Much is known about the behaviors associated with lying. Indicators include patterns in voice, facial expressions, eye movements and so on. Unfortunately, most of this information is so fleeting and the movements are so rapid that accurate analysis often requires great skill, or audio or video equipment, or both.
To detect distortion, lies, or spin in most workplace situations, we need real-time analysis without such equipment. And we can get exactly that if we pay attention to the content and structure of the message, including what is said, what is not said, and how it is said or not said.
Here's Part I of a little catalog of ploys people use to make us believe something they don't. Check out Part II.A message is especially
suspect if it contains
appeals to your own
biases, beliefs and wishes
- Biases, beliefs, and wishes
- We all have biases, beliefs and wishes. Those who know what yours are can use them to make their messages more acceptable to you. A message is especially suspect if it contains appeals to your own biases, beliefs and wishes.
- Excessive qualification
- Some statements contain qualifications that sound like they're added for emphasis, but actually provide the misleader some safety through hidden restriction. For example, "The Congressman states unequivocally that he was not present in that meeting at 10 AM." Oh? Was he there at 10:01?
- Consistent ambiguity
- This technique usually entails restating an assertion several times in different ways, but always with enough ambiguity to protect the misleader from being caught in a lie.
- Letting something be discovered
- In this technique, the misleader hides one lie behind another. People usually assume that when they pull off the topmost false layer, the layer that's exposed is true. If you catch someone in a lie, don't assume that the next story is true.
- Truth is stranger than fiction
- Because most misleaders aren't gutsy enough to lie implausibly, they use plausibility as a disguise. If what you're hearing seems plausible, consider the possibility that it's a lie. If it's implausible, it might be wrong, but it's less likely to be a lie.
- Wiggle room
- Watch for ambiguity of the kind that could provide the misleader "wiggle room" through which to escape if caught. People who tell the truth need no wiggle room.
- The message is contained in the words of another
- When the essence of the tale is carried in the words of a third party, the teller can claim that he or she was misunderstood in paraphrasing taken out of context. And if found out, the teller didn't lie if the third party actually did speak the reported words.
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Ethics at Work:
- It Might Be Legal, but It's Unethical
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we can all expect to be held to higher standards of professional ethics. Some professions have formal
codes of ethics, but most don't. What ethical principles guide you?
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- Non-Workplace Politics
- When we bring national or local political issues into the workplace — especially the divisive
issues — we risk disrupting our relationships, our projects, and the company itself.
- Looking the Other Way
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intervene. We look the other way. Typically, we do this to avoid the risks of making a report. But looking
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- The Attributes of Political Opportunity: The Basics
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming July 25: Exploiting Functional Fixedness: II
- A cognitive bias called functional fixedness causes difficulty in recognizing new uses for familiar things. It also makes for difficulty in recognizing devious uses of everyday behaviors. Here's Part II of a catalog of deviousness based on functional fixedness. Available here and by RSS on July 25.
- And on August 1: Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers rely on to avoid disciplinary action. Available here and by RSS on August 1.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.