Sometimes negotiators don’t tell the truth and it is up to you to catch them at their game. Candidly, some people are very good at concealing the truth, but typically there are cues to determine if the other party is bluffing or lying outright. Yet, we get conned all the time.
Sometimes people give involuntary cues such as getting red faced. Catch them by surprise with a comment or criticism and watch them flush crimson. Yes, that is normal reaction, but when confronting them on a bluff, you might find them blushing. In this case, if they are telling the truth why would they blush? Maybe it is because they aren’t being truthful. Also, look for nervous mannerisms or ticks; in this case, it pays to already know the party and how they behave normally or when they are not under stress.
Lying by omission is a common tactic practiced by many negotiators. Most people feel morally bound to tell the truth if you ask them. But, if you don’t ask them they may choose to withhold valuable information. The best weapon in negotiation is patience while you continue to probe with more questions. In this case, don’t settle for simple responses; instead, dig deeper to understand why they answered as they did. Ask questions like what do you mean by that or why would you say that? Don’t give in.
Beware of cultural differences in communication. Some cultures demand heavy eye contact; this is particularly true in the Middle East where prolonged eye contact is a sign of sincerity. In western cultures, it is legend that steady eye contact is a sign of a trustworthy person; however, there is some evidence that a practiced liar can look you in the eye all day long. Also, some cultures may avoid eye contact out respect such as the Japanese culture.
Liars fear being caught. This fear manifests itself as changed physiological responses. Lie detector machines measure these changes; they include increased respiratory rate, blood pressure, and heart rate. Another measure is galvanic skin resistance (GSR) which is also called electro-dermal activity and is basically a measure of the sweat on your fingertips.
Although strapping a lie detector on the other party would be a handy tool when negotiating, your first impression or gut reaction to how another party is acting may be your best tool. Try to divorce your self from the negotiation and your personal interests. Instead, watch the behavior of the other party. If it seems like they are lying, they probably are.
John Bradley Jackson
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