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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
- 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:
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.
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.
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?”
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
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.
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.