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The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.
We all have to lie from time to time as we go through life. Sometimes it’s to protect ourselves, sometimes to protect others. We even grade them – the fib, white lie, the lie of concealment, the misleading lie, and the business lie.
Does the lie have a place in life, or should we all be absolutely hones l the time, about everything? I feel sure we could spend many hours debating the pros and cons of lying including many moral issues.
There are in fact a number of good reasons why we have to lie. To tell the truth might be unnecessarily hurtful. Telling the white lie, when you decide to tell a colleague how good they look when they return to the office having spent a small fortune on clothes or a new hairstyle is probably the right thing to do. Spoiling someone’s day unnecessarily is difficult to justify. It is also worth bearing in mind that it is just your opinion. Everyone else may disagree with you.
Lying in business is another matter
In business it is a matter of day-to-day necessity to lie or conceal a wide variety of issues. In certain cases to tell the truth might even be illegal. For example, when one company is having secret talks to purchase another, the stock market price of their shares could be affected if they told other people in advance of the acquisition. If asked a direct question relating to a potential acquisition and they had answered it honestly, they may have given someone the opportunity to purchase stocks in advance and make money from the information, thus breaking the law with regard to insider trading.
In deciding to lie to someone, we try to convince them of the accuracy of the information by reinforcing the statements with body language signals.
Look me in the eye
One of the most obvious mistakes is deliberately looking someone straight in the eye when lying. The origins of this emanate from the challenging statement we heard as children “look me in the eye and tell me that you know nothing about what happened.” This might be accurate with children, teenagers, and young adults as they do tend to look down or away when concealing the truth. In order to counteract this they are advised to look people in the eye to prove the truth of their words.
As we get older we believe that looking people in the eye when lying will help us look more convincing. We compound the mistake by staring without blinking and adopting a solid posture whilst the statement is being said.
Even though they are not sure why, it tends to give the game away to the majority of people because instinct tells us that something is wrong and we become suspicious about what we are hearing. We don’t know what it is, but we just know it feels wrong.
There is also the issue of the eyes. You may be the best liar in the world, but you cannot prevent your eyes constricting when you lie. A good negotiator will always make best use of the light, so he can see your eyes but you can’t see his!
A few things to bear in mind
1. Don’t look directly into the pupils of the person you’re lying to, look at the whole face.
2. Maintain eye contact for 75% of the time (the average for most people).
3. Be aware that the voice usually goes flat when you are lying. In trying to lie convincingly we control pitch and resonance, believing it will sound more convincing. Often, each word is clipped in an attempt to be precise. Changes in the voice coupled with a look directly into the eyes will cause doubt.
4. Next is body posture, whether standing or sitting.
In an effort to conceal the truth when a lie is being told the body generally becomes more solid or rigid. This is made more difficult because only you know what your body language is like when you tell the truth and you must make sure you don’t change it when lying. If you are an animated person who looks at people 75% of the time, then don’t alter your habits, do not increase the eye stare, or reduce body movement or sound firmer with your words. People will not always be sure you are lying, but they can tell something has changed.
Another difficult area to control when lying is the hands. Some people fidget with their hands and arms (especially when caught off guard with a question they did not expect.) One second the hands are in pockets and then out and this may get repeated several times.
Blushing and nose blushing
The skin gets warmer when someone is feeling awkward. This is because blood vessels in and around the nose and face are irritated when you exaggerate or lie. The only way to make the irritation to go away is to rub or lightly touch the tingling and offending areas of the face.
We have carried out a number of body language experiments in this area and discovered that 90% of those observing hand-to-face contact thought that something was wrong and they became cautious of what was being said. To anyone who understands body language it is a giveaway. Therefore if you cannot learn to leave the offending areas alone, stick to telling the truth.
Who are the best liars?
Politicians have to be good at lying because journalists will never stop asking awkward questions that will give them tomorrow’s headline. Unlike many of us, they have learned to adapt. By giving a much longer answer and explanation than necessary, a politician telling the lie avoids being asked a follow up question and hopes the reporter has either forgotten his original question or gives up.
One of the contracts I have is to analyse public figures and I sometimes have to spend weeks or months studying before I can be sure of a politician’s gestures that tell if they are concealing the truth.
About the author:
Peter Clayton is a leading body language expert, speaker, and trainer as well as a consultant for the BBC and ITV. He writes for a wide range of national papers and magazines and is a specialist consultant to other speakers, leading businesses, celebrities and politicians. For more information, visit his Web site: www.peterclayton.com.
This article originally appeared on our sister Web site, AccountingWEB.co.uk.
Probably one of the worst aspects of being in practice – or indeed of any working environment – is having to deal with difficult people. Sole practitioners who operate without staff and who are very choosy about their clients may only encounter difficult people in HMRC. At the other extreme, a manager in a larger firm might encounter difficult colleagues, junior staff, partn well as fellow professionals in other firms and employees at all levels in HMRC.
Most of us have to deal with difficult people at work. How difficult a person is to deal with depends on our self-esteem, self-confidence and our professional courage. Dealing with difficult people is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when the behavior affects more than one person. The task becomes much tougher when they are attacking you personally or undermining your professional contribution.
Your basic options
One way or another you have to decide whether to ignore the difficult behavior (perhaps you will rise above it); to confront the person; delegate your dealings with them (whether to a colleague, a junior person or a more senior one); or remove the need for interactions (whether by you or them leaving the position that gives rise to the difficult interactions).
Ignore the behavior
This is easier said than done, and may come across as submissive or non-assertive. It is rarely the best solution except on those occasions where you will not need to interact with the person again. In such cases you may get what you need or resolve matters simply by ignoring their challenging behavior.
Confront the person
This requires you to be assertive and to avoid the temptation to be aggressive. This means you must accept that however difficult the other person may be, they still have rights and so do you. When you are assertive you recognize that you are entitled to information, clarification or a reply but that your entitlement is no greater (or less) than the other person’s entitlement to respect, politeness and honesty. When you act aggressively, you deny the other person their rights.
The other option is to act submissively or non-assertively, which means you deny your own rights. If this is your default position then you would probably benefit from some assertiveness training. It’s hard to respect non-assertive professional advisers.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Many of us have worked for an aggressive boss who we think revels in their ability to bully us. This may force us into a non-assertive stance. It will rarely enable us to get the best outcome.
Assertiveness is a skill. It’s not natural for everyone and can take practice to strike the right balance so that you do not come across as aggressive. Being naturally assertive is a skill worth developing.
Delegate or share
I’m a firm believer in keeping the end in mind, by which I mean focusing on the desired outcome.
Let’s say you are having difficulty securing the desired (fair) outcome in negotiations with an inspector at HMRC. Might someone else in the firm have ideas that could help resolve things? Is it more important that you be seen to have resolved things alone or that you/the firm secures the best possible outcome?
If a difficult client is taking too long to produce the necessary papers or to respond to your enquiries, perhaps someone else could go to meet them face to face or simply to collect things?
The drastic solution is to resign and move on, arrange for the difficult junior staff member to be moved on (following due process of course), or to tell the client that you no longer want to act for them (yes you can!).