“This Is How To Avoid Harmful Lies In A Negotiation” – Negotiation Tip of the Week

“When liars lie, they attempt to distort reality. When you believe their lies, you distort your reality.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Avoid Harmful Lies In A Negotiation”

People don’t realize; they’re always negotiating.

Lies can be insidious, harmful, and mentally debilitating. They’re also more mentally strangling when delivered from a supposed trusted source. Thus, the intent of a lie’s purpose determines its deceit threshold and the mental harm derived from it. A lie can extend calamitous damage into a negotiation, and unfortunately, it can do the same when you’re engaged in other aspects of your life. That’s why you must arm yourself with the insight needed to gauge when someone is lying, the reason they’re doing so, and what their intent is. By having that knowledge, you’ll be more capable of protecting yourself from those that openly lie to you. Even more important, you’ll be able to shield yourself from more harmful lies in your negotiation and other areas of your life. And here’s how to do that. 

Observing Lies

Some people see lies as being cute – the kid who has cookie crumbs on his face, exclaiming, I didn’t eat the cookies, is an example of how someone might view it as cute. In such cases, the evidence is staring you in the face. You know the kid is lying. But should you consider that as being cute? It’s a question I suggest you pose to yourself. Because, if you don’t confront the kid, you’re rewarding his lie. And you’re encouraging him to lie to you again in the future.

Such lying occurs during a negotiation. A cute lie, or one that doesn’t have much bearing on the talks, is told. Should you let it go? The answer, as I state about a lot of things related to negotiations is, it depends. Based on the magnitude of a lie, and the intent it’s meant to have in the negotiation, you might let it pass to gain insight into how and when the other negotiator may lie again.

On the other hand, if it’s going to impact the current or future negotiations profoundly, you might consider spotlighting the lie when it occurs. You’d do so to place the other negotiator on notice that you’re aware of his shenanigans. You might also imply that they’ll be a penalty if he persists with telling falsehoods. Like the kid with the cookies, depending on how you feel about the level of the lie and its impact, you’d want to confront and stop it right then, versus allowing it to breathe new life into future lies. 

Why People Lie

People lie for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes, someone tells a lie to shield another person’s feelings from being wounded. At other times, a person may voice a lie related to avoiding an adverse reaction for their gain.

It’s essential to understand why someone lies because, in so doing, you’ll have the perspective for their lie. Thus, if it’s one to ease the emotional feelings of someone (i.e., I can’t tell that you’ve gained weight – when in reality, the subject has gained 40 pounds), depending on the circumstance, it’s easy for someone to forgive that misrepresentation of the truth. That’s a judgment call to say when someone can assess how much weight another person has gained. It’s the more insidious lies that you should focus on – the one’s that place you in harm’s way. Thus, always be very attentive to what someone says, how they say it, and the timing of their pronouncements, along with how they react if you challenge them. Those variables will be the light that shines upon their reasoning for lying and where they expect their lie to take you.  

Your Lies

In a negotiation, you may alter the truth, lie, so you don’t disclose your absolute best offer, or for any number of reasons to enhance your negotiation efforts. In your mind, your lie may be small, something that should not rouse the other negotiator. When she bristles aloud at your deceit, her outcries surprise you. You’re astonished and genuinely taken aback. You attempt to explain away your mistruth be stating that you misspoke. Still, you find she’s out for blood. She engages in what you internally perceive to be hysterics, but you don’t dare say that out loud.

What just happened? She put you on defense. From that position, you may become more apt to make concessions to alleviate the discomfort you’ve injected into the negotiation – this happens in other aspects of your life too. You compensate an alleged grievance to ‘make things right again.’ In reality, she could be playing you. She could be feigning indignation at your lie as a psychological ploy to get you to consent more readily to her future requests.

Before telling a lie, even one that you perceive to have little consequences, consider how the other negotiator may use it against you. Many negotiators have lost bargaining sessions due to handing their opposition a tool that their opponent used against them. Don’t let that happen to you. Always be mindful of the relationship you have with the truth.

Body Language And Lies

When people lie, they exhibit signals that display their discomfort with what they’re saying. Those gestures may be slight (e.g., looking away momentarily, getting choked up, shifting their body position, etc.). But if you know some of the signs to observe, you’ll become more adept at detecting deceit.

While one body language display can’t account for the total accuracy of what someone is experiencing, you can gather such insights from a cluster of their actions. As an example, if someone made a statement you thought was not 100% truthful, you challenged them about the statement’s validity, and they began to swallow, and they also began to fidget frequently, that could be a sign that they’re lying. By observing multiple movements indicating that someone is experiencing stress, you get closer to the truth. Plus, you also gain insight into why they’re lying. While you may have to probe deeper to uncover the source of their lie, you’ll know more about the individual and how to avoid their harmful lies by observing their body language.  


Everyone lies, especially during a negotiation. And if you say you don’t lie during your negotiation, you’re not truthful with yourself. That’s okay; accepting lying as a fact means you’re open to understanding the purpose of someone’s lie and the effect the lie seeks to have on you. Once you accept that as fact and absorb the preceding musings, you’ll be better prepared to detect and insulate yourself from harmful lies. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://c-suitenetwork.com/radio/shows/greg-williams-the-master-negotiator-and-body-language-expert-podcast/

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Negotiation Insight,” click here https://themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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