lying in negoitationsLying happens every day.  Lying in negotiations and mediation happens. Lies of omission are practically expected, while we hope at least lies of commission won’t be made. Being able to decipher if someone is holding back could be critically useful and help determine the true intentions of opposing parties (and maybe even your own client).

Lying in Negotiations

There are many ways to help you do this, including physical responses and facial expressions. Though those responses cannot be suppressed, it can take alot of focus and attention to catch facial expressions at 1/15 of a second. Listening for verbal cues about a speaker’s complete truth telling may be an easier and more effective technique for a person not trained to understand every micro-expression. .

How can you tell someone’s lying? Their lips are moving too much.

Those cues can include excessive talking, use of third-person pronouns and an increase in profanity, according to the findings of a study that looks into the language of deception, discussed in the paper Evidence for the Pinocchio Effect: Linguistic Differences Between Lies, Deception by Omissions, and Truths, which was published in the journal Discourse Processes and written about in an article by the Harvard Business School.

Deepak Malhotra, of the Harvard Business School, coauthored the paper with Associate Professor Lyn M. Van Swol and doctoral candidate Michael T. Braun, both from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. According to Malhotra,

“Most people admit to having lied in negotiations, and everyone believes they’ve been lied to in these contexts…We may be able to improve the situation if we can equip people to detect and deter the unethical behavior of others…Just like Pinocchio’s nose, the number of words grew along with the lie.”

Those who spoke more were more likely to be lying but also more likely to be trusted.

To garner a sample of truth tellers, liars, and deceivers by omission, the researchers recruited 104 participants to play the ultimatum game, a popular tool among experimental economists. Researchers’ key findings about the liars in the game: word count, profanity, and pronouns. The study found that liars:

  • Used many more words during the game than did truth tellers, presumably in an attempt to win over suspicious receivers.
  • Spoke in more complex sentences than either truth omitters or truth tellers.
  • Swore more than truth tellers, especially when one side voiced suspicion about them.
  • Used far more third-person pronouns than truth tellers or omitters, thought to be a way of distancing themselves from and avoiding ownership of a lie.

Those who engaged in deception by omission used fewer words and shorter sentences, but that turned out not to be a good strategic move. Players trusted the bald-faced liars far more than they trusted those who tried to deceive by omission. The relative silence garnered more suspicion than flat-out falsehoods.

Researchers emphasize that linguistic cues are not a foolproof method of detecting lies, but the factors found to be associated with lies and deception could be warning signs that should prompt more vigilance and further investigation concerning the veracity of the people with whom we are dealing.

When communicating with others, keep your eyes and ears open to signs of lying and deception. Though not proof positive, if these factors are present, take what’s being said with a very big grain of salt.