How to get someone to tell you the truth

Getting someone to tell us the truth is a very useful skill – and one we can learn easily, according to Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero, former CIA officers, and authors of Get The Truth. Here’s how...

by Psychologies


Swot up on these 6 tips to getting someone to tell you the truth...

  1. Meet one-to-one. Nobody confesses to a crowd. Bring food: people are more likely to open up when they’re eating as they associate food with pleasure. Plus, it makes you likeable and makes others feel indebted to you.
  2. Don’t be accusatory. Instead, show empathy and sympathy, and be sincere. Talk slowly and quietly and start with a Direct Observation of Concern (DOC). For example: ‘Thank you for agreeing to speak with me. I do appreciate it. The thing is, some of what you’re saying isn’t adding up, and I need you to help me understand what I’m missing.’
  3. Don’t ask questions; create a monologue. Imply that you already know what they’ve done, that you understand the pressures that led to their understandable mistake and if they can confess, then you can work together on fixing the problem. A guilty person just wants to be understood, because it allows them to feel they’ve been forgiven.
  4. Cultivate short-term thinking. The moment the person starts thinking of the long-term consequences of their lie, they will clam up. So don’t dwell on the potential consequences of the truth. Use statements like: ‘It’s a fixable problem’ and help them to save face by saying things like: ‘Good people sometimes do stupid things’.
  5. Hold up your hand if they deny they are lying to indicate they need to stop talking. Use the person’s first name and repeat your monologue, using phrases such as: ‘We just need to figure out why this has happened and fix it’.
  6. Do not accuse; use a presumptive question. Instead of saying: ‘Did you take the money?’, which gives your interviewee the message that you still don’t know if it’s true, assume it is true and ask: ‘Where is the money now?’

READ MORE: Get The Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How To Persuade Anyone To Tell All’  by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero (Icon, £12.99) is out now.

Photograph: iStock

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