Let Their Words Do the Talking

Verbal cues to detect deception.

Become a Better Liar and Live a Better Life

Extroverts have an advantage over introverts when it comes to being good liars.

Getting caught manipulating the truth can be embarrassing. Researchers have spent countless hours studying verbal, nonverbal, and paralinguistic cues to help us detect those whow would deceive us. But little research has been conducted to identify the characteristics of good liars.

But the truth is, adopting some of the characteristics of a good liar will actually help you live a better life.

Good liars control their emotions.

The fear of getting caught in a lie triggers the fight-or-flight response, which mentally and physically prepares the body for survival. During the fight-or-flight response, the body automatically responds to a threat without conscious thought. As the threat increases, the ability to process information becomes increasingly impaired. The level of cognitive impairment depends on the real or perceived likelihood of getting caught.

The fight-or-flight response presents two major obstacles for liars. First, it produces physiological activity such as increased respiration, increased perspiration, and increased heart rate. The body dissipates excess physical energy through increased body movements. These nervous movements have been categorized as nonverbal cues that indicate deception. Fortunately for liars, no one nonverbal cue has been identified as an indicator of deception. The best method to detect deception using nonverbal cues is to look for clusters of gestures associated with the fight/flight response. Good liars learn how to dissipate excess energy in ways that do not draw unwanted attention.

The second obstacle caused by the fight/flight response is cognitive overload. Liars have much to think about during the act of deception. Liars have to monitor their verbal and nonverbal cues, remember what they said and what they did not say, and they have to ensure that the story they tell is in a logical and organized fashion. Additionally, liars must monitor their target's verbal and nonverbal gesture's to make sure the lie remains undetected. In other words, when liars lie, their brains are fully engaged causing cognitive overload. Cognitive overload makes thinking and speaking difficult thus reducing a liar's ability to successfully deceive others.

Tip: to become a more effective liar you must recognize the onset of the fight/flight response and then take action to prevent the fight/flight response from engaging. This provides you with additional cognitive resources to successfully carry out your deception.

Good liars stay in their personal baselines

Under normal circumstances, a person's behaviors remain consistent within self-imposed limits. These self-imposed limitations form a personal baseline. Liars often get caught because they say or do things that are outside their personal baselines. Parents catch their kids lying because their behaviors during deception fall outside their usual behavioral patterns. Husbands and wives catch their spouses lying because their behavior is out of the ordinary. Unusual behaviors act as tripwires for suspicion.

Tip: to decrease your chances of being caught in a lie, stay within your baseline. When you lie, act and speak in the same manner as you would when you tell the truth. This is especially true when lying to people who know your personal baseline. People who know you well can easily identify out-of-baseline behaviors.

Good liars have outgoing personalities

Extroverts have an inherent advantage over introverts when it comes to being good liars. People tend to see extroverts as more self-assured and more likable than introverts. Self-confidence and like-ability disarm suspicion. People who are physically attractive in addition to being self-confident and likable have an even higher believability quotient. People like people who are self-confident, likable, and attractive. People tend to overlook minor inconsistencies and are more likely to extend the benefit of the doubt to people they like.

Tip: If you are an introvert, observe extroverts during social functions and mimic their behaviors to increase your odds of successfully deceiving others.

Good liars are rapid thinkers

The ability to think on your feet is essential to being a good liar. During deception encounters, a liar often faces unexpected questions. The liar's response is critical. A misplaced pause or an unintended touch to the face could betray the lie.

Tip: Rapid thinking can be mastered with practice. Stand in front of a full length mirror and tell a lie then ask yourself an unexpected question to see how you would respond. Watch your verbal and nonverbal gestures and note any "tells." To practice how it feels to be the target of your lies, stand in front of the mirror and ask, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most trustworthy of them all?"

You see, it is possible to become a better liar by mastering a few simple techniques to avoid deception detection. You can lead a better life free from those embarrassing "got ya" moments. Your conscience may work overtime and you may experience many sleepless nights, but that is a small price to pay to become a better liar.

John R. "Jack" Schafer, Ph.D., earned his degree in psychology from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California and served as a behavioral analyst for the FBI.

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