15 August 2012


Ernest Hemingway, when asked if there was one quality above all others needed to be a good writer, replied "Yes, a built-in, shock-proof crap detector."  It seems to me that, increasingly, just about everyone needs such a sense ~ being able to spot a statement that is phony, specious, avoident, or patently false.  Whether one is parsing out the posturing of politicians, oil company executives, televangelists, a cheating spouse, an errant child, or anyone trying to sell you anything, it pays to be able to spot a lie, a come-on, the long con.

There's a new book out called Spy the Lie, written by three CIA veterans and a former NSA analyst, which purports to teach us just that skill.  I have not yet read it, but I did read the review by Susan Adams in Forbes online.  According to Adams, "First the authors discuss how we all have built-in barriers to detecting the truth.  For one, most of us simply believe that people are not prone to lying .... The book offers strategies to counteract these natural tendencies and lays out a methodology for spotting liars, by accounting for behaviors and statements that can offer clues to whether someone is telling the truth."

Adams offers several descriptive examples from the book, then summarizes what she sees as the main points ~

  • Look for deceptive behaviors and responses within the first five seconds of asking a question.
  • Someone telling the truth will say immediately and plainly that they did not commit the crime.
  • Liars often respond to questions with [irrelevant] truthful statements that cast them in a favorable light.
  • Liars often repeat a question to stall for time, go into attack mode against the questioner, or butter up the questioner with compliments.
  • Nonverbal cues to lying include hiding the mouth or eyes, throat clearing or swallowing, grooming gestures like adjusting shirt cuffs, shifting weight around, and sweating.
I think I'd like to read this book, partly to sharpen my own skills at spotting a con artist (the election season is always good practice), and partly to see whether the book itself may contain partial or misleading information.  When I do, I'll report back.

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