A while ago, a good friend became the victim of deception. It involved a work situation. Everyone involved knew each other. I came to know the facts but was troubled and puzzled about how relationships were put at risk when a few people decided not to speak truthfully about leaked information and contact with a journalist. So, I dug deeper to understand deception.
I guess the good news is that we humans are hardwired to believe what we are being told. If it was otherwise, we would exist in an even more hostile environment.
The bad news is that deception has reached near epidemic proportions according to the experts. And, the workplace is one of the hotbeds of deception. In fact, most tend to be more honest with strangers than those with whom they work and live.
Research suggests that many of us encounter nearly 200 lies a day…yes, a day.
How is that possible you say. Well, here are some of the statistics that got my attention:
- One in four Americans believes it’s okay to lie to an insurer.
- One-third of all resumes contain false information.
- One in five employees says he/she is aware of fraud in their workplace.
- More than three-quarters of lies go undetected.
- Deception costs businesses $944 billion per year.
All this from the book, LIESPOTTING, by Pamela Myer.
So, deception is well beyond the big news stories of politicians misrepresenting the truth or people stealing millions through investment fraud. It is all around us. Oh, and consider this: it’s not like a person is either a deceiver or a truth teller. We all engage in deception from time to time.
Figuring out what motivates deception really is the first step in rebuilding trust. And, having a group of people – or maybe just one other person – where trust is an absolute given brings all kinds of advantages.
The research considers how to define a lie. The definition offered: A message knowingly transmitted to another person with the intent to foster false beliefs or conclusions and without prior notification of purpose.
But, they go further to actually define the nine primary reasons people engage in a deception:
To obtain a reward not otherwise easily available;
To gain an advantage over another person or situation;
To create a positive impression / win admiration;
To exercise power over others by controlling information;
To avoid being punished or avoid embarrassment;
To protect another person;
To protect yourself from harm;
To get out of an awkward situation;
To maintain privacy.
Recognize these? I do.
And, recognizing “motive” is the first step in liespotting. It turns out that in the process of deceiving, people actually do things that the experts refer to as a “tell.” And, learning to spot tells has tangible benefits whether you are negotiating a business deal or just coping with everyday situations in life.
I will leave the lessons in liespotting to the experts in the book. I’ve also included a video from a Ted Talk by the author, Pamela Meyer, which is both entertaining and educational. And, there are many other experts with books and videos about how to spot deception.
My point is this, deception has real consequences. If the experts are correct that, while it has always existed, today we have a virtual deception epidemic; then, we should all work to slow if not reverse something so corrosive to discourse.
There are some clues into how we might go about this task. And, they go to the heart of the problem.
It turns out that when people are face to face about 80% of communication occurs through non-verbal forms of communications. A full 65% has to do with body language.
So, when we flash text messages and emails to communicate to someone right down the hall, we are stripping away for the sender and the receiver the very vital elements of effective communication….the 80% that’s non-verbal. Now, if you want to deceive, this is a real advantage. But, if you really want to better understand someone and effectively discourage deception, get into a face to face situation.
Throughout the human experience, relationships were built on face to face communication. Only recently has virtual communication overwhelmed conversation face to face. While it is not feasible to end our virtual dependence, just don’t let it be the sole method of communication between people that matter at work or at home.
We clearly need added balance. Today, more than 210 billion email messages are sent in a single day. And, to put that in perspective, it means more messages are sent virtually every day than the amount of paper-based mail sent in an entire year.
The experts suggest that while we compose our messages using words carefully, words only make up about 7% of the communication equation. Perhaps there is no better explanation for why miscommunication occurs so frequently.
When you look up the definition of “miscommunication,” you find it means “a failure to communicate adequately.”
That definition provides an appropriate place to conclude. Let’s all strive to communicate adequately. Why would we not? At least if our intention is not to deceive. And, that’s the truth!
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.