Wednesday, September 12, 2012
A few weeks ago at a family gathering, I played a card game.
It was called The Resistance.
The premise is that there is a spy among a number of rebels, whose job is to work out who the spy is. Naturally, deception is a key part of the experience.
The cards had just been dealt out and I flipped mine over. I was a rebel, and therefore - a spy hunter!
I surveyed the group around the table, each person in some minor stage of distraction or in conversation with someone else. I deemed the timing ideal for the trap I was about to employ.
In a loud voice, I yelled:
"Hands up Rebels!"
Four hands were raised, three of which immediately shot straight up, with one lagging about a second behind the others.
"Now, hands up if you just lied!"
One hand shot up, only to be instantly retracted. It belonged to the player who had lagged behind in the first test. No one else raised their hand at all.
This person gave me an evil glare. They had given themselves up, and knew they had. But I wonder if they knew WHY?
The answer to this question is, of course, that when I called for rebels to raise their hands (a process which is not at all a part of normal game play), this person's brain took a moment longer to process the implications of that question.
Their thought process must have gone something like this:
"I am a spy, not a rebel, so he doesn't want ME to raise my hand. But wait! If I don't act as one with the group, my foul treachery will be discovered!"
And then the hand went up.
They then became painfully aware of their hesitance in raising their hand. Honestly, I doubt anyone but me noticed, as nobody else knew what I was planning, but this person's guilt at attempting to deceive amplified the trauma of the situation.
Then I asked my second question. None of the other players were racked with guilt. They took their time to listen to and process the question. But the guilty party didn't want to be the last to put their hand up. Instead, their attempt to blend more coherently with the group led to their immediate discovery.
Well, this is a fun story, but it serves to illustrate the following point regarding someone who is attempting to deceive - because they are trying to deceive you, it is important to listen not just to WHAT they say, but to HOW they say it.
Just as in the example above, a person's actions will often speak louder than the words that accompany them.
Consider for a moment the thought process above. There was a moment where the subject considered what was requested, and then determined that it didn't apply to them. Then further consideration determined that they had to comply with the request or risk discovery. This is a basic example, but one which applies fairly uniformly to the process of deceit. When questioning someone, there will be an initial basic response, but it is the speed at which the rest of the statement follows that will be telling.
Imagine that you accuse someone of stealing something.
A truthful person will quickly say "No! I didn't, and couldn't have because I was in Connecticut at the time, so watch who you make baseless accusations against! For all I know, you just misplaced it! We all know you have a bad memory!"
Note a few things here. First, the initial response to the accusation was fast - no pause. They also quickly followed their denial with their alibi. If they were lying, they would have denied the claim quite quickly, but their brain would have required more time to defend themselves. As a result, the subsequent dialogue would have been slower and more measured, as the brain took time to fact check and reference, to ensure that the holes in the story were covered.
In addition, note that the innocent party went on the offensive. This is typical of someone who is telling the truth. Rather than defend themselves, they will assert themselves, with thoughts coming so fast that conjunctions are used.
By contrast, a deceiver will defend and try to convince, often asking questions in an attempt to gain assurance that they are being believed.
But combining HOW something is said with WHAT is said is just as telling.
A liar will often start by definitively stating that they will not be moved, that something is not open for debate, or by leveling an ultimatum. Keenly aware of the flaws in their story, they are attempting at that moment to close the discussion before it starts.
If the discussion is forced, watch for your exact choice of words and phrasing to be parroted back at you. If this is not done, there is a tendency on the behalf of a liar to philosophically move the argument to the global perspective rather than a specific incident with few words indicating ownership of the situation. This is a metaphorical attempt to distance themselves from the subject.
And finally, something that all good salesmen know: If you can get someone to agree with you, it is much harder for them to stop that trend and disagree. Watch out for a slew of questions in which your answer will be yes, as it will inevitably build up to a question that exonerates them in the court of your opinion.
"Remember when I found that wallet and turned it into the lost and found? And you recall when that lady gave me too much change and I returned it to her? You know I didn't do this, right?"
By examining these patterns and the reasons whey they are often employed by frauds and tricksters, the subconscious motivation of someone who is lying becomes more readily apparent.
This is the important part of the process, understanding motivation. If you can see why someone is saying or doing something, they are stripped of defensive layers and are easily read. Their capacity to mislead you is diminished significantly as a result.
So, once you are satisfied that someone is lying to you, the question now becomes "How can you best respond to these angry and defensive words?"
We'll examine that next week.