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Three of the contestants on “Snake In The Grass” are tasked with sussing out the liar among them. That one contestant has to maintain a false identity for 36 hours in the jungle so they can win the $100,000 grand prize. As anyone who has tuned into the show so far will know, that’s much easier said than done.
There are a lot of great ways to spot a liar, which makes the art of telling the perfect non-truth a skill all its own. Some who take on the challenge in the jungles of Costa Rica opt to be as truthful as possible while others concoct an entirely new persona. Each method has its pros and cons, but it all comes down to one simple thing — how good someone is at being a liar.
Fortunately, like all skills, lying well is something that can be taught, practiced, and improved. However, the mere concept of doing that is enough to make most moral people cringe. Still, for those playing games similar to “Snake In The Grass,” there’s merit to upping your fibbing game and there are a few useful ways to do it.
The first hurdle any successful liar needs to vault is the morality behind what they’re doing. If you’re a clinical sociopath or a pathological liar, that’s not a big deal. However, the average person may be uncomfortable with the concept of lying, which will send off tell after tell to anyone trying to figure you out.
That said, it’s not always a bad thing to lie. In 2018, TIME published an article noting there are many occasions throughout one’s daily life where lying is arguably the right thing to do. In fact, Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told the outlet that teaching kids to tactfully lie could improve society.
For example, if a bride asks you on her wedding day if her dress is perfect and you don’t believe it is — whose day are you making better by being honest? She can’t make a change this late in the game, so while the truth made you feel good, it ruined someone else’s big day.
When there are less benevolent stakes to lying as there are on “Snake In The Grass” the principle remains the same. Do some internal gymnastics and ask yourself the degree to which you’re lying and for what purpose. Sometimes telling a half-truth can be all you need to convince someone that you’re on the up and up.
Is someone accusing you of eating all their food? Well, you ate a lot of it, but “all” of it? That’s just not the case. So, what’s wrong with saying “no”?
Prison is full of liars who tried to improvise and failed. Meanwhile, mansions are filled with liars who did the prep work and fibbed their way to the top.
If you know you’re going to have to lie about something in advance, this is a golden opportunity. Not only can you prepare your story, but you can also practice it, account for any question your subject may come up with, and even use your imagination to pretend the lie is your reality.
Psychology Today published a list in 2010 of the secrets to being an effective liar and most of them have to do with simply sticking to your story and knowing how to tell it to your subject. Countless liars have been completely undone by simply changing one small part of their story over time. The truth remains fixed, it doesn’t change, and new details are rarely added to it without more evidence. A convincing lie has to follow the same rules.
Are you saying you were at the movies at a certain time when you weren’t? What was that movie about? Did you check to see what movies were playing at that time or if the theater was even open? The person you’re lying to may check, so don’t get caught slipping.
No amount of prep work or self-convincing can help you shed those involuntary ticks that give even the most seasoned liar away. Body language expert and professional speaker Patti Wood previously told USA Insider that the easiest and subtlest way to figure out if someone is lying is to pick apart their body language.
Experts will start by establishing a baseline to determine how a person looks and moves while telling the truth. Then they simply look for any deviations. If they spot them — they’ve got you. So, what’s the best way to avoid that? Sadly, there isn’t one. These actions are involuntary. However, you can manipulate this system. Poker players have been doing it for years.
Fake tells are only for experts but if you’re just trying to lie to your friends for the purpose of a game, give it a go. Make a conscious physical action when telling the truth to throw off the subject’s baseline of you. Then, when you lie, do that same action. Not only will it give your body something else to do besides throwing you under the bus, but it’ll manipulate the person you’re lying to into believing you further.
Sometimes accusations start flying and someone has made up their mind about you despite all your best efforts to throw them off. If you can’t convince that person you’re telling the truth, you have to attack their credibility.
Psychology Today says in its tips roundup that going on the offensive can be a great way to throw people off with some information overload. Does your most adamant critic have anything about them that could be untrustworthy? If so, exploit the heck out of it and make sure it’s at the forefront of everyone else’s mind. While they’re figuring you out as a liar, it helps to split their brainwork in two and make them question your accuser as well.
The outlet notes that this is something politicians do all the time. When their back is to the wall, aggression takes the form of counteraccusations that muddy the waters and force people to ask the question “Who is the bad guy here?”
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