How Do You Mediate or Negotiate When You Think They’re Lying? Seven Ways to Deal with Liars

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Employee X was a little reluctant to mediate with Employee Y.  Their problems in the workplace dated back several months now and their employer really wanted them to come to a resolution.  However, one employee had a reputation for being less than truthful and the other was afraid of lies and manipulation.

How could the mediation be a success?  What do you do when you’re trying to solve a problem but you suspect the other side is lying to you?   Try using one or more of the tips below to stay the course and achieve a win-win solution to your issues.

  1. Be scrupulously honest yourself.  You can’t be deceptive and still expect honesty from the other side.  Are you shading anything?  Even a little?  Our society encourages lying, especially in negotiations. If you want honesty, cultivate your own reputation for honesty.
  2. Ask questions.  Whenever you suspect someone is lying, probe for more information in a non-judgmental way.  Perhaps you heard it wrong or misunderstood what they were trying to say.  Ask them to elaborate and tell you more.  Paraphrase what they said and ask if you got it right. Help the other person save face if in fact they were trying to mislead you. Say something like, “I’m wondering if there is something you don’t want to tell me, what can I say so that we feel comfortable being completely straight with each other”.
  3. Ask for documentation.  Don’t be afraid to ask for the figures.  “Is there anything you can show me to back up what you are saying?”
  4. Build in a back up plan. If you’re afraid that someone will fail to follow through with a commitment despite what they say, spell out what will happen should that occur.  “If party x fails to pay by specified date, interest shall accrue at the rate of y%.”
  5. Control your emotions.  It’s easy to get angry when you think someone is lying to you or about you.  Take a deep breath, be firm and speak only the truth back.  Don’t lose your composure or your tongue.
  6. Let go of different viewpoints of the past.  Sometimes two people will have very different perspectives on what has occurred.  Just because someone sees it differently or perceived an event differently, doesn’t mean that they are lying or that they won’t follow through with their commitments.  Concentrate on the future, what needs to happen from here on out and how you can keep the problem from recurring.
  7. Use the power of neutrality.  Use your mediator and talk to them about your suspicions.  Because the mediator is neutral and has no stake in the dispute, he or she may have more success probing the other side without putting them on the defensive.  The mediator is also likely to have insight into what is happening and can ensure any agreements are durable and made in good faith.

©ACDRS 12/2009

“Putting harmony and productivity back into the workplace”

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