How to get someone to tell you the truth

Reckon someone is feeding you lies? Learn how to get someone to tell you the truth with these top tips from three former CIA officers...

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how to get someone to tell you the truth

Whether you suspect your significant other might be lying to you or you’re convinced a colleague is withholding the truth, getting someone to tell you 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, they explain how to get someone to tell you the truth in 6 simple steps…

6 ways to get someone to tell you the truth

1. Go alone and bring food

It’s a well-known fact that nobody confesses to a crowd. While it might be tempting to bring someone along for moral support and to ‘fight your corner’, it’s best to leave them behind and go it alone. You’re far more likely to make someone tell you the truth if it’s just the two of you.

Another great tip? 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. Take an empathetic approach

When trying to make someone tell you the truth, don’t be immediately accusatory, as this could cause them to become angry or defensive. Instead, show them 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. I need you to help me understand what I’m missing’. This gentle approach, that appears to come from a place of genuine care and concern, is far more effective than going in for the attack.

3. Don’t ask questions

Rather than asking them a million and one questions, create a monologue. By doing this, you imply that you already know what they’ve done. However, rather than using this approach to essentially tell them off, bring back the empathy and tell them that you understand the pressures that led to their justifiable mistake.

Next, give them the chance to tell you the truth. Reassure them that, if they can confess, then you can work together on fixing the problem. After all, a guilty person just wants to be understood, because it allows them to feel they’ve been forgiven.

When you’re trying to get someone to tell you the truth, reassure them that if they can confess, you can work together on fixing the problem.

4. Cultivate short-term thinking

The moment the person in question starts thinking of the long-term consequences of their lie, they will clam up, and the truth will be buried deeper within them. So it’s important that you don’t dwell on the potential consequences of the truth, or use them to threaten them in any way.

Instead, use statements like: ‘It’s a fixable problem’ and help them to save face by saying things like: ‘Good people sometimes do stupid things’. This approach is far more likely to earn their trust, and they will hopefully feel safe and secure enough to tell you the truth.

5. Stay in charge of the conversation

While you need to create a calm and empathetic environment where they feel safe to tell you the truth, don’t let them walk all over you or control the conversation. You’re here for a reason – to make them tell you the truth – so you need to remain in charge of the conversation.

If they deny they are lying, hold up your hand to indicate they need to stop talking. Then, use the person’s first name and directly repeat your monologue. Use phrases such as: ‘We just need to figure out why this has happened and fix it’.

6. Be presumptuous, not accusatory

When questioning them, do not use accusatory questions. Instead, try to use a presumptive question. This will signal to them that you are already know the truth and you are aware they have been lying to you.

For example, 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?’. If they eventually accept that you already know the truth, they are far more likely to put you out of your misery and finally uncover their lie.

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.

More inspiration: 5 steps to a better relationship