Don’t be conned. How to expose a liar!

Negotiators believe that people trying to influence them
during a negotiation try to deceive them fairly regularly. In fact, researchers
suggest this is the case on average around 40% of the time. There are clearly a
lot of little white lies, fabrications, hyperbole and outright lying going on. 

Observing and analyzing behavior is one of the major tools
Negotiation Process observers use. Looking for a range of deception clues gives
us the capacity to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies.

Some common give-away signs to look out for:

Contradictions between the spoken word and the other party’s
physical body language. For example, the other party says, ‘To be honest I
think I’ve been more than fair’, followed by squirming and eyes darting
nervously. This contradiction between body language and spoken word is
something we may well be able to recall.  

Other common signs to
be mindful of:

  • ‍A ‘poker-faced’ facial expression – with subtle changes
  • ‍Eye contact – evasive, glance shifts
  • ‍An increase in hand- to face- contacts (mouth cover, nose touch)
  • ‍Smaller, tighter, less expansive arm and hand gestures
  • ‍Body orientation – moving away, turning away
  • ‍Body movements – less physical and confident, more squirmy and smaller, tighter movements

Yet, it’s one thing to detect a range of subtle and obvious
deceit indicators but another to call the other party out on them. Whatever
your planned negotiation outcome is, how will it help to accuse the other party
of lying? It probably won’t.

The skilled negotiator, having observed enough signs of
deceit to be on alert, can attempt to manoeuvre the other party to reveal their
dishonesty by using one of the most formidable skills every negotiator masters:
open questioning. By asking an open question, for example:

‘I understand you believe you’ve provided us with the most
generous and considered offer your Board has agreed to. What’s the background on this decision? Who else was involved in shaping the range you’ve offered?’

Open questions starting with who, what and how can
prompt the responder to expand on their (flawed) version of events. The more confidant
they initially feel the more likely they are to start revealing gaps in their
account, inconsistencies and contradictions.

‘No man has a good
enough memory to be a successful liar.’
Abraham Lincoln

Good negotiators wait patiently, using the gentle pressure
developed by tactical open questioning to allow the other party to give
themselves away. Rather than pouncing on the first inaccuracy, allow the other
party more rope. In the majority of cases, the other party’s version will more
than likely become riddled with evasive, erratic and even contradictory

We also know the impact of a sudden shift in questioning can
have. Using open questioning asking the other party to recall the sequence of a
past event starting backwards in time can create enough confusion for their
story to fall apart. For example: ‘Can you talk me through the process starting
from the final decision… how did the
final offer come about? What happened
at the end of the meeting?’

Negotiators need heightened strategic awareness of
negotiation process and human behavior. 
When you observe ‘shifty’ behavior you need to start digging and
delving. Using open questioning will elicit detail. The more detail, the more
follow-on open questions. The more the other party’s narrative flows the sooner
it will start to resemble a story, and more than likely a rather fictitious

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