movements (few hand and arm movements in order to avoid looking nervous);
  3. Liars blink, on average, nearly twice as frequently as truth-tellers;
  4. Increased speech hesitation (more “ums,” “ahs” and “ers” in their stories);
  5. They use more tentative words such as “maybe,” “guess” or “perhaps” (avoiding commitment to the lie);
  6. Absence of distress or sadness in the upper face;
  7. More lower-face happiness (a smirk when attempting to appear sad, for example);
  8. Slower speech rate and longer pauses (allowing more time to construct a plausible story);
  9. More likely to raise their eyebrows; and
  10. False smiles; muscles contract around the mouth only, no contraction of the muscles around the eyes.

I am a great fan of sincerity. When Aristotle wrote the rulebook on public communication he taught us that to be persuasive, a speaker needs three things:

• Ethos/credibility. We believe people we respect. Our judgement of someone’s character influences how convincing they are.
• Pathos/ connection. Emotions are how to sway opinion and change minds.
• Logos/reason. Evidence, facts, values and beliefs justify a position.

Anyone in public life should using all three. Knowing you’re lying can’t work – not for ever. It severs your  ethos, pathos and logos all at once. The audience, in the end,  will see through you. 

If only the liars cared.


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This entry was posted on 02/02/2013 by in Political speeches, Public speaking and tagged , , , , , , .

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