More Techniques to Detect Deception over the Telephone
Detecting deception over the telephone remains a difficult task. Without visual cues, detecting deception is difficult, but not impossible. The following techniques will enhance your skills to detect deception over the telephone.
Be a Skeptic
Skepticism suggests to speakers that their statements lack credibility. When listeners express a degree of skepticism, liars try harder to convince them that what they said is the truth. Truthful people merely convey facts because the truth is the truth. When talking on the telephone, monitor speakers to determine if they are conveying facts or trying to convince you of the facts. Skepticism also enhances the Spotlight Effect.
Liars believe that others more readily detect their attempts to lie than is really the case. This phenomenon is referred to as the Spotlight Effect. Listeners can take advantage of this illusion of transparency by subtly inferring that the speaker’s attempts to lie are readily visible. Judicious skepticism will achieve this end.
Liars sometimes clear their throats. The fight/flight response causes the need for throat clearing because the moisture usually present in the throat has been rerouted to the skin to enhance survivability.
Land of Is
Yes or No questions deserve “Yes” or “No” answers. When liars cannot or do not want to answer “Yes” or “No,” they typically go to the Land of Is. This concept was derived from President Clinton’s infamous statement, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word is means. If it means is, and never has been, that’s one thing. If it means, there is none that was a completely true statement.” The Land of Is occupies the space between truth and deception. Most liars want to maintain the illusion of truth, so they go to great lengths to contort the English language to maintain the illusion of truth, but not the whole truth. Listeners get tangled up in the Land of Is and never obtain the truth. Listeners can prevent speakers from taking them to the Land of Is by asking “Yes” or “No” questions. If the speaker does not provide a “Yes” or “No” answer, repeat the question. If the speaker still does not provide a direct “Yes” or “No,” then the probability of deception significantly increases. The “Well…” technique can be used with Yes or No questions to aid in detecting deception over the telephone.
When you ask someone a direct Yes or No question and they begin their answer with the word "Well," there is a high probability of deception. Beginning an answer to a direct Yes or No question with the word "Well" indicates that the person answering the question is about to give you an answer that they know you are not expecting. Consider the following exchange between a telephone sales person and a potential customer.
Salesperson: The product has a lifetime guarantee. No matter what happens just send the product back to us and we will replace it.
Customer: No matter what happens? (Yes or no question and the introduction of mild skepticism)
Salesperson: Well…the guarantee only covers material and manufacturing defects. (The salesperson knows the customer is expecting a “Yes” answer. By beginning the response with the word “Well” the salesperson is going to give the customer any answer except “Yes.”
Customer: So, when you say “no matter what happens,” you really mean only material and manufacturing defects? (Repeating the Yes or No question)
Salesperson: Yes. (The truth revealed)
The Well... technique tests the veracity of others without them knowing that their veracity is being tested. Do not tell liars about this technique because they will deliberately avoid the use of the word “Well.”
No one verbal cue indicates the certainty deception. However, a cluster of verbal indicators significantly increases the probability of deception. Detecting deception on the telephone is possible using these simple verbal techniques. Additional techniques to detect deception on the telephone can be found in a previous Psychology Today blog titled Detecting Deception over the Telephone. Other verbal indicators to deception are outlined in a book titled Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Oral and Written Communications and a booklet titled Catch a Liar.