Do you ever wish you could get someone to tell you the truth? You don’t need magic to get to truth, you just need a little behavioral psychology. I want to teach you a few truth-telling tools you can use to get someone to tell the truth, confess or divulge information.

I hope it goes without saying that I want you to use these tips for positive truth-seeking. I have always believed that hard truth is better than ignorant bliss. So use these tips to bring more honesty into your life. You can also use them to test your truth telling instincts.

In lie detection practice we call the person we are interviewing or interrogating our ‘subject.’

A subject: The person who you want to solicit truth or confessions from.

A subject might be

  • Colleagues
  • Kids
  • Spouses
  • Friends
  • Or your real estate agent…lawyer…babysitter…car salesman

Here is how you can get someone to tell you the truth.

Truth Fills Silence

The biggest mistake truth seekers make is focusing too much on which questions to ask. Questions are important, but what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. The key to getting someone to tell the truth is not filling the silence. Wait an extra beat after your subject finishes talking to make sure they do not have anything else to add. It is amazing how much liars will divulge in these moments. 

Want to learn how to be an expert lie detector? Read more in our ultimate guide:

How to Tell if Someone is Lying

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Nod Your Head

This might sound like a weird one, but it is important for getting people to open up. Head nodding is a universal sign of agreement. Research shows that people will talk three to four times more than usual if the listener nods their head as the speaker talks. You can also do this when someone finishes speaking to get them to say more. 

  • When someone finishes speaking, stroke your chin (the body language for thinking). 
  • Nod your head three times to get them to keep talking. This also helps you extend your silence (see tip #1). If they have anything they are holding back, this can unlock their thoughts by making you show interest and agreeableness.

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Minimize the Significance

This is a classic technique used by TV show cops all the time. Empathize with the person you are speaking with and make the wrongdoing sound like no big deal. Often times the subject will latch on to this lenient line of thinking and either confess or give you a clue as to their thinking. It sounds corny, but it actually works.

Want to know if you are good at spotting lies from truth? Play 2 Truths and a Lie with our lie-spotting quiz.

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Ask Open Ended Questions

Simple yes or no questions are easy to lie through. Conversely, the longer the answer the more room for nonverbal and emotional leaks. Try to think of questions that require long answers. I like questions that solicit stories like, “Tell me the story of last night?” or “What’s your side of the story here?”

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Change the Telling

One way to catch liars or get new information is to ask them to switch their mode of telling. Here’s what happens…liars rehearse their story. They have the script in their head. So when they are asked to tell it a different way, they haven’t rehearsed it so they can’t or you see more leaks or mistakes.

  • Ask someone to draw their story
  • Ask them to tell it backwards
  • Ask them to start in the middle

Interesting right? 9 Other Things You Should Know About Liars

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Tell a Worse Version

People can’t help but correct misinformation — especially about themselves. Tell the subject a more damning version of what you think happened and see if they try to correct you. If they do, you get a confession. Let’s say you think your teenager took money out of your wallet. Start big by asking them if they took money and a credit card out of your wallet. Often times they will correct you and admit to the smaller crime.

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Invade Their Personal Space

This is an advanced level tip. People get a bit rattled when you enter their personal space. Pull a chair closer, or take a step towards them. This makes them feel more transparent and will often encourage them to dig a little deeper. *This is good if you are trying to get someone to divulge secret information.

The best way to get someone to tell the truth? Tell the truth yourself. If you come from a place of truth you are more likely to solicit it.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & founder at Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People has been translated into more than 16 languages. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma. She regularly leads innovative corporate workshops and helps thousands of individual professionals in her online program People School. Vanessa works with entrepreneurs, growing businesses, and trillion dollar companies; and has been featured on CNN, BBC, CBS, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur Magazine, USA Today, the Today Show and many more.

12 replies on “How to Get Someone to Confess or Divulge Information”

  1. Gus

    I have to interrogate someone in the near future. These tips have been used before and some have not. But they all seem to be great for my interrogation. Thanks!

  2. Karla

    Wow this is very interesting! Liars beware! Seriously though I would love to try to use the telling a worse version.

  3. I just saw this on Twitter. It’s great. If you were to take the “tell the story backwards” approach, it must be subtle. Disguise the steps to keep the subject from becoming aware of what’s happening. Don’t begin with “Tell me what your day looked like starting at the end of the day, and work your way to the the beginning…” You might begin by saying “Let’s talk about what happened before you got the post office.” After you get that answer, go to something else then come back to what happened before the post office. “You’ve lived in Nashville 3 years or 5 years?” “5 years.” “And you own the house you live in at blah blah address? “Yes.” “When did you buy that house?” “In 2012.” “Ok… tell me about what was going on just before the post office.” Repeat that process. If you get a story that’s disjointed or disconnected, that doesn’t necessarily tell you they are lying. It just tells you that something here isn’t right and you’ve got a lot more to do with this person.

    If for some reason you were to ask them to draw what happened, be sure you don’t do that before you begin the Story Reversal. If you do, your subject will have a stronger visual memory of what their story is. And it will actually help them solidify what they want to tell you happened that day.

    The Comparison technique can be utilized during the questioning process. The easiest one is a situation involving missing money. Let’s say its a fairly low level embezzlement. $3,000. Around the 45 minute mark you may say “Richard, we really need to get this resolved. This has been going on for a good while now. Almost 3 years. (Keep in mind there has been no other embezzlement and the embezzling your talking to Richard about has not been going on for 3 years. Only 6 or 8 months.) Missing $20,000.00 is one thing, but over $150,000.00 is an entirely different story. This isn’t good, Richard.” At that point you’ll see 3 to 5 stress indicators and Richard will might say something like “Hey man, hold on a second, I don’t know anything about $150,000! No. That’s somebody else.” Or something similar. Obviously you’ll know what direction to go at that point.

    Thanks for the great content – Scott

  4. Nikki Thornton

    This is awesome! This reminds me of a show i watched a short time ago from Derren Brown and he actually got someone to commit murder (set up and not real) and it shows that conscious hypnotism is possible!

  5. Lauren Freeman

    These are all great tips that I believe will definitely help me in my future. I’m sure one day I’ll have kids who’ll be mischievous as ever and I’ll need these strategies to get them to tell me the truth. I know my mother would have loved to know these tips when dealing with my and my younger brother during our angsty teenage years.
    Allowing the person more time by giving those moments of silence and nodding your head three times would be a great way to allow them to confess the truth in a manner that they feel less intimidated and “attacked” in would definitely lead to a better end to the interaction.

  6. Robby Smith

    I agree with all these tips! I’ve used the triple nod before and it does signal to the person (keep going) that you are engaged in the conversation. Great article Vanessa!

  7. Danielle McRae

    Another great article, Vanessa! It is so easy to be in the defensive mode when you want someone to confess to something (talking over them, shaking your head no, etc.), but these points now make perfect sense. If you want someone to divulge information, you have to create a safe space for them. Give them space to speak, nod in agreement, sit close to them. Love the tips!

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