In the workplace, where everyone is working towards the collective goals of the organization, you would hope that it would be a place based on truth and honesty. Where people could express their opinions openly, provide accurate assessments and feedback of a situation or person, and where deception and lies would be kept to a minimum. However, the truth is that human communication is actually steeped in deception. In fact, the accepted wisdom is that the world would be quite a brutal place to live in if everyone was 100% honest and that some degree of deception is actually useful for the smooth operation of social relationships. That said, ensuring a general level of truthfulness within an organization is key to reducing conflict, building productive teams and maximizing success.
Some people are more truthful than others.
But within the reality of everyday deception and truth in the workplace, there is a more significant matter here, and that is the fact that not everyone has quite the same moral compass. And although most of us share a similar moral code of customs and values that guide our social behavior, the way this pans out in real life can differ across individuals. The result? That some people are more truthful than others. Or, conversely, that some people are more deceptive than others – or to put it bluntly, they are more prone to lying.
How do you spot a liar?
So how do you spot a liar? How do you know when someone is deceiving you instead of telling you the truth? Well, the bad news is that most of us are relatively bad at judging when someone is lying to us. We are generally poor lie detectors. In fact, we are often only about at chance levels at detecting a lie. This is because in general, most of us have a tendency to be trusting of others – something that is generally important to maintaining a level of social cohesion in groups and in society as a whole.
But there are some signals that science has suggested you can look out for to work out whether someone is lying or not. In particular, a person’s nonverbal behavior can hold information about what’s going on inside their head, although decoding these messages isn’t always easy. For example, science suggests that while telling complex lies, people may make fewer hand and arm movements. In addition, if you are lucky, a liar might ‘slip up’ if they are distracted, and mistakenly utter the truth.
What makes a difference in how good you are at lie-detecting?
Also, there are differences in yourself that can make a difference in how good you are at detecting someone lying. For example, if you are in a distressed or anxious state, then you are often better at detecting liars than when you are in a happy mood. This also applies more generally, where people who are more socially anxious, or who are more sensitive to threatening signals in their environment, are also better at lie detection.
Furthermore, if you are someone who has a greater level of trust and belief that things will work out fairly, then you are worse at detecting lies. This is because you are someone who displays a higher than normal truth bias. Whether you are distracted at the moment when you have to spot a lie can also make a difference, with some evidence suggesting that you are actually better at detecting lies if your mind is busy with an unrelated task.
What this means is that how good you are at detecting lies isn’t fixed in stone. It is something that can change depending on the situation and mindset that you find yourself in.
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