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Has someone ever lied to you while negotiating? Have you ever felt that the other person is hiding information from you but are never really sure about it? Willfully keeping information from people and misleading people with false information is very common in a business scenario. In this article we will discuss signs of deception and lying and how to keep them at bay.

Overview

Research in this field has brought out different findings on how people lie and the signs that indicate it. An experiment conducted by Deepak  Malhotra (Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School) with Associate Professor Lyn M. Van Swol and  Michael T. Braun(University of Wisconsin—Madison) concluded that there are two kinds of cues. A strategic and a nonstrategic cue. A strategic cue is when a person consciously tries to lie even though he/she is not yet accused. A nonstrategic cue is when someone lies unconsciously, i.e. an emotional response.

Flat-out liars tended to be more verbose as they try to convince the other party. But people who omitted information, used fewer words. The graph below shows a study conducted by researchers in Michigan to build a real world lie testing software.

As far as the nonstrategic cues are concerned, the language of a liar tends to be laden with profanity and complex sentences. They also made use of third person pronouns more often. The experiment revealed that, receivers believed outright liars more than the people who omitted information.

Signs

But can we really depend on commonly accepted indicators like nervous fidgeting, sweating, taking long pauses etc. to be telltale signs in every negotiation? Apparently not. An article in MIT Sloan management review titled “Negotiating with liars” states, that lie detection is not an easy  task. In fact humans, in general, can detect lies with only 54% accuracy. The article has discredited popular notions such as a shift in position or jiggling of the leg while lying. In fact liars who know that they are under observation,willfully subdue such movements to make it look organic. Reliable signs of deception as found in a field study of suspects interrogated by the British Police, were  minor:the suspects were blinking less and paused for a longer time.

 

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So what should one do? Here are a checklist of things you can do while negotiating:

  1. Even though it has been proved otherwise, looking for signs like nervousness and fidgeting can be helpful because not everyone is a competent liar.
  2. You can  try posing the same question in a different way. This helps to avoid a narrow response.
  3. To test the veracity of statements, you can ask a question to which you already know the answer to. This makes it easy for you to judge the trustworthiness of the other party.
  4. Make the agreement watertight. The final agreement must contain clauses stating that a full disclosure of facts is imperative to the deal. So, if the other party does omit or try to mislead, any person/organisation can take legal action against them.
  5. You can include a contingent clause in the agreement, i.e. including the party’s statements in writing. This carves out a path for a more honest discussion.

There are no foolproof methods nor are there any lie detecting technologies that predict deception with accuracy, but taking precautionary measures is a good practice. As Ronald Reagan, former President of the USA, said “Trust, but verify”.

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