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Dealing with Lies

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What should you do if you suspect that somebody is lying to you?

You can simply say: “I know that you are lying, now tell the truth.” This approach may work well, but it is fairly confrontational and if you are wrong he or she will probably get very upset.

This approach may also lead the person to become resentful, defensive and difficult to deal with, whether or not he or she is lying.

There are other approaches that you should consider. What works best will depend on the situation and on your personality.

Some approaches to deal with somebody who you suspect may be lying to you include the following:

  1. Raising an eyebrow or saying something like “really?”, “Are you sure?” or “You don’t say?”. These are fairly subtle approaches to indicate to the person know that you probably do not believe him or her, without accusing the person of lying.

  2. Asking for more detail. Often when people are lying they will not be able to supply an expected level of detail and so will catch themselves out.

  3. Make a mental note about what it is you suspect he or she is lying about and come back to it later from a different approach. He or she may be caught off guard because of the different approach and give an inconsistent or truthful answer.

  4. Ask questions about the events that are out of chronological order. Often when people lie they work out their lie as a story and fill in the details as they tell it.

    When they are asked about a bit of the story and then another and so on, out of sequence, they find it difficult to put it together in their own minds.

    They end up contradicting themselves and making the lies more obvious.

  5. Ask the person to explain apparent contradictions in what he or she is saying, if there are any. The person may admit the lie or resort to even more fanciful lies that make it clear that the truth is not being told.

  6. If the person appears to be taking a long time before answering your questions in order to make up lies, you can speed up the pace of the discussion or say something that highlights the fact that he or she is taking a long time to reply.

  7. Where a person is falsely claiming that they cannot remember something, during the conversation ask them details about other events or transactions from about the same time and from earlier.

    When they clearly remember all the other details you can show that they should be able to remember the details that they claim to have forgotten.

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For more tips, advice and practical pointers see our Investigation Manual.