Pamela Meyer, author of “Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception,” knows you didn’t miss the client meeting because your dog was sick.
The Harvard MBA and online social networking CEO developed a system of scientifically based techniques to ferret out the mendacity, subterfuge and tall tales she feels are threatening to consume our nation. “I really believe that there is a deception epidemic going on in our society,” Meyer told us.
In the course of researching her book, Meyer found that the average person hears 10 whoppers per day, not to mention the dozens of little, white “other-oriented” lies woven to protect fragile egos. (Don’t be fooled, your butt actually looks like Coco on a KFC Double Down binge in those jeans).
To combat this tsunami of fibbing, Meyer turned to both the field of psychology and the well-honed craft of the law-enforcement interrogation. “It’s time to take back the truth, and the first thing we can do as individuals is to learn a new skill set,” she says.
This includes detecting “micro-expressions” — those involuntary moments that tip our emotional hand — along with decoding verbal responses and the Darwinian act of reading body language. According to Meyer, these techniques can boost your B.S. meter by 25 to 30 percent. (Right now, it is hovering around a pathetic 54 percent success rate.)
Considering myself no rube, I decided to take Meyer’s techniques into the field to see how well I could spot liars.
The Business Dinner
My work dinners are a little bit different from most people’s since I’m not pitching anyone my services. Rather, they’re hoping to enlist mine. So, right off the bat, they have an incentive to blow smoke up my behind.
At a recent meeting with a brand manager for a global spirits company, I listened to his spiel about his product. I focused on his various tics, like the way he’d play with his watch whenever starting a new thought or pull one side of his mouth back when answering a question.
This made me think of Meyer’s chapter on “deceptive faces,” and I spent some time considering whether or not I was looking at one. “The first rule in deception detection is to watch the face,” she writes in the chapter on micro-expressions and the various ways by which a face lies.
A positive reaction can be belied by a raised eyebrow, a down-turned corner of the mouth or a forced smile, according to Meyer. Remember your reaction to the first batch of your college roommate’s home brew — “No, really … it’s … delicious …” — well, you weren’t fooling anybody. I continued to watch for these flashes of honest expression, but the whole time I was doing this I was also drinking cocktails made with very spirit the manager was trying to sell me on.
Conclusion: Friends don’t let friends lie-spot drunk.
Running Into an Ex
If there was ever a time to strap on the hip waders, this was it. When people see their ex on the street suddenly everyone is a New York Times bestselling author of fiction.
How’s your job? Bought the company. Still in the same place? Well, that and a beach house in Bora Bora. My mom? Couldn’t hate you more. So I listened for the clues, the “dodgeball” (Me: “So, are you dating anyone?” Her: “Are you?”) and “Bolstering” (“Honestly, I’m too busy to date right now.”). The latter is a statement she might drop to convince me that her life was, in fact, infinitely better without me in it.
Meyer has developed an interview technique, known as the BASIC Method, that relies heavily on deciphering the verbal clues present in every lie. BASIC stands for “Baseline Behavior,” “Ask Open-ended Questions,” “Study the Clusters,” “Intuit the Gaps,” and “Confirm.”
The idea is to first get to know someone’s quirks (sometimes a nervous laugh is just that), ask questions that provide more information than “yes” or “no,” watch out for red flag “clusters” (like closed eyes, clenched fists or clipped answers), identify gaps in the information you’re getting and, finally, go all “CSI” by asking questions that can’t be evaded (“Are you happier since we broke up?”).
Conclusion: She was being 100 percent truthful when she said she was over me. Ouch.
Watching a World Cup Match
You know what soccer (sorry, futbol) players like to do more than shield their junk during a free kick? Writhe around in faux pain on the ground after being lightly grazed by another player.
Seriously, do they give out thespian awards at the World Cup? Anyway, I figured the tournament would be the perfect time to root out deceptive body language.
Meyer writes that genuine body language is usually symmetrical, whereas insincere body language is asymmetrical (full shrug, good; half shrug, bad). Look for excessive fidgeting and closed-off gestures, like folded arms or locked ankles, when reading someone’s physical reactions. Also, remember that hand gestures don’t mean the same thing in every country, something I learned the hard way when traveling through Italy and flashing the “rock on” symbol to signal my approval of the penne alla vodka. (Turns out, I was actually indicating that the chef’s wife was cheating on him).
I applied these concepts to the game and studied each knee grab, each facial grimace and every outstretched plea to the ref to determine its authenticity.
Conclusion: Get off the ground and back in the game, Faker von Whines-a-lot.