Skillset New Zealand Blog

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We’ve all done it, sometimes with the best of intentions, but if you are trying to get to the heart of a matter, understanding why people lie might be helpful.

The four main reasons we lie

  •     to protect ourselves or someone else from undesirable consequences – such as getting into trouble
  •     to make you see us in a better light – to impress you or preserve our standing in your eyes
  •     to protect our self-esteem – so you won’t think we were idiots or deficient somehow
  •     to play (or ‘game’) – to string the interviewer along for fun or challenge

What to do to discourage lying

You can discourage the first three reasons for lying by using cognitive interviewing techniques to build rapport with your interviewees.

Try these…

Respect From the beginning, treat your interviewees with respect. Be in control, but be courteous and avoid judgements. If your interviewees feel you are judging them they will clam up and lie to protect themselves or to look good.

Be relaxed  If you want them to remember things, you need to create a relaxed environment so that they can think straight. Don’t start with the pressure.

Body language Make and keep eye contact, nod, smile, make noises (Hmm, aha, yes, okay) to show you are listening and engaged. Try not to get distracted by screeds of note taking – it breaks rapport.

Use their names  Personalise the interview by using their name several times during the conversation – not every sentence, but more than just at the beginning and end.  Let them know you see them as an individual not a case number.

Connect Find a common denominator that shows you can relate on some level. It might be a life experience (lived in the same city) or an interest (sports or family) or set of values or beliefs.

Let them see that you can understand their situation so they can share their reasons and actions with you.

And if they just want to ‘game’

‘Gaming’ is less common than the other reasons for lying, but it is sometimes employed by seasoned offenders and interviewees with particular personality disorders.

Build rapport, but ensure you maintain a professional distance. Try taking a more structured approach and use any evidence or information strategically.

Let the pressure build slowly so they can see you have information that won’t help them, but don’t give it all up at once.

Challenge their inconsistencies and ask them to explain. Show them the game is up - tell them confidently that you know they are lying.

If they give it up - great. If not, you still have the evidence. Game over!

About Alana Billingham

Alana Billingham

Alana is a director and senior trainer with Skillset, based in Wellington.

Alana takes workshops on a wide range of topics and is at the leading edge in the world in teaching investigative interviewing.

Some of Alana's negotiation clients negotiate multi-million dollar deals. Others just need to sort out arrangements with their suppliers.

Alana has attended a master class on investigative interviewing the UK and keeps in touch with her classmates.

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