Posts Tagged: trust

How do You Know if They are Telling the Truth?

Many of you know that I teach communication classes at a local university, and one of my favorite subjects to teach is non-verbal communication. Oh my gosh! It’s so fun to teach students how to read body language. Studying the congruence between non-verbal and verbal cues can give you a real edge in identifying trustworthy people.

For instance, I recently sat down with a financial adviser with the intent of potentially hiring him to manage some funds. He looked at me with a dead pan face, and stony eyes and said, “I love my job.” I thought to myself, “Ya coulda fooled me!” I had the feeling that his non-verbals were telling me more than his verbals. 

How about you? Can you tell when someone is telling the truth?

How about when your employee tells you that he locked up the store before he left last night, but he is unusually shifting his attention to other things and avoiding your gaze? You wonder if there is more to the story than what he’s telling you.

Or how about the politician who wags his finger about not having “sex with that woman.” Are there some “tells” or some “signs” to alert us to whether a person is trustworthy and believable?

Each person carries around with them certain cues that alert others to their believability. Since each person is different, it’s impossible to list specific “tells” or cues that are generally true for everyone. Simply said, people lie differently. But a simple rule of thumb is to LOOK FOR CONGRUENCE.

Or how about this face?

Or how about this face?


The word, Congruent means to agree or to equal. In math, two lines are congruent if they are equal lengths. They match. They mirror each other. So when you are wondering if someone is telling the truth, you may ask, “Do her words match with her facial expression and body language? Is he telling the same story with his body, face and actions that he is with his mouth? Does her face agree with her words?

This is a study in Integrity.

Integrity has the root word integer at its base, and integer means whole number. That means it can’t be split- it is whole and not duplicitous. Don’tcha love math?

When you run into someone who is duplicitous, split or in-congruent, and you are paying attention  (that’s key), you will see it. You will notice the slight “tells” or “signs” that something hidden is at play. Maybe it’s the way he shrugs his shoulders, or looks away or purses his lips. Maybe its the way she says one thing and does another. Something seems off. You don’t have to know what it is. You just have to know that it is.

I don’t have to know exactly why I don’t trust this potential financial adviser, I just have to accept that I don’t. When something doesn’t add up (get it? math pun), that’s enough for me to move on. Some of us look past our red flags, and intuitive gifts. Sometimes we make excuses for in-congruent people, or we work hard to look at their positive qualities. But reading people is a gift that we should not ignore.

What about US?

Sometimes, we can be less than authentic, too. Sometimes we can be split, by saying “yes” when we really mean “no.” Sometimes we will agree or keep quiet even though our insides are screaming, “NO!” Sometimes we can say “everything is fine,” when everything Is. Not. Fine.

It takes great courage to be the congruent person on the outside, that you know yourself to be on the inside. It takes courage to speak your mind with truth and respect. It takes faith to say “no” when you mean “no” and “yes” when you mean “yes” regardless of the consequences.

I believe that this kind of authenticity invokes God’s power. When we decide against all odds, and in the face of certain adversity, to be authentic- congruent- whole, we make sacred move toward God. We align with God’s love and power in that moment and His peace is unmistakably ours. It’s not just about telling the truth, it’s about living in it.

When we determine to be completely whole and aligned with the truth, we are able to recognize the in-authenticity in ourselves and others. Our vision becomes clear, and we can read non-verbals, body language and tell-tale signs. When we live authentically, we give others permission to do the same. There is so much freedom in this type of living. Cheers to you, and all your relationships!

Judging isn’t Nice- it’s Smart

What right do we have to judge someone? To look at someone’s behavior and make judgments about them? If we want to be wise, we have every right. In fact, we should.

Dr.Henry Cloud pinned down something for me several years back that has changed everything about the way I practice counseling, protect my daughters, and choose my friends. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist and leadership consultant. He is the bestselling author and coauthor of over 20 books, including Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

He says that there are three types of people that you will come into contact with, and that recognizing them will help you figure out how to deal with them. They are the Wise, the Foolish and the Wicked. If you’re like me, you may think it’s OK to judge someone as wise or foolish. But is it OK to judge someone as wicked?

Are there truly wicked people in the world?

And if there are, is it OK for us to make a judgment about them? The word judging means “to form an opinion or estimation after careful consideration.” Our opinions are the not the final word, only God’s judgment is. But making a wise judgment about another’s character is within our ability and right.

Many women believe that they should give people the benefit of the doubt. That it isn’t nice to doubt someone’s word. That judging someone is wrong. That making excuses for someone’s bad or rude behavior is the nice thing to do. This is what nice girls should do, after all. Here are a few examples of giving the benefit of the doubt and making excuses when you shouldn’t.

  • If the bully at school is mean to your child, you may have been taught to excuse his behavior by saying, “Well, that little boy is probably bullied at home, and that’s why he does that.”
  • If your boss at work sends a threatening email to you, you may respond, “His boss must be breathing down his throat. He really didn’t mean to sound so hostile.”
  • If your husband has a pattern of irresponsibility, passivity, and letting you do the heavy lifting, you may want to excuse him by saying, “Well, his family of origin was so messed up, he never learned how to take responsibility for himself.”
  • Your mother refuses to call your daughter by her given name because she didn’t approve of the name in the first place. You let it go to avoid a conflict. 

These responses sound nice, and understanding, and maybe even like the “Christian” way to respond. But they are not nice. They are not biblical. Overlooking bad treatment sets you up for more bad treatment. Habitual “niceness” makes you a prime target for worse kinds of abuse from truly wicked people.

Trusting Your Gut Instead of Excusing Bad Behavior

Discerning other people’s behavior and attitude accurately is your God-given intuition, your instinct, your sixth sense, your gut. Making judgments about people’s behavior just may save your or your kids’ life. You need this gift to make wise decisions about who to engage with, who to let your kids hang out with, and who to trust.

Women sometimes excuse their intuition about someone’s character just long enough to get really burned. Red flags about a person will show up, but because some women falsely believe they should give the benefit of the doubt, they ignore their intuition, and get into a world of hurt. 

Judging isn’t Nice- it’s Smart

The benefit of the doubt is unearned trust. Trust should always be earned, not given. Maya Angelou said once,”When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Often times, though, we ignore bad behavior because we believe we ought to forgive, overlook wrongs, and just be more understanding. Countless clients grace my office with their stories of heartbreak and betrayal because they didn’t or couldn’t judge another’s intent as just plain wicked.

The Wicked are so consumed with ego, image, and self-righteousness, that they cannot see or care about the wasted people and relationships they leave in their wake. They are concerned with their good image, appearance and the admiration of others so much, that they use and abuse people without care in order to keep that good image at any cost.

To be passive about judging them is to invite them in. To make excuses for their bad behavior and self-serving motives is to collude with them. To ignore the hurt they cause you and others is to set yourself up for more.

Maybe you have gotten too close to someone like this. Maybe you’ve been touched by wickedness. Maybe you’ve lived with it for years, and you are just realizing how bad it is.

It’s never too late to get help, to reach out, to set boundaries. God has the ultimate say about judging the wise, the foolish and the wicked. God is ultimately responsible for exacting justice, for judging the motives of the heart, and for making things right. But we can call a spade, a spade, a duck, a duck, and protect ourselves in doing so.

Here are some resources for further reading:

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck 

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft




My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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