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6 Tactics To Spots Lies In Emails

6 Tactics To Spots Lies In Emails
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No one knows exactly how we coped before email. It must have been terrible! One of many benefits to email is the ability to take time considering a response—while delivering that message quickly. It’s the perfect balance between face-to-face and the post office.

The problem with email is the removal of the person from his or her message. You’re given no body language, no facial expressions, no eye movements and no general feeling from the other person. This leaves things wide open for falsehood.

Look for these warning signs to help you determine whether you’re being lied to:

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1. Switching Tenses

Be wary if the author changes a suspicious story from past-tense to present-tense. It’s an indication that he’s making things up as he goes. We tend to miss details like that when we’re thinking on the fly. “We thought we’d be home by curfew. We were ready leave by 10:00, then I go to pay the bill, and the credit card machine isn’t working….”

2. Limiting Phrases

Pay attention to limiting, or qualifying statements like “To be honest,” “I’m sorry to say” or “Here’s the thing.”  These narrow the expectations of whatever comes next; maybe the author is stalling or hesitating.

“I want you to know, Rick seems like a good guy. You two are great together.”

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3. Too Much Emphasis

Sometimes liars over-sell their stories by trying too hard. Way, way too hard. Look out for adverbs or other emphatic language that seems unnecessary. Repetition is similar. If someone tells you the same thing several times, she may be trying pass off quantity for quality.

“I was really, really sorry to hear about Cuddles. It’s such a shame! He was such a very well-behaved dog. I was never ever scared of him.”

4. Evasive Language

If it sounds too slippery to be true, it might be a lie. Imprecise or vague language leaves room for error, and places the blame for misunderstanding on the reader, not the author. Pay attention to words like “maybe,” “possibly,” “pretty much,” etc. “I’m pretty sure they’ll be finished with the artillery barrage by 0600 hours and we’ll be safe to invade the compound. That’s basically what the gunners told me.”

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5. Creating Distance

If your questions go unanswered, or there are obvious omissions in the message, it could be a warning that the author is distancing himself from what you’re asking or talking about. Some liars even leave themselves out of a story they’re telling about themselves. Passive language and tone might be suspicious. You: “Are you excited about the shower on Sunday?” Liar: “It sounds like so much fun! So many interesting people will be there.”

6. Too Many Words

Liars tend to write 30% more than other people in email. Some of this is the need to flesh out convincing stories and answers to inconvenient questions. Part of it is a nervous response that kicks in automatically. If you receive an email that is longer than it needs to be, you may want to take it with a grain of salt.

“I had the report finished on time, but then everything went wrong. My flash drive broke, and then I had to reformat my computer. Computers are the worst! I was ready to email it to you but my internet failed. We just changed our service and it’s hit or miss sometimes.”

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Are You Paranoid or Careful?

Research shows that we naturally want to trust people, and usually assume the emails we read are true. But there are times when hoping for the best isn’t good enough. You can’t afford to date a sociopath. Your business needs to know the truth about vendors, employees and clients. You want the truth from the babysitter.

In most cases, none of the 6 warning signs by themselves is enough to merit a confrontation. Watch for several of them popping up in the same email, or look back through past messages for a pattern of possible lies.

Remember: being lied to repeatedly could mean someone doesn’t respect you enough to tell you the truth, or think you’re smart enough to see what’s going on.

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Featured photo credit: Cairo via flickr.com

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Kayla Matthews

Productivity and self-improvement blogger

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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