The Devil in the Details

Two people are on the floor of an office, one wearing a skirt and heels, the other trousers and loafers.
Know when they are lying.

Long story, lots of details?

Your partner is probably lying and may even be cheating. This might come as a surprise, but the default setting for humans is to tell the truth, unless they are in politics. Lies take longer to tell than the truth. Why? Because the liar must override that natural response.

Story telling is an ancient practice.

When narrating an actual event, the technique and tone is casual and conversational. The speaker is just sharing information. When the purpose is deception, to fool the listener and to persuade them about the plausible veracity of what is being said, the delivery is different.

Truth or Dare!

There are differences when someone is told to lie instead of having chosen to lie. Most often though when it comes to romantic relationships it is a choice. It is also common for the liar to justify the deception as being intended to “protect” their partner from heartache. Cheaters are notorious for this play.

It is difficult to avoid deception.

On the one hand we are all seeking plausible explanations for things that happen. On the other 40% of adults admit to lying daily! Most of the lies people tell are just meant to make communication easier. Sometimes though the results may have drastic consequences.

Lying happens in stages:

  1. Making the decision to lie.
  2. Suppressing the urge to tell the truth.
  3. Creating the alternative “reality”. a)It must be informative, b) It must seem plausible.
  4. Delivery of the lie with no visible signs of anxiety.

Those steps require considerable mental gymnastics. That is why lying takes longer than telling the truth.  It is interesting though that with each telling the lie is streamlined and takes less time to tell. I will never forget watching one of my older brothers rehearse his lies in front of the mirror. The same areas of our brain that are active when we lie are active when we withhold information.

Lies and Substance Abuse…

When substance abuse is involved things are more complicated. My first relationship was with a substance abuser and often he would not remember what he had said or done. He would try to fill in the blanks, and usually succeeded in convincing himself that his constructions were true. It was terrifying.

Are you a lie detector?

The good news is that even if someone has the intention to lie, the more complex the web of deceit, the easier it is to detect. Lies are all constructions, can have many variations and are often “improved” with each telling. What follows are a few tips for detecting a liar.

  1. Before you make any accusations think carefully about all the information you had before this incident.
  2. Compare the ‘fore’ story with the now story. Does what they say now contradict previous information?
  3. Choose your questions strategically: Forced answer questions are “Yes/No”; for example, “So, were you at the office?
  4. Open ended questions are invitations for narrative, “So, what did you do today?”

By combining both types of questions intelligently, you can get a picture of what they are trying to conceal.

  • Pay attention to response times. Just as it takes longer to tell a lie than to tell the truth – liars also take longer to deny the truth than to accept it.

The most important thing to remember is that you should focus on observing, not interpreting what your partner does and says. If you really observe without judgment any patterns will become visible. Get the facts before you let your imagination run wild or jump to conclusions. The more clarity you gain the sooner you will know whether your relationship is still worth investing in. 

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