Advanced Interviewing Skills and Statement Analysis

The Cost of Lies

By Paul Curby,
Director, CurbyPartners

No-one likes to lie. It is difficult for people to lie. Most people won’t directly lie, when confronted, they just won’t tell the whole truth. They want to offer the listener or reader, a version of events and make it believable.

Typically, when someone tells a story, the hardest part is knowing where to begin. Once decided, and you’re underway, the story begins to flow and take its own guided course. A decision needs to be made about how much information you are going to disclose.

It difficult for someone to relay every minute or second of their day or a particular event; a person will naturally edit their story and disclose what they think is important and relevant for the reader to know while still keeping the essence of the story intact.

My area of expertise is to analyse a statement (written or verbal) and identify areas that need more explanation or detail. Specifically, I am looking for indicators that a person may be deceptive and/or withholding information.

When assessing whether someone is being truthful or deceptive, I am looking for a person’s commitment to their own version of events. I do this by listening to the words used when responding to my questions as well as looking for changes in the language used throughout the statement.

There are different ways that we introduce people in social, family and business settings, the way this is done can signal the closeness of the relationship. Depending on the scenario being communicated, the manner of introduction given to a person can be analysed and provide valuable insight into the relationship between the parties.

By way of example, when introducing a work colleague, friend, wife or husband, using the pronoun ‘the’ or ‘my’ before wife/husband, will provide the listener with an insight as to the closeness of the relationship. For example, if I was to introduce someone as ‘Lyn’, or ‘this is Lyn’ or ‘this is my wife Lyn’, provides insight into the closeness of the relationship at that point in time.

Saying something like ‘the wife’ can indicate tension or perhaps distance in the relationship. Saying ‘my wife’, indicates closeness. We subconsciously communicate the feeling of closeness or distance in the relationship by editing our language used which effectively reflects our feeling at the time. This is why taking heed of the actual words used is such a useful tool.

Equally, the use of or exclusion of pronouns such as I, me, us, we, they, them, ours, him, her is noteworthy. As an interviewer, I am also looking for the use of pronouns to evaluate someone’s commitment to a story. The omission of pronouns in the statement, can be indicative of a person’s lack of commitment to their own story and would require further probing to obtain more detail.

In everyday conversations we, as listeners, tend to be sympathetic, make assumptions or interpret a story in line with what we want to believe a person is trying to say. In statement analysis, there are no assumptions about intent of the speaker or writer, the statement is analysed according to the actual words used, written or verbal. If there are missing pronouns, that is meaningful. If the language has changed, that is meaningful. There must be a reason for the change and we need to explore those areas in further detail.

Having the skills to analyse a statement, written or verbal, provides the inquirer with an edge in order to determine whether a story may be truthful, or deceptive with some elements of truth weaved in.

I frequently use this technique in investigation matters including bullying and harassment complaints to analyse letters of complaint as well as analysing witness and respondents’ versions. I have also used this technique in commercial disputes by identifying sensitive issues relating to one party to help the other party negotiate a better outcome.

Better analysis translates into reduced cost for our clients investigating matters as we spend less time making unnecessary investigations.

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