In our workshops, sometimes we use an icebreaker called “Two Truths and a Lie”, where participants have to say three things about themselves, one of which is untrue. Then the other participants have to guess which statement is the lie. As trainers, we often wonder which is harder – telling the lie, or picking it out?

This article reveals interesting research about lying. Turns out, we lie a lot more than we think we do – and we are pretty bad at detecting out other peoples’ lies, especially if the lie is something we want to hear. It’s fascinating research about how we are wired for lying and detecting untruths.

First, we want to believe people – the Truth Default Theory. In most cases, we get a lot from believing – life is easier, more pleasant and engaged if we assume others are telling the truth – and most deceptions are not intended to harm us. Only about 4% of out lies are intended to be malicious. Mostly, we lie when the truth just won’t work to accomplish our goals.

Lying is not hard – we start early, often before the age of three, and many of us lie in small ways every day. Is this a bad thing? Actually, it’s the sign of a highly developed pre-frontal cortex, which has other advantages.

As communication skills coaches, we teach about authenticity – matching non-verbal signals to truthful content, and yet we humans are all of us bad at telling what’s a lie. Especially if the person telling the lie employs ‘truthful’ nonverbal skills.

So if you are trying to win the “Two Truths and Lie,” make sure to speak up with a loud, animated voice, and look your audience directly in the eye. A few hand gestures can help too.

We never suggest you lie; in fact, we encourage people to tell the truth even when (especially when) it’s hard to do. But if you want to win Two Truths and a Lie…