The Brokaw hazard…

A couple weeks back I had the opportunity to listen to Patsy Boykin (former CIA operator) and expert on detecting lies. Her 90 minute presentation was quite entertaining and educational. Most of Patsy and her colleagues work is based on the groundbreaking work of Paul Ekman, known as the “Father of the Face.” So, this Sunday morning, I’m rereading a little Ekman and his book titled Telling Lies. We all tell lies, btw, and not all lies are harmful. However, most lies are best detected not by focusing on the face or the words out of the mouth. Most amateurs are deceived by words and fake smiles. You’ve got to know the signs of a true smile, a Duchenne smile (named after Doc Duchenne’s discovery). Once you’ve got a mental model of the Duchenne smile, focus your mind on tone and body.

Beware of the “Brokaw hazard.”

On page 90, Ekman describes Tom Brokaw’s method of deception detection. “Most of the clues I get from people are verbal, not physical. I don’t look at a person’s face for signs that he is lying. What I’m after are convoluted answers or sophisticated evasions.” Therein lies the hazard. You see, Tom’s technique only works where he knows the liar well. He must know that the convoluted answers and evasions are not the routine way his target talks. I’ve got plenty of clients who simply cannot speak ccd (clear, concise, and direct) no matter how hard they try. Their convoluted answers could easily be mistaken for hiding lies if I didn’t know it represented their default. The key in detecting lies is in noticing the deviation from default.

So, friend, stop burning energy trying to figure out if Brokaw is lying about what’s her name. Unless you know his defaults, you’re grasping for air. Instead, invest some energy in studying the most important people in your work and life. Understand your family, friends, and clients. Notice the subtle but obvious (for a second or so) deviations from default. You may just avoid getting burned as I once did by a good friend who I took at his word and got taken for a ride.

And, leader, you are being lied to all the time. Tune in. Your systems survival may depend on it. I’m not kidding. Trust me, I know…

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