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LieSpotting, Part II/II. Phraseology of a Lie.

swearing bible

Why did Bill Clinton say, “I did not have sex with that woman.” rather than “I didn’t have sex with that woman.”?  (See Number 3 below for the specific answer.)

Because lying is hard work.  It requires activating different areas of the brain not normally in play during truthful storytelling, controlling one’s physical responses that lying normally elicits and being particularly attentive to the questions being asked.  Fortunately, one of the most reliable methods of lie detection comes from the liar herself. Her words.  Unless you are dealing with an out-and-out clinically pathological liar (and even they will trip up from time to time), it’s fairly simple to hang a liar by her own verbal statements.

We work with various law enforcement agencies that ask us to analyze suspects’ verbal interviews, and over considerable time, have developed a checklist on LieSpotting – the art science of taking apart a lair’s verbal response through verbiage analysis.

Below are 10 common ways that liars use words to obscure the truth:

    1. Liars will repeat a question verbatim. Hey Mike, did you send the email to Karen? Did I send the email to Karen? If this is Mike’s response, you have your answer—he didn’t send it yet. Repeating a question in full is a common stalling tactic used by people looking for an extra moment to prepare their lie. In natural conversation, people will sometimes repeat part of a question, but restating the entire question is highly awkward and unnecessary—they clearly heard you the first time.
    2. Liars will take a guarded tone. If Mike had replied to the question by lowering his voice and asking,  What do you mean?, a lie may well be in the processing of formation. A suspicious or guarded approach isn’t generally called for with a basic question, and the guarded tone taken may indicate that he’s concealing something—usually the truthful answer to your question.
    3. Liars won’t use contractions in their denials.  Providing the classic example of what interrogators call “non-contracted denial” is Bill Clinton when he said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” The extra emphasis in the denial is unnecessary if someone is telling the truth. I didn’t have sex with her is how the honest person is likely to phrase his claim of innocence. Clinton said a lot more than he realized with his words.
    4. Liars tell stories in strict chronology. To keep their stories straight, liars tend to stick to exact chronological accounts when relating an event. They have enough to think about in creating the lie.  But this isn’t how we ordinarily talk when being truthful. When recounting stories, honest people will tell them they way they remember the events – in emotional order rather than strict chronological order. Often we’ll start off with the most impactful emotional moment, and move around in time order to add details that are not in the primary recall.
    5. Liars love euphemisms. It’s human nature not to implicate ourselves in wrongdoing. This holds especially true for liars, who will shy away from strict definitions of their actions, often opting for less harsh language, for example; instead of saying “I didn’t steal the purse” they may say “I didn’t take the purse.” If asked a direct question and your wording is modified/softened in the response, you are being lied to.
    6. Liars overemphasize their truthfulness.  There’s no need to add modifiers such as  “To tell you the truth…” “Honestly…” “I swear to you…” if you really are telling the truth.  When people bolster their response with these type phrases, there’s a strong chance that they are hiding something or not telling the full truth.  There’s no reason for the extraneous words.
    7. Liars avoid or confuse pronouns. We use a good amount of pronouns in normal conversation. They are a sign of comfortable speech, and they may disappear when one is lying. A liar may say “You don’t bill hours that you didn’t work” instead of making the clear first- person statement: “I don’t bill hours I didn’t work.”
    8. Liars use long introductions but skip over main events.  Deceptive individuals will add more detail – particularly around the prologue of a story – but glide over the main event when lying. This lopsided storytelling style is specific to those intent on deception.
    9. Liars give very specific denials. Liars tend to be very particular in what they say and don’t say. Truth-tellers have no problem issuing categorical denials—I never cheated anyone in my whole life—whereas the liar will choose his words ever so carefully – I never cheated on my husband  during the period of our marriage. (Well, there’s the period of dating, engagement and separation and previous relationships that is not covered by that denial.)
    10. Liars hedge their statements. We hear them in court testimony, political speeches and interviews all the time: qualifying statements that give the person on the hot seat an “out” if their lie is uncovered.  “As far as I know…” “If you really think about it…” “What I recall is…” Hedged statements should make the interviewer wonder when the other shoe will drop.

The best liespotting detector is, of course, yourself – the experienced interviewer.  Very few people – statistically insignificant – can lie perfectly; giving a recall of the events in emotional (v. chronological) order, interjecting themselves directly into the lie and remember the non-existent details over an extended period of time.  If they could, they’d be professional spies.   Trust your instincts and listen very carefully to what is being said.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.


Drawing Out A Liar; Techniques in Spotting Lies and Eliciting True Responses


While the traditional courses of human lie detection (facial micro-expression changes, fidgeting, profuse sweating, etc.) are still valid methods of determining your subject’s truthfulness – to the degree that one is trained in, and astute to, human reactions during prevarication –  we can cut to the quick with these newer, tested and timely (upcoming 2016 election year, enough said) tips on real-time truth assessment and manipulation:

1. Response time.   Truthful recollection of an event or fact presents differently in the brain than does a lie. Although several brain areas appear to play a role in deception, the most consistent scientific finding  is that activity in the prefrontal cortex increases when people lie. The prefrontal cortex, situated just behind the forehead, is responsible for executive control (the ability to regulate thoughts or actions to achieve goals). Executive control includes cognitive processes such as planning, problem solving, and attention — all important components of deception — therefore it’s logical to conclude (and fMRI research supports) that the prefrontal cortex is active when we lie. Dishonesty requires the brain to work harder than honesty, and this effort is reflected by increased brain activity.  Simply stated: lies take longer to form so your subject will take longer to answer your question.

Solution: A.  Speed up your rate of questioning.  B. Circle back to questions already asked with an intentional “mis” take on the response. (E.g., misstate the time, date, clothing worn, persons with the interviewee, etc.)

Brain Parts Diagram

2. Eyes.  We’ve all heard the old advice that claims that liars look about furtively.  True for most but the really good ones stare at you for a longer-than-normal period of time.  Not only is that an attempt to appear sincere, it is a challenge to force the interviewer to back down first.

Solution: Counter-intuitively, move your eyes about.  Don’t get into a bug-eyed eye-rolling contest. Rather, as the subject answers, make eye contact and then look directly laterally to a spot above the person’s shoulder. (As if you are looking at something coming up behind them.) This maneuver instigates an innate response to perceived danger behind the subject and elicits a truer response as the lie is halted in its infancy as the responder involuntarily shifts away from the pre-frontal cortex to the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain.

3.  Body Movements, Linguistics:  Liars tend to a) hide or clasp their hands in an attempt to literally “hold firm” to their lies and possibly to stop involuntary shaking of the hands, b) touch their faces or c) exaggerate a speech affect (accent, pronunciation, etc.) during the telling of a lie.

Solution: Subtly mimic the subject’s behavior.  Unintentional (as it were)  mirroring, generally applies to people who are getting along so well that they mimic each other’s body posture, hand gestures, speaking accents, among other actions.

(“Imitation is the best form of flattery.”)

Use this method to subconsciously disarm the subject.  As the chameleon behavior signals trust and admiration, the subject opens up more and incorporates more of the truth (especially if it is shocking, horrible or ethically/morally repellent) in their responses. The body is actually autonomously making the interaction smoother to increase the level of likeability when in rapport.

Use these techniques for good and, in general, trust and hone your own instincts.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Stuck In A Florida Hurricane or Mexican Jail? Five Essential Nationwide and Global Emergency Apps

Emergency app


1.  !Emergency!  (Featured above.)  Imagine yourself in a disaster situation – in a foreign country. You have no clue where the closest embassy is, or the 911 equivalent in Germany or Mexico or Japan.   The !Emergency! app automatically detects the country you’re in and then directs you to the proper authorities. (Given that you are allowed to make that one call if you’ve been arrested in a foreign country.)



2. UbAlert:  a global social network where users share reports – and graphic accounts – of natural disasters (tsunami) and those man-made (Kenya terrorist attack).



3. Re-Unite: the lost family finder from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, helps to update the NLM’s People Locator for natural disasters. Information about missing (and found) family members is posted immediately.

4. Official FEMA app: Can be used to set up a family meeting place and get the latest emergency updates.

5. Life360: Immediately locates a family member. (You can turn off the location feature at any time.)


In any emergency, I know it’s easy to stay calm but it really is important to do just that and trust that you are not alone and help is as close as a click away.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover, 2015

happy holidays


I take this opportunity to thank our readers and clients for their support and to wish all happiness, peace, prosperity and all of the joys of the holiday.

Throughout each year, there are wonderful days and challenging times.  May your strong and heartfelt advocacy efforts be greatly rewarded.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover,


Lina M. Maini

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