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What is the truth?
by Jay Gutman
2016-09-25 09:23:05
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I’ve read several articles on “how to spot liars” that include advice on how to identify the kind of body language that goes with lying. Nodding up and down, slouching, a contemptuous smile can all be indicators of reality being distorted, so the articles say. But what is a true statement? What is a fallacious statement?

Most communication is done by individuals and institutions. Here’s how I would categorize different statements that misrepresent the truth.

truth01_4001. Taking credit/misappropriating credit 

Example: “I got you that job” ; “She introduced you to your partner” ; “He got you the funds”

Truth: You might have begged that person to introduce you to a job, to a partner or to funding opportunities, and they did nothing about it. Then they introduce you to someone who mentions an institution whose website you visit who are advertising a job or funding opportunities. You fill the paperwork, interview for the position or funds, endlessly wait for a response before you get a conditional agreement.

Hint: If possible, don’t take exclusive credit for someone else’s achievements involving a long chain of events.

2. Generalizing statements

Example: “You were miserable” or “you were never happy with him” or “you never wanted that in the first place”

Truth: most events that expand in time tend to have their positive and negative moments. Even divorced couples can recount a long series of positive moments that they had together. A job is rarely always terrible, and people can hesitate before making a purchase and can try to weigh pros and cons before making a decision.

Hint: If you’re generalizing, specify that you are doing so. But when asked to expand on the specifics, expand.

3. Black or white statements

Examples: “he’s so frugal” ; “she’s so cheap” ; “people in that country lack empathy”

The main problem with people and institutions is the lack of consistency. Some can spend one day, save the next, or do a crazy thing one day, and go back to normal the next.

Hint: Keep in mind that people and institutions tend to lack consistency. 

4. Misrepresenting actions

Examples: “I paid him” or “she stole my money”

Memory can work in tricky ways. Some can really remember things that never happened, while others forget events that actually happened. Some can remember some parts of an event, before recalling other parts of the same event. In case of disagreement about the past, provide convincing documented evidence or witness testimonies.

Hint: How does that past event influence the present? What losses or gains were made from past events?

5. Giving full or partial credit for one’s actions to others

Example: “he stole the money” or “he failed the project”

Events tend to involve a series of unrelated events that make up a whole. Doing something (right or wrong) and giving the credit to someone else for doing it is a common form of distortion of the truth, sometimes accompanied with fabricated evidence.

Hint: A real mensch who had nothing to do with the action would say “I didn’t do it, but I don’t know who did it.”

6. Dismissing true statements as false (usually to discredit an individual or institution or to give credit to a source)

Example: “My boss says you stole the money. He never lies.” Or “My friend said that he saw you do that.”

Sometimes true statements will be dismissed to give credit to a source that is deemed more credible. Is that credible source providing credible details or evidence?

Hint: Which source is providing the most details?

7. Using metaphors, allegories or figures of speech

Example: “I was watching a documentary on dogs eating dogs when he came in” or “He was reading a book in Arabic”

Such misstatements intend to provide more about one’s intentions or character and tend to lead one to infer from the character or propensity to do something in general. Saying “he owns a pet snake” or “he can read Arabic” tends to lead to hopes that other people can make faulty inferences about the person. 

8. Character assassination aka scapegoating

Example: Saying exclusively negative things about a person or institution. That person or institution does everything wrong all the time.

The intended consequence is punishment. Stay far away from people who say exclusively negative things about a person or institution.

Hint: If the person or institution was being immoral with everyone everywhere, it probably would have gone down a long time ago. What made it go on that long?

9. Making contradictory statements to instill doubt

Example: “Jack stole the money” then saying later “John stole the money.”

To instill doubt, some can make contradictory statements, hoping both individuals or institutions can face prosecution or punishment.

Hint: Providing contradictory statements can be an attempt to conceal the truth.

10. Emotional abuse

Example: Yelling, showing contempt, violating cultural norms when providing information.

Sometimes information can be provided with an attempt to harm emotions rather than provide information.

Hint: Emotional abuse can either be used as attempt to conceal the truth or as an attempt to get oneself heard. Make sure you’re making it clear that you’re listening. If the emotional abuse still goes on, the truth is perhaps trying to be concealed.

11. Detail/Fact omission

Example: Claiming to have been a mere spectator when actually taking part in the action, failing to report an event

Some will claim to have been mere spectators when they were actually involved in the action. Others omit one or several participants hoping that those participants will be cleared from the action. Watch for detail omissions.

Hint: Ask questions, picture the action.

12. Hagiography

Example: That person or institution does everything right all the time

If a person, product or institution sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

13. Sacredness

Example: Not being allowed to talk about something in negative light, if at all

If a person claims that someone or something is sacred, you’ll notice a growing number of people or things becoming sacred. You don’t want to join their sect.

14. Scripting

Example: Inventing a story peppered with details of something that never happened.

This is why when you report crimes at the police station you usually get asked to tell the story several times to see if there are gaps with your story.

Hint: Make sure you hear every story more than once.

Hope this sort of helps you in your quest for the truth.


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