At NIRI Boston’s March event, former CIA security specialist Susan Carnicero aimed to turn our perceptions about lying on their head.
As any IRO knows, senior management needs to be credible when speaking to investors. According to research, the average person lies 10 times a day. Sure, some of these are little white lies (like those times that someone asks how you are doing and you say “great” when you are really not in the most jovial of moods). The reality is that people are going to lie if it’s in their best interest. These points – and more specifically, how to detect deception – were the subject of the NIRI Boston chapter’s March event.
Susan Carnicero, Founding Partner at QVerity and former CIA security specialist, treated the NIRI Boston chapter to a training session on how to distinguish between deception and truth. The methods she presented were developed at the CIA by experts who went through thousands of files spanning multiple cultures. How does one discern the difference between nervousness and deception? (Hint: Eye contact has nothing to do with it.) In a world in which communication is very imprecise (e.g., saying “I wouldn’t do that” is not the same as saying “I didn’t do that”), it is important to know the following keys to successfully detecting deception.
Key #1: Analyze vs. speculate. Disregard global behaviors (e.g., toe-tapping or sitting with one’s arms crossed). Make sure to focus only on those behaviors that are a direct result of your question or stimulus. To do this, most importantly, one needs to rely on timing and the presence of what Susan calls “clusters.” More specifically, Susan says an investigator will look for the first deceptive behavior within the first five seconds of the stimulus/question and will then look for two or more deceptive behaviors in close proximity.
Key #2: Manage bias. We want people to like us, and we look for features and behaviors that make us like them. Therefore we’re inclined to look for truthful behavior. To detect deception, one must completely avoid this tendency.
Key #3: Recognize evasiveness. Prime examples of evasiveness are when someone fails to provide the information asked for (by asking the interviewer to repeat the question or asking what was meant by the question, for example), exhibits selective memory (e.g., “not that I recall,” “not to my knowledge”), or refuses to answer. To recognize evasiveness, one must be in “L-square mode” – in other words, look and listen as hard as you can. Being in L-square mode for extended periods can be exhausting, but it can also provide a lot of useful information.
Key #4: Beware of aggression. Attacking the questioner (e.g., “how dare you ask me that?”) is often a tactic to get people to back off, and can be an example of deceptive behavior.
Key #5: Differentiate between “convince” and “convey.” Keep your ears attuned to convincing statements, things people say or do to try to convince others they didn’t do something. They are among the strongest tools in the deception toolbox because the statements can sound so honest and heartfelt. Similarly, listen for referral statements, words people say over and over again (e.g., “as I said before,” “as we said on our last earnings call”). While it is fine for these words to be scripted on earnings calls, the frequent use of these types of statements in everyday conversations can be a deception tip-off if they appear in a cluster.
Key #6: Know non-verbal cues. Behavioral pauses, verbal/non-verbal disconnect (like saying “yes” when shaking your head “no”), moving body parts that are normally still or anchored when responding to a question, and grooming gestures are all examples of non-verbal cues to watch for.
Susan recommended that in our positions as IROs, it is always helpful in meetings to have someone watching the behavior of whoever is answering questions. Knowing how to spot these deceptive behaviors can be an effective skill in any IRO’s toolkit.