Organisational Change Management Volume 2

17. Lying

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. Most of us are guilty of enhancing or twisting the truth or not telling the full story!!!!!!

. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts
- 60% of adults can't have a 10 minute conversation without lying at least once
- 31% of people lie on their resumes
- 40% lie to their doctor
- 90% lie on the online dating profile

.Lying can be toxic for any organisation; it is more than a moral issue. Telling lies derails reality and creates a false reality. This prevents you from dealing with exactly what is going on in your world, ie you are not actually handling the right issues/challenges.

. By telling the truth, people become more transparent, flag problems up front, by  providing all the necessary information to address every issue immediately, etc. This creates a better cultural environment for creativity, success, etc

. Generally, people lie for 2 reasons: to make a gain or avoid a pain. Subsets of these reasons include to shift blame, save face, avoid confrontation, to get their own way, be nice and appear more likeable.

We all have choices to make. People rationalise lying in varies ways: 

- they are convinced they will not be caught

- believe it will do little harm to anyone

believe it will help people 

- the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be about continuing to do it 

- you are not the only one who does these things

Most people regard themselves as honest, most of the time, ie only telling the occasional lie or being dishonest, eg tax return, online dating biodata, exceeding speed limits, etc.. Yet crisis after crisis 
illustrates widespread dishonesty or lying. It can become systemic; some examples 

corporate (Enron's financial disaster, GFC with the failure of large investment firms, etc) 

political (Pres Nixon in Watergate, Pres Clinton about having sex with an intern, Margaret Thatcher about the Argentinian war, Pres Trump on almost averything, Pres Bush's rationale for the Iraq war, etc) 

sports (Armstrong, etc), etc 

There is a fudge factor (the ability to misbehave, like lying, while assuming that you are doing nothing wrong) involved, eg 

- everybody's doing it

- conflict of interest

- I'm not hurting anyone

- lying for others

- helping someone

- creativity

- lack of supervision

- social norms, ie socially acceptable

- fatigue

- distance from the crime

- self-deception

- no downsize to cheating

(source: SBS, 2019) 

For example if everyone is doing it, it is easy to rationalise, justify, etc doing it

The GFC involved nearly all the elements of a fudge factor. 

An example of how minor dishonesty can lead on to greater crimes. At times, in sport (basketball), referees will twist or bend the rules to give advantages to selected players, ie not following the rules and giving preferential treatment to some players and teams, especially those that are popular with the crowds (sometimes called star treatment). These selected players and teams are valuable contributors (merchandise sales, seat sales, etc) to the commercial success of the sport. Different stakeholders like officials, coaches, players, commercial interests, etc will put "subtle" pressure on the referees in the hope of influencing their decision-making. For referees to advance in their industry, the referees have to play the "game". Sometimes it can go further, when referees will have a good indication of who will win or lose in different games, the gamblers are keen to get this information to increase the chance of winning their bets. Furthermore, there is evidence that some referees started to bet on the games they were officiating in. Some referees have been convicted of these illegal activities. 

Another example is President Richard Nixon initially lying about Republican Party's involvement in the break-in of the Democratic Party's office at 
Watergate . To cover this initial lie, he had to tell many other lies that finally resulted in his leaving the presidency in disgrace. 

The matrix experiments (SBS 2019) were conducted on 40,000 people and demonstrated that around 70% cheated. Also, the experiments demonstrated that there are many more "little" cheaters (only take small amounts of money - 28,000 people) than "big" cheaters (take large amounts of money - 20 persons). On the other hand, the total value of money taken by the little cheaters (US $ 50,000) exceeds significantly the total amount taken by the big cheaters (US $400), ie 100+ times difference. Thus the impact of the small cheaters is considerable. Some examples in USA

- health care scams are estimated cost society around US $ 200 billion annually

- insurance frauds are estimated to cost around US $ 400 billion annually

- IRS estimates that 15% of each year's tax revenue is lost

(source: SBS 2019) 

Sometimes you know it is wrong that the immediate gratification of theft can counter the doubts of lying.

Lying is part of self-deception and is an important survival mechanism. In the animal world, the bigger the brain, the larger the capacity to lie!!!!! 

For children, lying is an important part of developing their imaginative functions and helps build their brain. It is part of the theory of mind, ie as our brains develop and mature, we are able to better understand what other people are thinking, etc. 

When we are young, we learn that a little bit of lying or "white lies" are OK. 

Lying can be linked with having over optimistic views of ourselves (optimistic bias - can be seen in up to 80% of the population), eg we won't die from health issues, we are better drivers than we really are, we are more attractive than we really are, etc.. We convince ourselves that these are truths. 

The more we lie, the more we rationalise and believe the lie or self-deception is true. Self-deception has both positive and negative impacts, ie positive impacts as it can make us feel better; while negatives stems from having a a false sense of security. 

The process of self perception is so strong and can occur rapidly that people believe it is true. 

There it is little gender differences between men and women in the area of cheating. 

When comparing different professions like bankers and politicians, bankers tended to cheat twice as much as the politicians!!!!! 

Distance from the crime impact was the most troubling element. Research has shown that this element 'scan double the amount of cheating when people were paid with plastic chips rather than real money. In a society moving away from payment in cash to credit cards, Internet banking, Internet share trading, etc, this is a disturbing finding, ie cheating will increase. Yet people will still regard themselves as honest. 

Corruption involves people abandoning their own moral compass. 

How do we get people to behave better? An example is the concept of "honesty shops" in Indian schools where students can buy school supplies like pencils, pens, paper, erases, maps, etc.. These shops are unsupervised and students are asked to pay for their purchases. Initially students took items without paying. And repeatedly, the students were informed of the consequences of this action, ie the store would go broke. Eventually the message got through about honesty and trust. 

Another strategy which seems to be effective in enhancing honesty is reinforcing a moral code like the 10 Commandments, honour code, etc. Reminding people about their own moral fibre is important. 

Also, using the right words can be helpful. for example, the UK tax office publicised that most people pay their taxes on time and this helped increase tax collection. 

Dishonesty can be contagious. 

Generally countries with high social trust have better economic performance, and is a better indicator than skill levels. 

In some ways, deception is part of human nature and interaction, ie fundamental part of being human. It is deeply ingrained into our behaviour!!!!! People can easily fall into this mode of deception. 

Some examples, 

- between one and two years old, we use crying to get attention

- adults lie up to 9 times a day

People are better at lying than we are at detecting lies, ie only around 50% accuracy 

Saying yes while your body language states otherwise, eg shaking your head, most likely means you are lying

The question is: would the world be a better place if we didn't lie? 

Motivation for lying can be 

- to protect yourself because you did something wrong and/or you are trying to hide something, ie to cover up wrongdoings

- to avoid confrontation, especially in the workplace and personal life

- when truth is not the best option

- to be kind to somebody

- saying yes when you mean no and vice versa

- to be tactful and diplomatic

- wanting to be liked 

- to get what you want, etc

Omissions, ie when we hold back an important piece of information, eg 

- when we avoid entering a direct question such as "Do I look good in this outfits?" by saying "It is really stunning" when you think otherwise

- when somebody has a different point of view from yours and we say nothing at this

- young adults keeping information 
about their activities, etc from their parents 

People have a front stage (which is on display to the public) and a backstage (which is reserved for themselves in private and maybe a select few close friends) 

Positioning can be a marketing term for lying. Another techniques for lying include embellishment or exaggeration or storytelling 

When we lie there is emotional arousal except when we are lying with a good socially acceptable reason, like being a kind. Thus lying can cause conflict and emotional problems unless we can justify, rationalise it. Otherwise continual lying can result in confusion about your own identity and lead to health issues like depression. 

Lying and creativity are linked. To be creative you need to use your imagination, same as in lying. 

there are physiological indicators when we lie: 

increased heart rates 

increased sweating, especially palms 

increased cognitive strain on our brains and this can affect movement in our bodies, ie normal body language will change, eg movements become more controlled 

language (clusters of words that can indicate lying, like using more positive language to try and hide the lie; use of third person (they, s/he) rather than first person (I, me); using peripheral information that is not relevant and superficial details in the hope that it will sound more realistic, etc) 

non-verbal behaviour does not support the words used, eg 

i)  saying everything is fine when your head movement (nodding from side to side) is indicating differently 

ii) hesitating when replying 

The amount of lying can change with age, ie it peaks in teenage/early adult years and declines as we get older (SBS 2019a). 

One in five interactions usually involves lying and we lie to around a third of the people we meet; self-centred lying is more frequent than lying to protect others 

We tend to lie most to the people we are most familiar with, eg mothers 

As workplaces tend to favour the extroverts, this can be very exhausting for a person who is an introvert as they have to force themselves to be somebody they prefer not to be. 

White lies or fibs (telling a lie to protect a relationship, situation, etc) account for around 80% of our lies. 

Duper's delight (Paul Ekman, 2001) is the delight that someone feels when they deceive others. It is another word for deception, for tricking people into some kind of action or misunderstanding. People who successfully deceive often have a secret pleasure in their success. This is similar to the pleasure that people get when they exercise power. It appears that the brain rewards us for achieving control over other people. Linked with this is the delight of secrecy, ie knowing or having something that others are not aware of. Some body language signs of this include 

- upturned corners of the mouth

- creased eyes

- throwing their head back

People's lying behaviours have changed with technology, ie the way and when we do it. It is changing the way we live and trust each other. On the other hand, it can constrain lies, eg recruitment by LinkedIn has shown that there are fewer lies on that platform than in other forms of recruitment as people are concerned about how their reputations would be impacted on their LinkedIn networks if they lie. 

People lie most on their phone and less on their e-mails - because there is less likely to be a record of the phone and face-to-face conversations, and because these communication modes are more spontaneous and written exchanges. 

We are very susceptible to lies, eg fake news (highly emotional). Trust default or truth bias gives preference to the first piece of news, especially if it is emotional and threatening, eg negative. This is an evolutionary response as a basis for survival. 

Like lying, being honest has many positive and negative impacts. Generally people are happier (emotionally) when they are honest.  Lying is not a black and white view. There are times when it is beneficial, ie 

lying is a social lubricant as it can help make things better. 

Need to know where to draw the line between honesty and lying, ie when it is of benefit to you and others. For most people, "deception" is not as bad as "lying", as it takes less emotional toll than lying. Starting with deceptive behaviours can lead to the more serious lying. 

When most people lie, their non-verbal responses inform the audience that they are not telling the truth. Most lies are white lies, ie they are told

" a way of allowing us to live together without violence and aggression because often we prefer to hear subtle distortions of the truth than cold hard facts......white lies are part of the social fabric and stop us emotionally hurting or insulting each other with cold, hard, painful truth..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Lies can also be classified as beneficial, malicious and deceptive lies. The beneficial lie is used by a person who intends to help others. The deceptive lie is the dangerous one because the liar intends to harm or disadvantage the victim for their own benefit. Part of lying involves concealment and falsification. In concealment, the liar doesn't actually tell everything, information is withheld. In falsifying, false information is presented as if it was true.

"...malicious lies, or rumour-mongering are often used as weapons in competitive situations. Malicious liars set out to destroy the character and reputations of their victims, usually with devastating and lasting results..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Some are natural liars who do not have a conscience and are confident of their ability to deceive. Sometimes in adulthood these natural liars become trial lawyers, salespeople, negotiators, actors, politicians and spies.

. There is an observable gender difference in lying

"...Men and women tell about the same number of lies. It's the content of their lies that differs. Women tend to lie to make others feel better and men lied to make themselves look good. Women lie to keep the relationship safe. Women find it most difficult to lie about their feelings. Women lie to avoid an argument..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Owing to women's better understanding of body language and voice signals than males, men get caught lying more often than women

"...known lies can be detected because they involve emotions that leaked out as visual and verbal red lights. The bigger the lie and more emotions involved, the more clues will be displayed by the liar..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002


"...brain scans reveal the average woman has between 14 and 16 key locations in brain hemispheres when she is communicating face-to-face. These locations are used to decode words, tone of voice changes and body signals.......A male typically has only 4 to 7 of these locations because male brains have evolved to specialise in spatial tasks rather than in communications..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

This correlates with female brains being organized for multi-tracking which allows women to deal with a number of pieces of information at one time. Thus women are able to read body signs, listen to what is being said while, at the same time, talking. Males, with their mono-tracking brains, focus on one piece of information at a time and consequently miss many of the body signals

. Research on lying shows

"...a complex loop of activities, involving areas of the prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobes. To lie effectively, it seems that the brain has to first come up with the truthful response, then use further mechanisms to suppress it, produce a fresh, false response and monitor its own performance. Small wonder that we find it hard to lie continually..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Some clues to unmask the liars

Some liars will leave references to themselves out of their lies and avoid using the words "I" or "me". Others will have a perfectly rehearsed script. Thus if you believe a person is lying, ask them to repeat the story several times. Usually by the third time, their version is different.

Furthermore, owing to the stress associated with lying, a liar's voice becomes more high-pitched than normal. In addition to pitch, speech speed and volume can be indicators of lying as voice quality changes

"...When a person is experiencing stress, the associate tension causes a tightening of the vocal cords that gives him a squeakier voice, and may increase the speed and volume. Studies showed around 70% of people increase their pitch when lying. Conversely, if the liar is carefully thinking through the lie to be sure he/she delivers it effectively, he/she may begin to speak more slowly, decrease the volume and slow down their speed. When someone has been unexpectedly caught bending the truth, their speech is likely to be peppered with "ums, ahs, ers, stutters and pauses" because they haven't had enough time to rehearse their lie. This is more noticeable in males than females as males have fewer facilities in the brain for language control......keep in mind that the signals being discussed here show a person is experiencing some kind of stress and does not guarantee that they are lying..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Furthermore, if the liar believes his/her lies, such as political or religious fanatics, then he/she may not show any stress-related signals

. Analysing body language (see Volume 4) can help determine if somebody is lying

Liars display a number of signs that deviate from the usual behaviour. For example, they might blink less frequently than normal during the lie, and then speed up to around eight times faster than usual afterwards. Furthermore,

"...both men and women significantly display increasing hand-to-face gestures when they are doubtful, uncertain, exaggerating or lying. Men's gestures are easier to spot because they are bigger than women's, and men use more of them. These include eye and nose rubbing, ear pulling and collar tugging..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Remember: it is the cluster of signals that is important. With non-verbal responses, the combination of responses is more important than any one single gesture. If someone rubs his eyes, they may genuinely be itchy, sore or tired. You need to see at least 3 signals before you can assume that the person is lying

The false smile can be another "give-away" when lying

"...A real smile......comes fast and is symmetrical - the left side of the face mirrors the right side. A false smile comes slowly and is not symmetrical..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Another indication is in the eyes. Holding eye contact has different cultural meanings. In many Asian and South American countries and Japan, for example, maintaining extended eye contact is considered impolite or aggressive, while in Western and European cultures not maintaining eye contact can indicate that the person is not telling the truth. Furthermore, practised liars are competent at maintaining eye contact while lying. On the other hand, increased blinking is an important signal as it's a sign of increased tension and the eyeballs drying out from too much focused eye contact. Furthermore, the direction in which someone's eyes move when asked a question can help identify a liar. This shows which part of the brain is being used and is a signal that's impossible to fake.

Another possible signal is right-handed liars look towards the left; left-handed liars look to the right.

Some other signals (mostly involuntary) that a person gives when lying include

- holding a finger to the mouth

- nodding their heads while saying "no".

- evading questions

- omitting information from answers

- the nose is inflated (as increased blood flow causes erectile tissues within the nose to swell resulting in the hairs inside the nostril standing up. Thus the nose becomes itchy (resulting in more frequently nose touching)

- facial muscles twitch

- unable to hold eye contact or too much eye contact

- crossing of arms and/or legs

- tightlipped or false smile

- the pupils of the eye narrow, ie dilate

- talking faster than normal

- verbally saying "yes" but shaking the head to suggest a "no"

- hiding hands, ie hands in the pockets

- mispronouncing words or mumbling

- friendliness/laughing overstated

- moving the head a lot when talking

- sweating

- remembering too little or too much detail

- delivering abrupt answers to questions and leaving long gaps or no gaps at all

- repetitious 'ums' and 'ahs'

Methods to reduce the chances of being lied to

- sit in a higher chair. This is a not-so-subtle form of intimidation

- uncross your legs, open your arms and lean back

- do not give any indication that you know they are lying

- invade their personal space, ie when you get close, they will get uncomfortable

- mirror their posture and movement as this establishes a rapport and they will find it harder to lie

- "speak in their style" by listening to how they think, ie visual, auditory or kinesthetic (see Volume 3 for more details)

- give them an "out", eg pretend you didn't hear them correctly or tell them that you don't understand what they said

- stay calm; never show surprise or shock; treat everything they say with the same importance. As soon as you react negatively you'll lose any chance of hearing the truth

- don't accuse and keep away from aggressive questioning

- give them one last chance to correct the lie

. Some of the most commonly used words and phrases that can signal that a person may be attempting to lie include honestly, sincerely, frankly, gut feeling, undoubtedly, without a doubt, believe me, I'm not kidding, would I lie to you, with respect, etc. The use of the expressions "OK" and "Right" to force the listener to agree to the speaker's point of view is another technique about which to be vigilant. Sometimes the words "just" and "only" are used to minimize the significance of the words that follow, ie to relieve a person's guilt or to put the blame for unpleasant consequences elsewhere. Remember: a phrase is not a guarantee of dishonesty and should be read in context. However, here are some examples of phrases sometimes used to peddle lies:

- trust me

- I have no reason to lie

- truthfully speaking

- I am telling you the truth

- why should I lie

- to be totally frank/honest/truthful with you

- would I do something like that

- honest to God

- I swear on my mother's grave

- as God is my witness

- I swear to God

- may God strike me down/dead

- my parents taught me better than that

- I'm a loyal employee

- I'm not that sort of person

- I'd never stoop to such a thing

"...the point is that people of moral character don't need to continually try to prove it...... they live by it and you can see it..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Furthermore, it is easier to lie on the phone than in either face-to-face conversation or Emails. An Email means that there is a recorded copy. While on the phone, the body language cannot be observed and there is no written record.

. Some recent research (Fiona Smith, 2010g) suggests that people in positions of power make better liars. Lying bosses displayed few involuntary signs of lying and stress, such as involuntary shoulder shrugs, accelerated speech, the level of stress hormone cortisol in their saliva, cognitive impairment and emotional distress. Generally people in power show higher testosterone levels and lower cortisol levels.

(sources: Alan Pease, 2002; Geoff Hancock, 2004; Robert Winston, 2003; Alison Kahler, 2009; Fiona Smith, 2010g),


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