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How to know if someone is an honest person

In one of my earlier pieces, I mentioned how I can test to see if people are honest with me. Somebody wrote in asking how I do that.

The long story is I do a great big deductive process. I don’t use FBI body language measuring techniques or anything like that. Instead, I use logic and evidence to calculate likelihoods. And anyone can do this.

I have a look at the whole person: what they’re saying, the context that we’re in, what I know of that person, etc. and I do a statistical analysis in my head of how likely is it that they are telling the truth right now, based on all the information I have.

If, for example, my friend has a history of being deceptive with others, and they stand to gain something selfish if I believe them, and we’re surrounded by people they wish to impress, I’d consider them to be at quite high risk of dishonesty.

If a TV salesman is telling me that he’d buy this expensive model for his own house, and I don’t know him at well, I’d hedge my bets and assume he’s lying because he stands to gain a commission if I believe him.

Or if it’s my wife, who’s shown many times that she will sacrifice outcomes in order to be honest, and she’s sharing what happened at lunch with her family – a situation I’m familiar with – then I’d rate her as highly likely to be telling the truth.

Deductive analysis is actually quite a long complex process to learn how to do, but there is also a much more simplified version. And that is to measure the distance between what someone says and what they do, what you might call integrity.

The easiest way to measure if someone’s being honest is to watch their behavior and to see if it lines up with the kind of promises and claims they make.

This might sound overly simplistic, but it really is actually that obvious and right there in front of us most of the time. But most of us are persuaded and distracted by the words and manipulation techniques people use.

If you treat words as just wind, remaining skeptical until you see behaviour that undeniably confirms the words, then you’ll see lying is often obvious.

Someone says they got a new job, go visit them at work!

Someone says they are going on holiday, ask to see photos of them beachside!

Someone says they love you, observe from a detached position whether they are consistently loving in how they treat you!

Most of the time, people can only lie to you because you’re either unwilling to look for evidence or you haven’t thought to double-check their claims because it would feel rude or whatever.

It’s almost impossible to manipulate someone without either their permission or their naivety!


To read people more accurately, check out the managing manipulation section of my Building Rapport course

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