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Negotiation

4 Telltale Signs You're Negotiating With Somebody Who Is Dishonest

Never assume it's the truth just because you like what you're hearing.
4 Telltale Signs You're Negotiating With Somebody Who Is Dishonest
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
5 min read

A necessary element to running a successful, enduring business is to work with people who posses high levels of integrity. Success that sustains is built upon dependable, trustworthy and honest relationships. We are all human, and all humans are capable of lying, but some people lie more readily and easily than others. To catch a liar we have to be aware that just because someone is telling us what we want to hear, this doesn't mean they are telling us the truth. If we have the gut feeling someone we’re negotiating with is withholding or lying, there are a number of ways to spot their untruths.

Related: 12 Things You Need to Know About Fear, and How You Can Be a Better Entrepreneur Because of It

1. Inconsistency

People who lie are bad at one simple thing -- consistency in the details they share. To detect dishonesty, it is critical to pay close attention to the details of the information we are being given. Inconsistencies and exaggerations will help confirm our suspicions.

When we are being told the truth, the information, examples, stories and details remain the stable over time. It is easy for a person to answer questions when they're telling the truth -- they don't have to remember what they have fabricated and what they haven't. When an event, situation or change has really occurred, the person is able to recall the sequence of events. They can explain in detail what the results of those events or changes were and what that will mean for us.

On the other hand, if a story was fabricated, the person we're questioning will find it difficult, if not impossible, to remember what they had originally told us. We are left knowing we’re not being given full measure. This is not a person we want to continue doing business with. Following our instincts saves us wasted time, effort, energy and long-term regret.

Related: Say What!? Google Might Be Working on a Lie-Detecting Microphone Throat Tattoo

2. Eye contact

A person's eyes are the windows into their soul. Eye contact reveals the guilt and anxiety of the person who is being dishonest. A person who is deceiving us will have a difficult time maintaining consistent eye contact when we're negotiating or problem-solving. The guilt and anxiety they feel unconsciously shows itself in their inability to engage in an eye-to-eye conversation.

There is a flip side to this as well. If the person we’re communicating with stares invasively or too harshly into our eyes, keeping a level of eye contact that is forceful or uncomfortable, they may be trying to coerce us into believing the fabrications they are telling us. When the person we’re dealing with is honest, eye contact is comfortable, engaging and appropriate.

Related: 4 Body Language Cues You Need to Know When Networking

3. Body language

The body is the most reliable communicator. As a psychologist, I gain 90 percent of what is communicated through a person’s body and only 10 percent through their words.

The more dishonest a person is, the bigger the movements they make with their hands and fingers. Further, dishonesty makes it hard for people to sit still when they are communicating. People who lie tend to shrug their shoulders or shake their heads as if they are saying no when asked about details and evidence to support the information they’ve discussed. They may be saying yes with their words, but their body will say no.

Never underestimate a person’s body language as the pure reflection of their thoughts and feelings. To be successful and to develop enduring, trusting relationships, which are foundational to any successful business, we must be choosey about whom we surround ourselves with. It’s wise, not paranoid, to pay attention.

Related: 15 Body Language Secrets of Successful People

4. Tone and speed of speech

A person who is being dishonest will often speak unusually fast or slow, raising or lowering their tone of voice. They aren’t necessarily aware they’re doing this, because it’s their nerves that drive the behavior.

When people raise their tone or volume, it reveals defensiveness. If they lower their tone, it's to conceal their nervous or guilty emotions. It the person we're negotiating with talks faster, it usually signifies dishonesty. Other people will speak slower and with a deeper tone, coming off as condescending when confronted in order to appear more certain about the topic. This particular method of spotting a liar is more effective if we know the person enough to be familiar with the tone and cadence of their speech.

We can save ourselves a tremendous amount of valuable time, effort, energy and regret by researching the reputations of others. Great businesses are built upon solid relationships. To avoid failure, resentment and lost money we must require our trust be earned over time and through experience. It is too easy to get wrapped up in impulsive excitement when someone is telling us exactly what we want to hear. So, before jumping into any deal with both feet, it is wise to gain experience with people on some smaller deals as a way to test the integrity of the words and promises being offered.

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