Spotting a liar

Hunt for clues of a dissembler

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Workplace Communication

Savvy managers have exceptional “b.s. detectors.” They usually know when someone is lying to them, and this insight give them a more accurate sense of an individual’s character.

There’s no magic to spotting a liar. The following clues do not provide 100 percent proof of dissembling, but they represent red flags that should alert you to raise your guard:

Nonverbal cues. Study a speaker’s body language if you’re having a face-to-face conversation. Note recurring habits such as someone putting their hands over their mouth when talking, severing eye contact when they’re in the middle of making a point, plucking real or imaginary lint from their clothes, leaning away from you (or curling up in their chair as if they want to escape) or shaking their feet.

Evasive answers. When you ask a clear, direct question, you should receive an answer that’s at least somewhat related to the issue at hand. If the person chooses instead to spout generalities or go off on tangents, they might be hiding something.

Say you ask a job candidate, “Did you have primary responsibility for budgeting?” The applicant responds, “In working with budgets, I learned how to allocate resources and make projections.” Then they elaborate on these points, without addressing their scope of responsibility.

Opinions disguised as facts. Seasoned liars know that if they assert their opinion in a strong, forthright tone, some people will accept what they say as gospel. But don’t be fooled. Beware if you ask a simple fact-finding question and get non-verifiable “facts” in return.

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