Leadership And The Language of Lying – 4 Take Aways

Earlier this week a dear friend, Matthew Loomis, founder of Build Your Own Blog posted an interesting video in his Facebook feed. It is titled The Language of Lying by Noah Zandan and it’s prominently posted to the TED-Ed Lessons Worth Learning website.

I highly suggest watching this video and returning to this text when you’re done.

In the video Noah reveals the amount of science and equipment we’re using today to detect the truth in others has been eclipsed by that of Communication Science and Linguistic Text Analysis. Indeed there are four common patterns established to your and my subconscious language of deception – AKA lying.

They are:

  1. Minimal Self References
  2. Negative Language
  3. Simple Explanations
  4. Convoluted Phrasing

The tendency as a leader would be to point our focus of this subject outward. That is, in review of this video, we would do a quick 24-48 hour assessment of the people we are most intimately involved with personally or professionally and use this material to size-up others. Are our close confidents at home, work or friendships and otherwise lying to us?

For today’s leadership challenge I’m going to ask you to deny that urge. That rather instead you point these four patterns back at yourself and indeed face the leader in the mirror.



In this video Noah shows that the science indicates those that lie reference themselves less when making deceptive statements, they write or talk more about others, often people lying use the third person to distance themselves from the lie.

QUESTION: As a leader look at your email communication in response to direct questions from others, management or even you own board recently. Do you notice a pattern of making minimal self references when communicating? If so, why? What does that reveal?


People who have a problem with telling the truth use a good amount of negative language for on a deep subconscious level they feel bad about lying. He used a simple example of “My stupid phone battery died. I hate that thing!”

QUESTION: Truth be told, how many times during the course of the day do you use negative language to cover your shortcomings? You’ve encountered it many times from your employees, staff or otherwise and it frustrates you. Now spin the arrow. What message do you think you’re sending when employing negative language to cover your tracks with those that are following you?


People who have trouble with lying build explanations in the simplest of terms for the simple fact that our brains have trouble building and supporting complex explanations involving judgement.

QUESTION: When leading people where you continually provide simple explanations unchallenged, albeit ones they instinctively know require a comprehensive answer (for things sometimes get complicated) what does that say? While you don’t always need to get into the weeds in explaining things, a continual M.O. on your part to provide simple explanations creates a larger gap between you and those you lead.


In closing Noah shared liars, while keeping descriptions simple, use convoluted sentence structure. They often insert unnecessary words which are relevant and factual sounding details in order to pad the lie even more.

QUESTION: Bringing it home, as a leader, look at your response to people verbally and in written text. Can you identify the times when someone in your office or organization has asked you a simple question and you answered with more words than necessary? That your response, while addressing basic facts, was loaded with other relevant facts that were simply over the top, bloated and unnecessary? What do you think that says to those that follow you?

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

Proverbs 10:19 (MEV)

Think about it.


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