Some people can’t tell a lie, others can’t tell the truth, and unfortunately, most people can’t tell the difference. Can you tell when someone is pulling the wool over your eyes? Whether you’re a homicide detective questioning a suspect, a manager interviewing a new agent, or a sales rep making a presentation, your ability to quickly and accurately discern the truth greatly enhances your effectiveness. Fortunately, having the ability to quickly and accurately sort fact from fiction is an important communication skill that can be learned.

Aside from con men and compulsive liars, most people become uncomfortable when telling a lie and unconsciously transmit their deceitful behavior through their body language. While they may sound convincing, a liar’s gestures speak louder than their words. While it’s not always easy to spot deceptive behavior, there are many subtle yet discernable clues that are readily apparent to the trained eye.

Body language is a mixture of movement, posture, and tone of voice. Studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. During the selling process it is important to remember that body language is not a one-way street. While you are evaluating your prospect’s body language for signs of honesty and credibility, they are subconsciously observing and reacting to your gestures as well.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

The statue of the “Three Wise Monkeys” accurately depicts the primary hand-to-face gestures that are typically associated with deceitful behavior. When a person is doubtful or intentionally being deceitful, they will often use their fingers to rub their eye(s), cover their ear(s) or block their mouth. If your prospect uses one of these gestures while they are talking, it indicates that they are being deceitful. On the other hand, if they are displaying one of these gestures while you are speaking, it indicates that they doubt the truthfulness of what is being said. These three gestures should be considered red flags. When you encounter one of these gestures during your presentation, it is a good idea to gently probe the subject matter with open-ended questions to encourage your prospect to verbalize his or her concern.

In addition to the three hand-to-face gestures, eye movement is another reliable indication of deceit. It is normal for a person to look up to the left when thinking about the past and up to the right when thinking about the future. For example, if you ask someone the color of their first car, or some other question from their past, they will look up to their left to access their memory. If instead they look up to their right, they are thinking of the future, which indicates that they are likely making up a response. Law enforcement personnel and customs agents are trained to routinely monitor eye movement during interviews.

During the selling process, some prospects have difficulty saying “No.” As the pressure of making a decision builds, prospects will frequently use half-truths or lies to stall, avoid conflict and disengage from the selling sequence. While their words say “Yes,” their body language indicates “No.” By being able to recognize the inconsistency between your prospect’s words and his or her gestures, it is often possible to flush out their concerns, overcome their objections, and make the sale.

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