27 September 2023

Four ways to point out a porky

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Travis Bradberry* says that while no one likes being lied to, calling a lie out is not always the smartest thing to. He suggests other ways of dealing with what can be a difficult and embarrassing situation.

It’s a hard fact to accept, but your friends and co-workers lie to you regularly.

The real challenge lies in how you respond once you catch someone in the act.

Even though most people lie a lot — roughly two to three times during a 10-minute conversation, studies show — you don’t catch them nearly as often as you might think.

Researchers from the University of California analysed the results of 253 studies and found that we spot only about half the lies we’re told.

In other words, we’re about as likely to identify a lie as we are to win a coin toss.

The scary thing is that people who are trained in detecting deception — judges, customs agents, and law enforcement officers — don’t fare much better. They can spot a lie only about 60 per cent of the time.

So what about the times when you have a nagging sense that you’re being lied to but aren’t certain and don’t want to come across as paranoid or accusatory?

The question always becomes, what do you do with a lie? If you think someone is lying to you, do you call them on it? Do you tell someone else?

Or do you just go along to get along?

There are actually several things you can do, and the right one, or the right combination, depends on the situation.

Do nothing

Nobody likes being lied to, and the natural reaction is to call the liar out, but that’s not always the smartest thing to do, especially at work.

Carefully weigh the pros and cons before you take action. Consider who, if anyone, should know about the lie and the implications it has for the organisation.

Sometimes, the animosity you avoid by staying silent is worth more than the satisfaction you receive from speaking out.

Other times, the lie is serious enough that people have to know.

Deflect with humour

Some lies are too big to ignore completely, yet too small to make a big deal out of.

When this happens, you can always make a joke of it. Playful comments that acknowledge the lie will usually do the trick.

This strategy gives the liar a chance to admit their slip-up without fear of reprisal.

The key to making this tactic work is to give the impression that the other person was kidding around or intentionally exaggerating and never expected to be believed.

Play dumb

Another way to let someone save face is to play dumb. Pretend you suddenly suffered a memory lapse or are confused about the facts.

Ask lots of follow-up questions. The more details you request, the more likely it is that the truth will come out.

Drawing it out gives the liar a chance to admit that they misspoke and correct themselves without being called a liar.

Call them on it

In situations where doing nothing isn’t a good option, you can always call the liar out.

You just need to think carefully about the best way to do this, and impulsively bashing them is never a smart move.

You may choose to have a conversation with the liar in private or with others whom the lie affects.

In either case, it’s important you have evidence that backs up your claim, or you very well may be called a liar yourself.

Just make certain you are honest and direct with the person who lied.

Don’t go to others with the lie when you know it’s better handled privately between you and the liar.

There are many times when reporting a lie is the right thing to do, both ethically and practically. Sometimes, not reporting a lie can cost you your job.

However, there are a few things you need to think about before you take that step.

First, question your motives. Are you thinking of telling someone about the lie out of concern that either another employee or the organisation could be harmed, or are you just mad?

If it’s the latter, you run the risk of making yourself look petty; if it’s the former, stick to the facts.

Don’t offer any hypotheses about why the person may be lying because that’s just supposition on your part.

Stick to what the person said, what the truth is, and any proof you have collected.

Some people tell infrequent lies to make themselves look good or to protect themselves.

Others are pros. They’ve been doing it their whole careers, they’re good at it, and they’ve learned how to avoid getting caught.

That’s why there’s no single solution that works in every situation.

The best thing to do is to carefully consider your options, thinking through the pros and cons of each course of action.

*Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart. He can be contacted at talentsmart.com.

This article first appeared at talentsmart.com.

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