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What to do when you catch someone in a lie

Published by Business Insider on Sun, 01 Nov 2015

LinkedIn Influencer Dr. Travis Bradberry published this post originally on LinkedIn.Its a hard fact to accept, but your friends and coworkers lie to you regularly. The real challenge lies in how you respond once you catch someone in the act.I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.Friedrich NietzscheEven though most people lie a lotroughly two to three times during a 10-minute conversation, studies showyou dont catch them nearly as often as you might think.Researchers from the University of California analyzed the results of 253 studies and found that we only spot about half the lies were told (53% to be exact). In other words, were about as likely to identify a lie as we are to win a coin toss.The scary thing is that people who are trained in detecting deceptionjudges, customs agents, law enforcement officers, and even CIA agentsdont fare much better. They can only spot a lie about 60% of the time.When you do catch someone lying to you, its usually a real whopper. These are the kinds of lies that are so insulting to be the recipient that its hard to think straight. In these moments, you want to keep the conversation constructive, without letting the liar off the hook, which is a difficult thing to pull off.And what about the times when you have a nagging sense that youre being lied to but arent certain and dont want to come across as paranoid or accusatory' While too much skepticism is never healthy, a small dose can be a very good thing, especially since were so poor at recognizing lies.The question always becomes, what do you do with a lie' If you think someone is lying to you, do you call them on it' Do you tell someone else' Or do you just go along to get along'There are actually several things you can do, and the right one, or the right combination, depends on the situation.First, make certain you understand the rules. Before you decide what course of action to take, check the employee handbook and consider the recent history of similar situations. If youre going to call someone out, you need to know what youre getting yourself and the liar into. Know the severity of the consequences for lying, and make certain you follow proper protocol for addressing it, or the entire thing could backfire on you.Option #1: Do nothing. Nobody likes being lied to, and the natural reaction is to call the liar out, but thats not always the smartest thing to do, especially at work. Before you do anything, ask yourself, Whats at stake besides my ego' Carefully weigh the pros and cons before you take action. Consider who, if anyone, should know about the lie and the implications it has for the company. Sometimes, the animosity you avoid by staying silent is worth more than the satisfaction you receive from speaking out. Other times, the lie is serious enough that people have to know.Option #2: Deflect with humor. Some lies are too big to ignore completely, yet too small to make a big deal out of. When this happens, you can always make a joke of it. Playful comments that acknowledge the lie will usually do the trick. Whether its Hey, I think I just saw your nose grow a little bit or I need to get my prescription checked. When I looked at the scorecard, it said you shot 112, this strategy gives the liar a chance to admit their slip-up without fear of reprisal.The key to making this tactic work is to give the impression that the other person was kidding around or intentionally exaggerating and never expected to be believed.Option #3: Play dumb. Another way to let someone save faceand this is particularly appropriate for group settingsis to play dumb. Pretend you suddenly suffered a memory lapse or are confused about the facts. Ask lots of follow-up questions. The more details you request, the more likely it is that the truth will come out. Drawing it out gives the liar a chance to admit that they misspoke and correct themselves without being called a liar.Option #4: Call them on it. In situations where doing nothing isnt a good option, you can always call the liar out. You just need to think carefully about the best way to do this, and impulsively bashing them is never a smart move. You may choose to have a conversation with the liar in private or with others whom the lie affects.In either case, its important you have evidence that backs up your claim, or you very well may be called a liar yourself. Just make certain you are honest and direct with the person who lied. Dont go to others with the lie when you know its better handled privately between you and the liar.There are many times when reporting a lie is the right thing to do, both ethically and practically. Sometimes, not reporting a lie can cost you your job. However, there are a few things you need to think about before you take that step.First, question your motives. Are you thinking of telling someone about the lie out of concern that either another employee or the company could be harmed, or are you just mad' If its the latter, you run the risk of making yourself look petty; if its the former, stick to the facts. Dont offer any hypotheses about why the person may be lying because thats just supposition on your part. Stick to what the person said, what the truth is, and any proof you have collected.Not optional: Protect yourself. Whether you decide to call a lie or to let it go, once you know youre dealing with a liar, its critical to take steps to protect yourself. One way to do that is to have a witness attest to what the liar said. Failing this, interact with the liar via email or text, both of which create a written record.Though if youre dealing with a particularly savvy liar, theyre not going to commit to anything in writing. In that case, document the conversation yourself: who, what, when, where, etc., and cap it off by sending your lying colleague an e-mail summarizing the conversation. Thats not as good as having proof in the other persons words, but at least youll be able to make the argument that your colleague had the opportunity to correct you.Bringing It All TogetherSome people tell infrequent lies to make themselves look good or to protect themselves. Others are pros. Theyve been doing it their whole careers, theyre good at it, and theyve learned how to avoid getting caught. Thats why theres no single solution that works in every situation. The best thing to do is to carefully consider your options, thinking through the pros and cons of each course of action.Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, TIME, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.More from Travis Bradberry:Sixty Percent of Your Colleagues Are Lying to YouAre You Promotable'Do You Have Grit'SEE ALSO:Why attitude is more important than IQJoin the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: This 'Shark Tank' investor once made a $5 million mistake
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