First Person: What it’s like to be a lie spotter

Pamela Meyer, BA ’80, is founder and CEO of Calibrate, a corporate training company that specializes in deception detection.

Pamela Meyer, BA ’80, is founder and CEO of Calibrate, a corporate training company that specializes in deception detection. She is author of the 2010 book Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, and her 2011 Ted Talk, “How to Spot a Liar,” has more than 22 million views. Here she talks about deciphering deception.

Being able to read how our faces reveal our true emotions is key to being able to tell whether someone is lying. My goal is not just to help people learn how to detect lies, but also to help them avoid getting lied to in the first place.

Pamela Meyer is an expert in deception detection.

Liespotting is a three-pronged approach that involves equal measures of scientific information, observation training and interrogation practice. It’s not enough to recognize lies. It’s the complex truth we’re after. Spotting a lie is just the beginning. It’s the question you ask next that matters just as much.

Getting to the truth requires critical skills we are neglecting to teach: inference, discernment, understanding nuance, understanding subtlety, demanding original source material and the patience to get hard data and confirm facts.

What we do is train people how to detect deception. We work with law firms, venture capital firms, hedge funds, government entities, all sorts of corporate entities. We’ll help with forensic analysis if data has been exfiltrated or if there’s been some kind of a hack or an issue of trust. But I like training employees because people can easily be empowered to figure it out on their own.

It’s all about relationships. When you have a team with high trust, it’s essentially who you’d go to war with, and those relationships can be enormously gratifying and profound. So it’s worth your time to figure out whom you trust and create that dream team even if it means weeding out the garden a bit.

And trust is liberating. Trust allows you to create a palpable sense of value in your life. Trust accelerates our endeavors while deception gums up the gears. In business, all aspects of the negotiation cycle are costlier in the absence of trust: R&D, due diligence, legal negotiations, hiring and keeping staff. The economics of trust are often overlooked. Trust is the lubricant that allows the wheel of business to operate effectively, although we don’t quantify it that way.

On the personal level, there is a distinct benefit to being able to see through people’s outsized capacity for fraud, their often-outrageous nerve, gall and chutzpah, and it pays to recognize it and signal you won’t allow it rather than to be burned by it.

Liespotting is more important than ever in 2019
People have kids, they have obligations, they’re taking care of parents, and they’re working so hard. The notions that you should constantly expose yourself to the other side, should pursue facts and should get to original sources more often — these are all good notions. But the reality is that we like fast food, we like fast data, we like fast ideas. So we have a problem that’s going to be harder to solve.