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PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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These behaviors may indicate dishonesty.

Every poker player, it is said, has a "tell" - some unconscious physical manifestation that indicates a bluff. But what about co-workers and employees? While you can't hook people up to a lie detector or make them swear to tell the truth every time you question their veracity, you can pay attention to subtle cues that could indicate something is amiss.

The very act of fibbing causes a degree of stress for most people, so spotting deception begins with observing a person's behavior under relaxed, stress-free conditions. Once you've established that baseline, you may be able to detect when a co-worker's body language is unusual, suggesting a possible fib. Here's where to look for clues, but know that there are many reasons your co-worker may be stressed, so these are hardly definitive giveaways.

Eyes: Look for pupil dilation (increase in size) or blinking more quickly or slowly than usual. Many people assume that avoiding eye contact suggests deception, but that's something of a myth. A more reliable indication would be a quick glance away from you and back to see if you bought the story.

Verbal cues: Changes such as higher pitch, rambling, selective wording, stammering, use of qualifiers and fewer contractions can suggest deception, experts say. According to a study by Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra, liars also use more swear words than do truth-tellers - especially in cases where the recipients voice suspicion. Malhotra also found that liars used noticeably more third-person pronouns than truth-tellers or those who engaged in deception by omission.

Body language: Foot movements, fidgeting, face touching (particularly the nose) or pacifying gestures such as biting one's lips or rubbing hands together might mean a fib is in the air. Liars may also remain unnaturally stiff to avoid such giveaways. And any incongruence between what's being said and behavior - such as shaking one's head while replying "yes" - should raise a red flag as well.

Remember that trust is an essential component of doing business. In the end, none of these clues, even in tandem, should lead you to accuse a co-worker of lying. Rather than challenge a suspected untruth, do some investigating on your own, or simply remark on the shift in behavior and ask what's wrong. The answer may be illuminating in itself.


The article you read was prepared for general information purposes by McMurry. These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.These articles may provide reference to Internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products, or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed, and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.