This question was posed recently in the context that there are a lot of “reality” shows in which reading the intent of an individual is crucial. We all know about the bachelor and the housewives as well as Survivor and my favorite Shark Tank.
When was the last time you called somebody out on their actions? How did they react? Did they seem sincere? Or were they just trying to appease you so you’d drop it?
Those of us who have raised children can usually spot the “tell” that gives them away as well as the difficulty they have keeping facts straight. Somebody very smart in the con game told me if you ask the person to repeat the events backwards and they can’t it often means there is either missing data or outright lies.
What about in the workplace can you read co-workers or other staff? Do you know when they are trying to con you? I once had a boss who could not look me in the eye when she was praising me or my staff. It didn’t take long to realize she was blowing smoke and didn’t mean it. As time went on this was even more apparent as she disseminated the department.
As an executive coach as well as a consultant I have found some of the key phrases people use when they are distorting the truth. “To be honest” is one of my favorites; I had a client who used that numerous times in conversation and there had been several issues when the story was quite right. Once we eliminated that phrase the behavior improved as well. Another one is “to tell the truth” or my favorite was a client who often said “I don’t lie” but they did.
Maya Angelou said people will tell you up front who and what they are yet most of us choose to ignore their words or actions. Can you read people? It’s a skill worth learning