You may believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’, but for many, telling the truth, encouraging truth from others or knowing when truth is twisted or absent can be extremely challenging aspects of human communication.
If I asked you to list situations where the truth was important to you, I’m sure you would have no problem naming many. Maybe you can personally relate to one or more of these:
- Interviewing a candidate for a job
- Speaking to someone who witnessed an incident
- Conducting a workplace investigation
- Negotiating a deal
- Going on a date
- Making an investment decision
- Overcoming obstacles to a sale
- Talking to your teenage daughter about where she was last night
- Buying a car (ok, so maybe you don’t expect the truth here)
I can think of few person-to-person interactions where you would actually prefer lies over the truth (perhaps only if you were in possession of ‘ground truth’ and you were seeking to catch someone out in a lie). Then of course there’s the “does my bum look fat in this dress” question where most women want to hear “no, you look amazing” even if that isn't the true belief of the respondent.
On all other occasions when you are learning about a person, a business, an incident or trying to uncover facts, the preference is that you get the most useful, most relevant and most accurate information from which you can make a better or more informed decision or take effective action.
So, if we agree the truth is critical, do you feel confident that you do everything in your power to increase the likelihood that someone is going to be truthful with you? How many tools, methods or techniques are you aware of that could do one or more of the following things?
- Encourage a truthful person to continue to tell the truth
- Influence someone who was unsure if they should be truthful to choose the truth
- Cause a change of mind of a person who had intended to be deceptive
- Allow someone who has engaged in deception to back-track and confess the truth
I’ve worked in the field of training, specialising in interviewing and communication skills with a focus on detecting deception and evaluating truthfulness and credibility for almost 20 years.
Many crime shows on TV will have us believe that spotting a lie is easy and the answer is simply in the eyes, or in the shaky voice, or in the blushing of a suspect’s face. While this may be true on occasion, lie spotting is not as easy as some make out and most people, on average, get it right no better than 50% of the time. That means they also get it wrong about 50% of the time. Not the sort of odds on which you want to base big decisions.
Indeed with training and increased awareness you can certainly improve the chances of noticing what other’s miss and you can become more aware of the emotional and cognitive stressors that are in play when high stake deception is underway.
But the area that I have become even more interested in over the past few years is developing and teaching skills to attract and encourage more truth rather than simply focusing on the ‘sexy lie spotting’ part of the equation.
To me, it makes so much more sense to do everything in your power to increase the likelihood that the truth will flow first.
People always have the choice about how truthful they are. They base their decisions on many factors including what is at stake, what they believe is expected of them and what the consequences of their truth or lie might be.
So, as an investigator, a business person, an interviewer, a parent or a person seeking true love, are you confident you are not doing (or doing) or not saying (or saying) something that is causing that person to choose deception over truth?
If you could do one or two or more things that would encourage more truth instead of unintentionally blocking it or pushing it away, isn’t that more powerful than only looking for the cues of deception?
I’m writing a book to help people who are interesting in knowing how to encourage more truth. I believe it’s different to anything currently available and it will help in both personal and professional settings.
I’m keen to hear your thoughts and what methods you use to encourage more truth in any settings. And, if you have some stories you are happy to share with me to share with others, I would love to speak with you.
If you would like some tips to encourage more truth, send me through an email and I’ll send back a tip sheet.
Here’s to more truth, deeper trust and stronger connections.
Training Group International
(Elly Johnson is also known by her former name of Lizz Corbett)