Trust is important when it comes to running your business. So what should you do if you suspect that one of your team members, or even a client might be lying to you?
Shining a blinding light in their eyes and pounding on the table to demand answers may work on TV, but it’s not very effective for real people, says retired Green Beret Sergeant Major Karl Erickson.
Erickson, who perfected the art of identifying fibbers and extracting truths while in the military, and by studying interrogation techniques with John E. Reid & Associates, recently shared his insight.
First step – establish truthful behavior.
He notes that it is harder than people think to tell if someone is lying based on their body language alone. Sure, liars may have shifty eyes and jiggling knees, but so do honest people who are just nervous.
He suggests starting off by asking innocuous questions about things that the person will likely be truthful about. You could even use Facebook to find out more about the person, so that you can ask them innocent questions about their family or their latest vacation.
That way, you can establish an idea of the person’s general behavior.
If they break a sweat and bite their nails while telling the truth, then you’ll know that these habits aren’t necessarily associated with lying.
If you start by asking questions they won’t lie about, then slowly turn up the heat, you’ll be more likely to notice if they start behaving differently when you get to the juicy stuff.
Ask a question in various ways.
Erickson also recommends asking the same question at least three different ways. A liar won’t likely mess up their story, even when asked repeatedly.
However, they may reveal “carefully repeated phrases” and an “overly deliberate choice of words” that suggest that they’ve rehearsed their answers.
Don’t try to intimidate.
Being friendly and compassionate works better than intimidation. Erickson says that he’ll tell someone, “if I was in your shoes, I’d probably have done the same thing.”
Soften them up, and they’ll be more likely to confess.
Tell a version of the story.
Lastly, Erickson suggests telling the version of the story that you imagine could have happened.
The more you elaborate and exaggerate, the more likely the person will interrupt you to correct your assumptions, resulting in at least a partial confession.
Good luck! You deserve to know the truth.
This story was first published here in September of 2016.