The Lies About How To Tell If A Person Is Lying To You

One of the great misunderstandings of NLP is the misuse of eye accessing cues to asses truthiness.

In this essay Susan Stageman, one of our contributors and a long time NLP Trainer, explains it for you.

If you missed it, last week’s video is fixed. You can catch it here: I’ll have more for you as the software permits… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cheers, and may the New Year be your best ever!

Tom Dotz

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The Lies About How To Tell If A Person Is Lying To You

I hear this often on TV shows and from what I understand, it is generally taught to police officers. What I hear is that if a person looks up to right, they are lying. This is another myth that originated from NLP and was taken out of context and taught wholesale to people without having the entire understanding of what they were saying.

NLP was originally developed to help people model excellence in human communication, learning and behavior. It helped us understand how people operated as systems. Early on in NLP, eye patterns (or eye cues) were taught to people as part of understanding internal computation (the sequence of patterning, Strategy, a person uses to do things or think, like how they make decisions).

Strategies are programs that run in the mind to do everything we do. Discerning the Internal Computation was part of strategy elicitation. Eye patterns were taught to therapists to so that they would pay attention to the internal processing of the client and/or match that processing to develop rapport.

For most of the Western European population, when eyes go up and to the left, a person is accessing remembered visual information and when eyes go up and to the right, a person is accessing constructed visual information. (Note: there are numerous exceptions in the way people are internally organized. A Basque friend of mine is completely reversed. He looks down to access visually.)

Somehow, over the years “constructed information” came to mean a person was making it up and therefore lying.

BUT many right handed, normally organized people construct out of recall. The images are extracted out of a remembered memory. In FROGS INTO PRINCES by Richard Bandler and John Grinder (page 21), you’ll find that when Bandler and Grinder asked a number of the same questions of various participants, they got similar but not entirely the same eye movements.

Some people would do one thing and others would do something else. To enhance rapport and understanding, a person would then match the words with the eye movements: visual eye movements with visual “see” predicate words and phrases. In fact, on a biochemical level, all memories are ‘constructed'(1). How ‘constructed’ a memory has to be to trigger a constructed eye-accessing pattern isn’t clear.

Then somewhere someone got the idea that if you asked a person a question and they got the answer out of visual construct that meant that they were lying.

NO, NO, NO. It means nothing of the kind. The whole idea of NLP was to get people to stop generalizing about people. Ironically, in this example the opposite happened: generalization on top of generalization resulted in gross misunderstanding, and likely even in some real harm.

Maybe the best approach to the whole issue is the simplest: just don’t hang around with people you think lie to you. It makes life much easier.

Susan Stageman is the founder of NLP Training Concepts, LLC. She is a Master NLP Practitioner and Certified Trainer. She has been teaching NLP since 1989.

(1) The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, Ernest Lawrence Rossi, 1986, W.W. Norton & Company, page 69.

0 thoughts on “The Lies About How To Tell If A Person Is Lying To You”

  1. “Maybe the best approach to the whole issue is the simplest: just don’t hang around with people you think lie to you. It makes life much easier.”

    Ha! What better advice for a new year?!
    All the best for 2010, Tom, and everyone at NLP Co.

  2. Thanks, Rupert. I agree, that really is a gem in this article.
    With over Four Billion people on the planet, why would you want to waste your life with people who… waste your life?

  3. Thank you susan for your post. The 1st movie i saw that used that phrase was the negoiator. With Kevin spacey.

    I thought your post really brought us back to some basic Presups of nlp. Is to develope the sensory acuity to notice what is going on with someone and to NOTICE PATTERNS.

    For me when i make a generalization like this person is__________ ( auditory,visual constructing therefore lying ) it tends jolt me and i go internal with my dialogue and then ops there goes UpTime.

    there seems to be a trend toward rules like this and this just makes people lazy.One of the things I’ve valued about NLP is how i use my 7 +or – 2 bits of coinciousness.

    Having read this only re-anchors me back to the idea of KEEPING my sensory channels as clean as I can. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the article, many years ago after completing NLP Trainers I had a trainer ask me a question then proceed to say to me ….. I asked you to remember not make something up???????
    Great lesson for us both back then to never assume you know what someone is doing with one question or where they are accessing their information from without appropriate eliciting of a strategy ….. I am totally reversed organised. I have come across many people who inappropriately believe they can tell immediately if someone is lying and have had pleasure relaying this same story many times in my own trainings to reassure the importance of appropriate eliciting.

  5. Thanks for going into the issue of generalizing out of context for NLP guidelines, in this case “lying.” It literally “hurts my heart” – and I am not a fanciful woman – when I hear some of the abusive uses to which NLP concepts are sometimes put. However, I think because those concepts do require clarity and true awareness of what we’re doing, as well as a commitment to the ethical practice of winning consent for any work that we do, that NLP is a great deal more difficult to abuse than the free-floating abstractions of content-laden practices.

    Keep up the good work, and again – thanks.


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