Statement Analysis In Cyber Space
Ever wonder if the person on the other end of a chat room or email really can’t meet with you for that lunch date OR if they really didn’t receive the email you sent a few days (or weeks) ago?
Well, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Defense Intelligence Agency senior officer Tyler Cohen Wood to discuss how to tell if someone is lying to you when your not interacting on a face-to-face basis.
There is always room for ambiguity and misunderstanding when communication is conducted in spurts and is written rather than face-to-face. This room for “error” is due to the lack of nonverbal behavior signals called Gestures. When we communicate face-to-face most of what we say is communicated not in the words but by our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice and gestures.
According to the article, research has shown that most of us tend to be be suspicious of information we receive online but override our suspicions and trust the information anyway. Experts call this our “truth bias.”
We often have powerful emotional reasons to believe what someone is telling us. We really want to believe the message from the cutie on the dating site is real. Ditto the text saying our spouse is working late.
Ms. Cohen Wood notes, “The majority of people prefer to tell the truth. That’s why when they are lying, the truth is going to leak out.” She notes that using a modified version of statement analysis will help a person sort out the truths from the untruths.
Some of the things to look for are below:
1) Pay attention to a person’s use of emphatic language. It doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is lying, but rather that he or she really wants you to believe what is being said. This is also the case when a person keeps saying the same thing over and over in slightly different ways.
2)Look for language that distances the writer from the intended reader. That is they omit personal pronouns and references to themselves from a story. Ex: Say the person receives the following text, “Hey I had a great time last night, did you?” and they reply, “Last night was fun.”
3) Watch out for is the unanswered question. You ask, and the other person hedges or changes the subject. Most likely, the person doesn’t like saying no, or doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. But he or she also may also be keeping something from you.
4) Noncommittal statements are red flags—”pretty sure,” “probably,” “must have” and, my least favorite, “maybe.” “These words leave the person an out,“ Ms. Cohen Wood says.
5) Qualifying statements, are another potential tell. Expressions such as “to be honest,” “there is nothing to worry about,” “I hate to tell you this”—often signal that the person is uncomfortable with his or her next statement.
6) Tense Hopping: Someone describing an event that happened in the past usually uses the past tense. But if midway through the story the person starts fabricating, that material plays out in his or her head and leads to a switch to the present tense.
Ms. Cohen Wood notes that all of this also relies on the person’s baseline behavior. You have to the norm for someone before you can detect that they are veering away from it, which is a sign that there is more to the story than is being told.