How to sound like you mean it

A little bit of understanding of falsehood goes a long way, according to Sandra Davis, Director at Bladonmore. It can even lead us to be more convincing with the truth.

Human beings lie. But we can use our understanding of how we lie to sound more convincing and truthful to our audiences.

We learn to lie as babies when a fake cry can attract attention. We spend the rest of our lives developing and utilising the skill to deceive, whether for good or bad. We are not alone in the animal world, primates have also been caught in a lie, but academics have found that the more intelligent the species, the greater the use of lying.

And because we all do it; we all believe we can recognise the attributes of a lie. Or can we?

Research suggests that we will only spot a lie just over half the time (54%), and that we need multiple clues, or clusters, to do it. Interestingly, we generally focus on body language and changes in voice to try and spot a lie, but we also change our use of language.

By understanding the changes that we make when we lie, we can avoid them or even do the opposite and be more convincing and believable.

Here are some of the tell-tell signs and how to negate them:

  1. Use personal pronouns

Liars will use very few personal pronouns, like ‘I’ and ‘me’ as they try and distance themselves from what they are saying. Speakers who use ‘I’ are indicating a personal commitment to, and importantly a belief in, what they are saying.

  1. Avoiding qualifying language

Qualifying language is language that introduces an element of doubt. For example, instead of saying ‘I know this was the work done by John and James,’ it would be phrased as ‘The thinking is that this work was probably done by team B.’ By dropping qualifying language, we sound more convincing and confident in our messaging.

  1. Truth is in the details

When verbally describing a scene or a series of events, liars tend to use fewer descriptive words as they have to invent their fictional scenario. So, describing in detail an example, or anecdote that supports your message creates great credibility for what you are saying. The more specific and the more detailed the better. If you can ‘tell me so I can see it’ I will likely believe it a whole lot more.

  1. Formal language

We tend to resort to formal and non-contracted language when telling a lie, for example ‘It did not happen like that’ uses both distancing language by removing the speaker from the event, and the full form of ‘did not’ rather than ‘didn’t’. So, when delivering messages verbally, in meetings, interviews or even to large audiences, conversational language is not only easier to listen to, we give it greater credibility.

  1. ‘What’ and ‘how’ need to convey the same message

We take meaning from what we see as well as what we hear. We tend to look at facial expression first and then gesture second. Expression and the style of delivery needs to support what is being said. True feelings ‘leak’ into a micro-expression. For example, a look of contempt when saying that you approve of something contradicts what is being said. To be believed, verbal and non-verbal language must reinforce each other. If you are saying that you are really excited about something, you need to look positive and be energised. Do the reverse: look disinterested and sound flat, and the message simply won’t be believed.

If you’d like to know more about how Bladonmore can help you present your story more convincingly, please get in touch.

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Sandra Davis

Director, Coaching

Sandra leads on Bladonmore’s presentation coaching. As a close advisor to senior management at organisations including Land Securities, Rio Tinto and GE, she helps leaders to articulate their message and ensure it cuts through.

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