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6 Tactics To Spots Lies In Emails

6 Tactics To Spots Lies In Emails

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.

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 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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