People are more honest in emails than in verbal conversations

Colorado Jill

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In a perfect world, every conversation would be an open and honest exchange of information.

But the truth is, most people lie, at least a little.

Small fibs may be relatively harmless, but repeated lies can damage relationships. No one wants to be lied to, especially by someone important to them.

That said, how can we increase our chances of having a truthful conversation with someone?

In a 2021 American Psychological Association (APA) podcast, Dr. Jeff Hancock, a psychologist, and professor at Stanford University shared his research on lying. Dr. Hancock reported that people are more likely to lie when they are talking vocally (face to face or over the phone) versus when they are communicating through text or email.

During verbal conversations, we tend to speak more quickly and may fill uncomfortable pauses with falsehoods just to keep the conversation flowing.

Have you ever left a conversation thinking, “Why in the world did I say that — it wasn’t even true?” Sometimes our words get ahead of us, and we lie.

Can someone quickly recognize our deception during face-to-face conversations?

It turns out that it is hard to detect lying because there are no reliable facial cues that help identify a lie. We only have a 54% accuracy rate at recognizing deception in face-to-face interactions which is just slightly better than chance.

If you are worried someone might try to deceive you, your best option is to communicate through email. People are the least likely to lie in writing.

Emails leave a written record of the conversation. If we lie, it becomes a permanent part of our story that is not easily erased, and this is a powerful motivator for doing the right thing.

Additionally, when we type a response, we have more time to reflect on what we are saying. The truth is sometimes painful, and this extra time helps us say difficult things in a way that is easier to hear. We are less impulsive, usually more thoughtful, and more honest with our written words.

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The Takeaway

If you seek the truth, consider sending a text, or preferably an email. A written record fosters more honest dialogue.

You might not get the answer that you want, but you have a higher likelihood of hearing an honest response.

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