Why do people lie?
Well, according to three former CIA officers, Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero, co-authors of ‘Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone To Tell All’, the three biggest reasons are:
1 Fearing the negative consequences of disclosing the truth, i.e. concealing information out of a fear of what will happen if that information is revealed. This type of lie often involves an act of wrongdoing that the person wants to hide
2 Wanting others to believe something about you that isn’t true, i.e as a way of enhancing a positive image that others may have of them
3 Wanting to avoid hurting someone’s feelings
So, how do you spot a lie? The five tell-tale signs (according to Kathy Caprino, who interviewed them for Forbes magazine, onforb.es/1GMC3C3, look out for:
1 Evasion: i.e. ‘linguistic concealment’, like failing to answer a question
2 Persuasion: i.e. where someone tries to convince you of something else, instead of conveying the information that you are asking for
3 Manipulation: i.e. where they try to disrupt your game plan, say by failing to answer a simple question
4 Aggression: This type of behaviour is typically exhibited by someone who feels cornered. Maybe by attacking your credibility or lashing out to get you to back off
5 Reaction: Here the behaviour, such as hand-to-face activity, is automatically triggered by someone’s nervous system. Like when a question creates a spike in anxiety.
So what’s key?
Look out for a cluster, i.e. a combination of at least two of these tell-tale signs. The signs can be verbal or non-verbal.
If the first tell-tale sign occurs within five seconds of the stimulus (i.e. your question), ‘you can reliably conclude that the behaviour was triggered by it’. So now you know.
Next week: The CIA’s nine ‘tried and tested’ methods for getting the truth out of anyone. Happily, none require a ‘Don’t try this at home’ warning.
Separately, I am giving a series of training workshops, starting on 21st May with ‘Settling Intractable Disputes Successfully & Getting Clients What They Want’ http://goo.gl/1rnV56. For further details or if you would like me to come in and organise a bespoke session, just let me know.
Ten days to go and, as Jeremy Paxman pointed out in the Financial Times, our choice is between a man who went to primary school with Boris Johnson, and one who went to secondary school with him.
It is quite possible that whoever ‘wins’ will fail to secure enough votes to form a majority government. Apparently there are as many as 11 different possible outcomes. Faced with a similar possibility in 2010 civil servants prepared by simulating different scenarios but gave up after being unable to strike any deals. According to the then cabinet secretary, Gus O’Donnell, in a Financial Times article earlier this year, they concluded that ‘if politicians were to make progress, they would need to be more flexible than our teams’. This ought to be cause for concern but, if mediations are anything to go by, I suspect that any obstacles will be overcome.
As a mediator, dealing with parties who feel that they are miles apart and are experiencing difficulties trying to bridge the gaps is all too familiar. Yet given a genuine desire to find a solution and someone to help guide them safely over the bumps, they invariably get there. ‘Principles’ standing in the way soon dissolve, especially when the situation is put in perspective. Here, sadly, it will be less about whatever policies a newly formed government would like to implement and more about managing a country that is ‘near-bankruptcy’, with options limited unless taxes rise significantly or, as Paxman suggests ‘great swathes of public spending cease to exist’. For all the talk about possible tax cuts, these will probably deliver less for most families than the recent petrol price fall.
The real reason why the parties will probably forge a workable solution though is because, unlike Gus O’Donnell’s civil servants, their need will be borne out of self-interest. Ultimately, it will be less about ‘do we/don’t we?’ than ‘how can we’? If the choice is between governing and oblivion, you can bet on politicians to reach what at first might seem surprising ‘accommodations’. Possibly with unlikely partners too. There have been frequent speculations about possible collaborations with the SNP and of a prime minister having to run things past Holyrood, culminating in last week’s Daily Mail front page story branding Nicola Sturgeon as ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’. Whoever becomes prime minister might have to face the consequences – media and opposition attacks and possibly challenges from alienated party supporters let down by commitments that were ‘negotiated away’ – but at least he would be there to do so.
Plus ca change it seems, except that whoever wins this election, it is quite possible that the next one will be fought not by someone who went to school with Boris but by the man who once proclaimed that ‘my chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive’.
Next week – and I promise this wasn’t brought on by the election – I will be writing about why people lie and offering advice from 3 former CIA officers on the 9 ways to get the truth out of anyone. In the meantime, I will leave you with a (possibly mythical) story involving Peter Mandelson. Buying supper at a chippie in his former Hartlepool constituency, he asked for haddock, chips and ‘some of that guacamole’ – mistaking the mushy peas for avocado dip.
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In my last blog, I offered some tips on working out how best to resolve a dispute with a business partner head on. So, once you have arranged to meet, how do you go about changing the dynamics between you so that you are more likely to have a productive conversation and come away from the meeting getting what you want?
1 Focus on your endgame and prepare for the meeting.
Disputes between business partners can be like marital disputes especially when the relationship that held a business together is tearing it apart. When you are talking about shareholders, partners or fellow directors the arguments can differ but fundamental questions like “What needs to change for us to stay together?” or “Who should leave and on what basis?” can also be similar. Personal decisions can be inextricably linked to what’s best for the family except that here ‘the family’ is the business – unless it is a family business, in which case there are probably two families to consider.
Getting even may feel tempting but how do you go about getting what you want?
1 Step back. Look at the big picture. Before you do anything, think. What do you want? What’s best for the business? Investigate your options and, in each case, the best way of achieving your objective.
2 Check your agreements and get advice. Find out where you stand. Review the Shareholder Agreement, the Articles of Association and any other agreements that you agreed back at the ‘pre-nup’ stage. What do the termination and deadlock provisions say? Do they offer you the best way of separating successfully? Or have things moved on since then?
3 Reality test your options. In each case, be sure to understand where you are likely to end up and what the risks, costs and tax consequences are. For you and your business. Who controls the board and the shareholder meetings? How are employees, clients, financiers, creditors, debtors and competitors likely to react when word gets out? What contingency plans should you make? Tell your top team what is happening. You want them to feel included. They probably know anyway.
In a family business there can be added complications to consider, particularly where continuing shareholders and family members not involved in running the business have differing needs and interests.
Then – and this can be a difficult one – think carefully about who can best take the business forward.
4 Decide on your game plan. Are you going to be better off litigating, negotiating or mediating? Analyse what each is likely to achieve or jeopardise.
a) If you want to negotiate, consider hiring a mediator. The chances of successfully settling a dispute are that much higher. 70 per cent of UK commercial mediations settle on the day. Introducing an independent mediator invariably changes the dynamics and gets people focused on settling. The process is confidential.
It should become clear during the mediation whether the relationship is salvageable or not. If it isn’t, use the mediation to work out the best way of divorcing safely and inexpensively without destroying the business.
At some stage you are likely to end up mediating. ‘When’ is mainly a question of timing. If people seem ready to talk, the earlier you do so the greater the likely savings in legal costs and management time. If not, wait for a window of opportunity but don’t leave it too late. Also, carefully consider any invitation to mediate and reply promptly if you don’t want a court to impose a hefty ‘costs sanction’ on you later.
b) If you want to litigate, first find out:
- What the effect on you and the business is likely to be, win or lose. People often have multiple hats, e.g. as shareholder, director and employee. Be sure you know where you stand in each scenario.
- If you win, can a court give you what you want? For instance, would winding up the business, removing a director or forcing a share purchase work for you? Judges rule on points of law. They don’t offer businesses relationship solutions. A judge can sanction the appointment of an independent valuer to give a binding valuation (assuming that’s a risk you want to take) but don’t expect a judge to get involved in the actual valuation. Also, getting and agreeing an independent valuation can be harder in the aftermath of a bitterly contested litigation.
- What are your chances of winning? A ‘strong’ case usually means just means 60-65 per cent. Get cost estimates through to end of trial. Calculate how much you should net, win or lose.
- How long could getting a binding court decision take? Think about how you and the business will be affected in the meantime. It can get messy and protracted.
- Now, repeat the exercise for everyone else.
5 Don’t let it fester. Tackle it head on. Face to face. Arrange to meet away from the office. Give yourselves plenty of time and block out diaries to avoid distractions. Agree who should attend. Keep numbers to a minimum. Include anyone who needs to be part of a settlement. Consider whether advisors should attend and whether a mediator could make it more productive.
Next week, how to come away from a meeting getting what you want.