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Four lies we didn't buy


"Having an airbag in a politician's car is a bit redundant," Larry Hagman once remarked, and J.R. of Dallas fame has to be considered an authority on long-windedness and lying.

Can liespotting techniques discern when politicians lie? You Betcha!

In my book Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, I mention that an experienced detective told me many people would be more truthful were it not for their uncontrollable desire to talk. Who talks more than politicians?

Consider this: The biggest lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves. Who, besides politicians, has more interest in sculpting an unrealistically idealistic persona, or image, or accomplishment? Maybe sports heroes, sometimes; and entertainment stars, occasionally. Recall the lying-to-himself Neville Chamberlain claiming to have brought peace in our time eighteen months before the lying-to-others Hitler invaded Poland and ignited World War II.

Neither athletes nor entertainers sell themselves to the public at quite the level required of politicians. Nor do they have as much at stake when they lie. We all suffer when politicians lie. Our common welfare is impacted.

So it comes as no surprise that politicians have told some of history's whoppers.

1. I did not have sexual relations with .....
Consider Bill Clinton. "I didn't inhale" ...was easy to see through. Liars often pepper their stories with irrelevant details and silly distinctions. Analyze his more infamous lie, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman...Miss Lewinsky."

Two verbal "tells" compromise him. Liars use non-contracted language for emphasis: "did not" rather than "didn't" . Distancing language ("that woman") was used: "with that woman...Miss Lewinsky" instead of simply, "with Monica Lewinsky."

Another verbal "tell" was his delaying tactic of asking for the definition of the word "yes." Liars famously buy time to formulate their answers. The most common form of this is parroting: i.e. repeating the whole question. Clinton's body language also betrayed him. Liars often hold their upper bodies rigid. Watch a tape of Clinton lying and note his upper body rigidity.

Body language "tells" run in the family. Hillary on Sixty Minutes answered "yes" to Scott Pelley's question about whether the animosity from her campaign against candidate Obama had been resolved now that he was President and she was Secretary of State. She answered "yes" while shaking her head "no". The Liespotting blog offers several examples of her using this same telltale body language.

2. In my spare time, I ...invented the Internet
Al Gore's "I invented the Internet" is as risible as Clinton's "I didn't inhale," and for the same reasons. When queried on his assertions, Gore shows contempt. To any liespotter this is a red flag. In the presidential debates his contempt for his opponent's questions could have been what cost him the election, apparently having learned nothing from Adlai Stevenson's example of how the American electorate distrusts intellectuals.

3. I am not a crook
Watch the rigor mortis in Nixon delivering on tape his "I am not a crook" line in denying any affiliation with Watergate.

4. Read my lips...
Note the rigidity of George Herbert Bush declaring, "Read my lips...No new taxes."

Liespotters never trust reading lips, a cardinal mistake. Both these men smiled without crow's feet around their eyes, a dead giveaway that the smile is insincere and deceit is on the way.

Nearly five centuries ago Machiavelli suggested that to be successful, the Prince "must be a great liar and a great hypocrite." Political princes ever since have proved him right.

By Pamela Meyer

 |  July 28, 2010; 10:12 AM ET |  Category:  Leadership Behavior Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

This is a book promotion; it's not worthy of a WAPO column.

I do not believe the author's techniques described here work reliably except perhaps with clumsy liars. If her techniques really work better than those already taught to investigators, lets see a university and the FBI duplicate them in peer-reviewed research. Also, why doesn't the author tell us what are the lies going on now? Then we can review her predictive success as the facts come out.

Posted by: outragex | August 16, 2010 12:17 PM

I heard Pamela Meyer speak (about her book, Liespotting) at a downtown Barnes & Noble. Her research is really fascinating, and the book has already proved itself an intriguing read and useful tool.

Posted by: chaseash | August 4, 2010 5:05 PM

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