Friday, December 10, 2010

Detection of Deception: The Truth about Lying, in Business, in Law and in Life

Lying can be big business. People lie for a variety of reasons, but what it boils down to is that they lie because they believe it will benefit them and they lie hoping they can get away with it. Can you imagine, therefore, the huge benefit that any individual, or business, could gain if they could tell when someone was trying to deceive them?

We have all seen the TV show, the one where the guy with the English accent can tell someone is lying because of they way they smile, or twitch their nose for a fraction of a second. We have seen the stage performers who can convince an audience that they are a human lie detector. Well that is the fiction. People want to know the fact.

There is a wonderful book titled “Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy” that has a chapter that discusses two men, Phil Houston and Mike Floyd. Phil and Mike are at the top of the field when it comes to detection of deception. Phil developed the methodology, now known as Strategic Behavior Analysis, for the Central Intelligence Agency, and they have now adapted it for commercial use. Phil and Mike are my partners in a company called QVerity.

The others of the QVerity team have strong intelligence, commercial and law enforcement credentials. They include Don Tennant, Jack Bowden, Bill Stanton (famous as “Wild Bill” Stanton from his role as security consultant and contributor for ABC, NBC and Fox, you have probably seen him on Today, Good Morning America or Dateline and he has been featured on Oprah) and Susan Carnicero, a founding partner in QVerity who has incredible credentials in the intelligence field and who is an unrivaled expert in screening and behavioral analysis, meeting her, was described by an attendee at one training as like “meeting a rock star”.

QVerity provides behavioral analysis and personnel screening services, as well as training in detection of deception, critical interviewing and elicitation of information, for individuals, professionals, corporate enterprises and government agencies worldwide.

Strategic Behavior Analysis is a sophisticated information-gathering methodology that, when learned and practiced, becomes one of the most potent tools in anyone’s toolbox, personal or professional.

The detection of deception methodology hinges on the fact that people who lie give off verbal and non-verbal indicators, typically in response to a stimulus, such as a question. These indicators may be subtle, but to the trained eye they are highly visible. To detect the indicators you must, first, learn what they are and then, second, practice so that you can pick up on them. For this you must both look and listen, what Phil refers to as “L-Squared mode”. Another marvelous thing about the indicators is that they are cross-cultural and gender neutral, and therefore the methodology is effective in all parts of the world.

Strategic Behavior Analysis, however, is not about being a human lie detector; there is no such thing. Rather, the indicators you see are demonstrative of deception or lack of confidence, enabling the person seeking answers to better focus their conversations, interviews, inquiries, or investigations on specific areas in which an individual may be concealing or omitting information. Someone once said after a training session “how does it benefit me if I know someone is lying, I can’t force them to tell me the truth”. In addition to seeing a wonderful marketing moment for our training on elicitation of information, I was also put in mind of the film “Just Cause” in which Sean Connery’s character was called our for lying by the character played by Ed Harris. Connery simply replied to the effect that, “do my lies not tell you as much as my truths”. How true this is, simply knowing someone is lying is great.

As a lawyer, the skill sets have been incredibly useful to me. Any profession or situation where one is asking questions is a perfect opportunity to deploy strategic behavior assessment and we lawyers love to ask questions. The methodology can also be extended to reviews of documents, speeches and other areas where people may display indicators, and that makes it even more potent, especially from a business perspective.

The methodology has been seized upon by professionals from law enforcement, to lawyers, judges, doctors, insurance professionals through to hedge fund managers. To see how much money hedge funds and other investors made from employing the methodology one simply need to read chapter 7 of “Broker, Trader”.

While some might argue that the world would be a better place if nobody lied, I am not so sure. Would I really want to know the truth about my singing capabilities? Perhaps I already do, but it can still be an ego boost to let the family keep up the pretense that I am good. I would say instead that the world would be a better place if, when we needed to, we could deploy a methodology to tell that someone is, in the words of a former British Prime Minister, “being economical with the truth”.

Detection of deception is, as I said before, perhaps the most potent skill any person can have. It is a tremendous edge in personal and professional life. Strategic Behavior Assessment was designed by the best and simply put, it works.

What are the verbal and non-verbal indicators of deception? Well, why not come and find out!


  1. I hope you use some of these skills when elections time comes around!

  2. You should use this on the banks and politicians!