How To Recognise False Information

False information can range from what we see on the news and social media to what the other party tells us during a negotiation.

Observing and analysing behaviour is one of the major tools seasoned negotiators use. Looking for a range of deception clues gives us the capacity to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies.

Most of the time human beings tend to automatically assume everything we see and hear is true. This comes from what we call “the illusory truth effect”, causing us to believe something is true if it is familiar or easy to understand. Our individual beliefs and worldviews also influence how we view new information as we are more likely to believe it if it aligns with our personal views. Digital and traditional marketing amplifies falsehoods, as the average person is exposed to more than 4,000 ads/brands a day.

While our brains have developed a screening process to minimise influence it can have on us, it can still be influenced by false information even if our brain has corrected it. This is called the “continued influencing effect”.

To recognise false information from the other party when negotiating, a good starting point is to look for the following:

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

After observing signs of lying, the skilled negotiator will attempt to get the other party to reveal the truth, however this requires patience and skills.

At ENS, we recommend using open questions. 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. 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.