Liar, Liar

By Heather Baldwin

You finish your presentation and the prospect says everything looks great, that he’s sure you’ll get the business and will call you tomorrow to firm up the details. But tomorrow comes and the phone doesn’t ring. In fact, you can’t get the prospect to return your calls over the course of the week, by which time you learn your competition got the sale. What happened?

Put simply, the prospect lied. When he told you you’d get the business, he was looking down and shuffling through some papers – a classic stance when someone isn’t telling the truth, say Susan Bixler and Lisa Scherrer Dugan, authors of 5 Steps to Professional Presence (Adams Media, 2001). Learn to identify these nine signals that indicate someone might be lying and you’ll be able to press prospects for the truth while they are still sitting in front of you.

1. There’s an incongruity between what people say and how they say it. For example, if someone says: It’s okay if you need to take an extra 10 minutes to conclude your presentation, but says it in a low voice while looking pained, the truth is it’s not okay.

2. The person fails to maintain strong eye contact and instead looks at the floor or ceiling – anywhere but at you.

3. The person repeats the same information several times. “The repetition is an attempt to make it sound truthful,” say Bixler and Dugan.

4. The person’s voice is higher pitched and louder than normal, or the rate of speech is different than normal, generally much faster.

5. The person’s eyes shift, generally to the left.

6. The pupils of the person’s eyes become smaller. This one is hard to see when you’re at the front of the room giving a presentation, but it’s a dead giveaway because it’s an involuntary response by the body to a deliberate falsehood.

7. The person swallows harder and more obviously. Again, this is an involuntary physical response.

8. The person’s face is flushed and perspiring.

9. The person puts a hand in front of his or her mouth when speaking in an effort to muffle the words.

Prospects likely are hiding the truth if they exhibit several of these behaviors. “No single gesture by itself indicates someone is lying,” say the authors. “But if you see several of these together, be wary of the verbal message.”