Former CIA Officers Reveal Tactics To Help You “Get The Truth” From Anyone

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Apr. 21 2015, Published 3:30 a.m. ET

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“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell the truth.” – Oscar Wilde 

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Three former CIA officers (Phillip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero) share their tactics for persuading almost any one to admit when they were lying in their book titled “Get The Truth.

While I’m sure within their line of work lie detector tests are readily available, it is the 75 years of combined experience that demonstrates getting someone to confess takes much more than just a couple of yes or no questions.

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I’ll be honest — the book was a little dry at times, but it is very witty and full of practical tips and tricks on how to effectively get someone to spill the beans. Because many of the examples that the agents provide in the book happened in real life, they had to create new names of places and people to mask their identity (somewhat clever, but if you did your own research, I’m sure you could figure out the real deal.)

In this day and age, you really can’t find yourself getting away with lying because of the Internet. From over-exaggerating on a job application, to photoshopping an Instagram picture, some one is always bound to discover the truth. But what happens when you’re the one that needs to pry it out of someone?

Below are the three methods I learned from the book that I believe can help you effectively seek the truth in any situation:

1. It’s all about your delivery. The authors speak very heavily about the importance of authentic delivery when it comes to getting necessary information from someone in question. In the chapter “How To Deliver Your Monologue,” the authors advise readers to watch their tone, as well as to be as engaging as possible:

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“With your voice as your instrument of influence, your aim is to build and maintain whatever level of rapport you can in that situation. You may still get some resistance, but if s/he sees you as someone who’s treating him/her respectfully and personally, someone who’s objective rather than out to get him/her…his/her resistance will be dampened significantly.” (pg. 45) 

This is a great tactic for when you may be faced with approaching a co-worker or even a subordinate about an tough issue. As the manager in the situation, you don’t want to immediately point the finger of blame (even if you know for a fact the party is guilty) and rage against the machine. But instead, calmly and collectively approach the situation in order to find out the full story.

2. Meet the person where they are. In addition to knowing how to control your tone and pitch during the conversation, you must be willing to meet the guilty party where they are and walk toward the truth.

This is where “How To Tailor Your Monologue” becomes the most important. Making sure that you choose the correct language in order to keep your subject in short-term thinking mode (a place that will allow them to zero-in on the facts that they must focus on.) For example, if you’re trying to get your little sister to admit that she burned a hole in your favorite shirt with an iron, there are four factors you want to focus on in order get them to comply:

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 1. Inherent vulnerability of influence – As the older sibling, you’re an authority figure that they are obligated to listen to. In this particular scenario, your ability to feed them a constant stream of information will be critical in strengthening your position, and weakening their argument.

2. Repetition – This is an easy one. The more something is repeated, the more likely someone will accept it and remember it. By becoming a “broken record” so to speak with different scenarios you’re definitely going to catch them in the lie.

3. Loss of independent thinking: It’s quite possible that your little sister was influenced by an outside source to take your wrinkled shirt and attempt to iron it after she wore it out to a gathering. In that moment, your sister clearly didn’t think that it you would notice, but it will be up to you to identify how to bring that particular fact into play.

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4. Lack of immediate identifiable consequences: Because your sister didn’t think you would notice this one, measly shirt deep in the back of your closet, she had no reason to think that you would find it and become upset about it. After all, you were out of town for the weekend and weren’t even thinking about the shirt. And with the encouragement of her friend saying how cute she would look in the shirt, there was absolutely no reason her not to wear it and then return it safe and sound.

3. Know when to go pedal the gas and pump the brakes. Finally, when it comes to interrogation, you have to be mindful of how your delivery and ability to retrieve all of the facts can affect the party in question. For every action, there is of course a reaction, and in the chapter “Do No Harm”, the authors remind us that being judgmental isn’t always the best route to take:

“When you’re judging someone, you’re necessarily displaying a bias, and bias can only have  negative impact on your ability to get the truth. One of the best ways we’ve found to fight this inclination is to remember a fundamental verity in life: Sometimes good people do stupid things.” (page 103) 

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In order to get the accused to tell the truth, it is best to step as far away as possible from playing the role as the judge and the jury in the situation. You want to be a problem solver – allowing the party in question to gain your trust so that you can help them rectify the situation as much as possible.

To conclude, this novel provides in-depth real-life examples that we may face with friends, family members and even co-workers. Getting the truth doesn’t have to be difficult when you keep in the forefront the importance correctly approaching the party in question, your delivery, and how you can best assist them in reaching the best outcome.

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