The Negotiator Magazine

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There are many reasons why people are motivated to deceive. The five primary motivations are: 1) to save face; 2) to guide social interaction; 3) to avoid tension or conflict; 4) to affect interpersonal relationships; and 5) to achieve interpersonal power.1 A follow up study concluded that lies are motivated by a need to defend oneself socially or economically in a disadvantaged situation, supporting the notion that deceivers act with purpose and specific motivation.2  Within the negotiation context, some practitioners would argue that deception and lies are commonplace because negotiations are based on information dependence.3 In other words, negotiators have little choice but to rely on the data and claims that their counterparts provide in order to reach agreement. To do otherwise would require verification of each and every statement made and position proffered, which would be both highly time consuming and likely cost prohibitive.4

            Now that we have established that deception takes place practically all around us --and most certainly across the negotiating table -- the question remains as to how best to deal with this predicament in your negotiations. You may be thinking to yourself that with all the trial and negotiation experience you have, it is pretty unlikely that an adversary could successfully pull a fast one on you. Although you may be the exception to the rule, there is substantial evidence that most people have poor ability to recognize deception.5  The reason for this is that most of us harbor a belief that truthful statements are preferable to lies.6  As a result of this bias, we will often unwittingly assume that the information we are being provided is accurate, relevant and truthful.7 If, however, we learn to identify the verbal and non-verbal cues that often accompany deceptive messages, rather than merely relying on hunches or our experience as practitioners in the field, we can significantly improve our ability to detect deception.8

1 Turner, Supra note 1.

2 Hample, Supra note 3.

3 Schweitzer, M. E. (2005). Negotiators Lie. Harvard Negotiation Journal, Dec. 2005, 3 – 5.

4 Id.

5 Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., Ebesu, A. S., & Rockwell, P. (1994). Interpersonal Deception: V. Accuracy in Deception Detection. Communication Monographs, 61, 303 – 325;  Bauchner, J. E., Kaplan, E. A., & Miller, G. R. (1980). Detecting deception: The relationship of available information to judgmental accuracy in initial encounters. Human Communication Research, 6, 253 – 264; DePaulo, B. M., Stone, J. J., & Lassiter, G. D. (1985). Deceiving and detecting deceit. In B. R. Schlenker (Ed.) The self and social life (pp. 323 – 370). New York: McGraw-Hill;  Kalbfleisch, P. J. (1985). Accuracy in deception detection: A quantitative review. (Doctoral dissertation. Michigan State University, 1985). Dissertation Abstracts International, 45, 46112B; Kraut, R. E. (1980). Humans as lie detectors: Some second thoughts. Journal of Communication, 30, 209 – 216;  Miller, G. R., & Stiff, J. B. (1993). Deceptive Communication. Newbury Park, CA: Sage;  O’Sullivan, M., Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1988). The effect of comparisons on detecting deceit. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 13, 158 – 169.

6 Bok, S. (1978). Lying: Moral choice in public and private life. New York: Vintage.

7 Buller, D. B., Strzyzewski, K. D., & Hunsaker, F. G. (1991). Interpersonal Deception: II. The inferiority of conversational participants as deception detectors. Communication Monographs, 58, 25 – 40;  McCornack, S. A., & Parks, M. R. (1990). What women know that men don’t: Sex differences in determining the truth behind deceptive messages. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7, 107 – 118;  Zuckerman, M., Spiegel, N. H., DePaulo, B. M., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Nonverbal strategies for decoding deception. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 6, 171 – 187.

8 DeTurck, M. A. (1991). Training observers to detect spontaneous deception: Effects of gender. Communication Quarterly, 38, 276 – 289;  deTurck, M. A. Harszlak, J. J., Bodhorn, D. J., & Texter, L. A. (1990). The effects of training social perceivers to detect deception from behavioral cues. Communication Quarterly, 38, 1 – 11.


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June 2006