The Art of Deceptive Communication
Did you know that one-third of our communication is deceptive?
Don't believe me? Well, think about it. Last time someone asked you if "these jeans make me look fat?," did you tell them the full-out truth? When someone with a clipboard started to approach you outside the coffee shop and you quickly pretending to be busy texting or calling someone?When a coworker was asking if you'd ever seen that episode of How I Met Your Mother, and you hadn't, but you nodded anyway?
Deception is a part of life - and oftentimes, we don't deceive others in order to hurt them, we deceive them as a protective mechanism, or to make social interactions easier. It can be used for our own self-benefit (Like mild exaggeration on a resume,) as well as for the benefit of others (Don't worry about that zit - you can't even see it unless you point it out!)
In order to qualify as deception, there are a few qualifications. The person deceiving another must know that the information they are telling is false. For example - if the "deceiver" tells another person that the conference meeting is on Monday, but it's actually on a Tuesday, it does not qualify as deception because the "deceiver" honestly believes the meeting is on Monday.
Secondly, the person deceiving must be transmitting the false information on purpose, and they must be attempting to make the reciever believe the information.
Deception does not have to be successful, but in our society, receivers unconsciously work together with deceivers to accept the deceptive communication.
A successful deceiver is someone who is very aware of their own behavior and knows what the truth looks like. They are often very comfortable in thinking on their feet and know how to create a believable message within a certain audience. Some liars are not necessarily adept at deception, but are better at recognizing and deferring suspicion.
Detecting deception is difficult because we have a truth bias. We assume that the information we are receiving is true. We also have a reluctance to accuse someone without knowing for sure that deception is occurring. Also - humans are notoriously bad at recognizing the signs of lying.
Many people think that a person who is lying will be unable to look you in the eyes when they are deceiving you. This is incorrect - in fact, people who are very skilled in deception make a point to look you directly in the eyes to make their lies seem sincere. We often want to believe people in deceptive situations because we want to preserve a good relationship, so we often allow them to perpetuate lies without "catching them" in the act.
Falsification is communicating completely false information as if it were true. This type of deception takes a greater amount of effort because you have to create a fictional truth.
There is a high intensity of arousal at creating a big lie like this, but it is very difficult to sustain because no part of the story is the truth. The best way to catch someone who is falsifying information is to let it go at the time, and then bring it up later and ask questions. Chances are, you'll trip up the deceiver in a detail that they have forgotten.
A great example of falsifying information is from Meet the Parents. Jack Byrnes, the father-in-law of Ben Stiller's character, Greg, has an elaborate falsified cover as a florist. In reality, he is a CIA agent - but throughout much of the movie he has to maintain his cover by creating multiple lies about his profession as a florist.
Omissive deception occurs when you leave out a significant portion of a story in order to create a false impression. Nothing you say is a direct lie - but you purposefully leave out an important part of the story.
If you're asking your parents for permission to go to a party, and they ask who is coming with you - you might list off a bunch of friends - "Katie, Jessica, Andrea..." and specifically leave out the name of someone you know your parents don't approve of. You haven't told a lie, but you omitted a significant portion of information.
Exaggeration is the overstatement of something that is true in principle. We're all probably guilty of doing this - most commonly on things such as resumes.
"Yes - I'm fluent in German!" (But you've only taken a German 101 course in college...)
"I am great at waterskiing." (Well - okay, you've only tried it once, but you didn't wipe out more than two or three times!)
"I have extensive experience in event planning." (Yeah - you planned your son's sixth birthday party and one office brunch...)
Finally, equivocation is deception involving ambiguous statements to give a false impression about someone or something.
This is commonly put into practice when talking about other people in an instance where we aren't entirely sure how the other person feels. A great example of this would be if your employer were to ask you about another employee. You don't want to come straight out and say "Jim is lazy!" because that might jeopardize your job and reputation. So instead you say - "Jim is... interesting." Because this statement is very abstract, it has a flexible interpretation, and the person you are deceiving can imply your information is a variety of ways.
Deception is a natural part of our lives.
We actually find it easier to deceive strangers and to detect deception from strangers than we do in people who are close to us.
It is a survival skill that we use for our own self-benefit, the benefit of others, and as part of our daily social interaction - and approximately one-third of our communication is made up of deceptive communication (I promise - that's not a deceptive statistic!)