Do you ever wish you could be a human lie detector so you could see who is telling the truth in a situation?
In this episode, I interviewed former U.S. Secret Service Agent, Evy Poumpouras and we discussed how to tell if someone is telling a lie. As a trained lie detector, there are many “tells” that we could all look for in our daily lives.
We also talked about the three questions to ask someone in order to get the truth out of them; how to communicate effectively even if you’re sharing bad news; the best way to build command; authority and credibility in any situation; how to stop worrying about other people’s opinions; and the life lessons Evy lives by.
I conducted my own “friendly interrogation” and discovered some really fascinating information. I can’t wait to share with you!
Evy Poumpouras was a member of the most prestigious protection force in the world for over 12 years. She served on the secret service presidential protection division for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. She also protected presidents, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush.
Her service as a first responder during the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, bestowed her the United States Secret Service Valor Award. She is also the author of Becoming Bulletproof: Protect Yourself, Read People, Influence Situations and Live Fearlessly.
When not safeguarding the world’s most highly valued assets, Evy has worked on complex criminal investigations, operated undercover, and was an interrogator for the agency’s elite polygraph unit, specially trained in the art of lie detection, human behavior, and cognitive influence.
Evy regularly appears on the Today Show, NBC, MSNBC, and GMA covering topics on national security, law enforcement, and crime. She was the law enforcement analyst for HLN’s “Dr. Drew on Call,” a hunter on CBS’s “The Hunted,” and appears on History and Oxygen networks. She holds a master of science in journalism from Columbia University.
Evy knows a lot about lying, from why we do it, to how to deal when people do it to us.
One interesting insight: Evy believes that lying to a certain degree is actually healthy. For example, if someone calls you and you don’t want to answer the phone, and they are a very taxing person emotionally, then it’s okay to say you were busy instead of saying you didn’t want to answer the phone.
“Find alternative ways to let people down instead of saying no because it preserves the relationship. ‘No’ feels like a rejection to them. Use your language thoughtfully.” —Evy Poumpouras
Speaking of preserving relationships, Evy says that sometimes, when we think we’ve caught someone close to us lying, it can be really hard to call them out — not just because we don’t want to create conflict in the relationship, but also because we don’t want to believe they might actually be lying to us!
“Sometimes we intuitively see it. We know it’s there, but we ignore it. And so we’ll listen to somebody’s excuses or explanations. And because we’re invested in that person and we want to believe in that person, we want to believe the lie.” — Evy Poumpouras
There are those little lies that we potentially say every day without even realizing it. Like when someone asks you how you are, and you answer “great,” even though you may have just had a fight with a significant other and you definitely aren’t great. Even the answer, “I’m fine,” can be a lie.
But the number one way that people lie is actually by omission.
“People think that I have to say the lie for it to be a lie, but I can tell you a story and leave something out that changes the context of the story. So now the story is not accurate and I misled you. That’s a lie.” — Evy Poumpouras
Evy says the reason omission is the number one way that people lie is because most people don’t like to lie. They’re not comfortable with it. It’s a lot of work to remember what you’ve said if you lie because you may have to repeat that lie again later in time. But Evy warns that even lying by omission can be a credibility killer, so it’s just not worth doing.
Here are some more interesting teachings from Evy: Figuring out whether or not someone is lying to you may not be that hard. She explains that there are many different “tells” that people do when they’re lying. For example, she says people who are lying tend to move less because they are so mentally focused on the lie.
On the other hand, “spontaneous correction,” meaning they’re correcting themselves as they’re speaking to you, indicates truthfulness.
Overall, lying is hard work. It is a “heavy cognitive load” according to Evy.
“You’re trying to create a lie, tell a lie, remember the lie, listen to the person speaking to you, and then think about what you want to say. There is so much going on. And so what people do is they lie vaguely because it’s too hard to remember all those details.” – Evy Poumpouras
It is crazy to think that we all lie from time to time to protect ourselves, to project a certain image, or to compete. Take a look at your Instagram grid for example. Do you think there are little lies there? Perhaps even omissions?
One of the best tactics Evy uses to find out if someone is lying is to use the TED method, which stands for: “tell, explain and describe.” When you’re doing your own “interrogation,” you can ask the person questions like, “Tell me what you did last night,” “Explain to me how important this relationship is to you,” or “Describe to me what you wanted in this business.” Those open-ended questions allow people to tell a story and give you more clues.
“You start big. You get people talking and telling you stuff, even though you want to know this specific thing. But if I ask the specific thing, this person is going to shut down on me. So I can’t go straight for that.” — Evy Poumpourus
The key, according to Evy, is to start asking broad questions and keep getting more narrow with those questions until you get to the very direct, specific question you’re really wanting to ask. Sometimes it’s a couple of hours of interrogation before the answer comes.
So why is knowing a skill like the TED method of lie detection so important? How does it help us improve our lives?
That’s a pretty simple answer: learning lie detection skills can help us protect ourselves and make better choices when it comes to deciding who we want to get close to, stay close to, or even do business with.
For example, many people are bothered by lying — even though all of us have lied a least a few times in our lives. But according to Evy, being bothered by lying is a healthy thing! Those that aren’t bothered by it often have sociopathic or antisocial tendencies. They can lie and be very calm about it because they don’t feel the guilt that the majority of people feel.
One way you can protect yourself from people that could lie to you or manipulate you is to not give them “unconditional trust” right away. Evy says we tend to give people unconditional trust too soon because then, we don’t have to think too hard and analyze the relationship. But if you trust someone with one thing — whether that’s with your feelings, your property, your ideas, or your bank account — it doesn’t mean you should trust them with everything across the board.
“When you start dating someone or any new relationship, even in business, always have conditional trust. Decide that you are not going to trust that person all of the way, just part of the way.” —Evy Poumpouras
Applying these lessons to your relationships can save you a lot of heartache and trouble — and perhaps catch someone in the act of abusing your trust. The better you can hone this skill, the more protected you will be in all aspects of life.
For a long time, Evy was the only woman on her team. In many ways, she paved the way for women to take roles like hers in the United States Secret Service.
“I never went in thinking I shouldn’t be here. I never went in, thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a woman.’ I thought, ‘I’m the only woman — good for me!’ I really had a different mindset. I was proud of that, and that kept me going. “ —Evy Poumpouras
Evy mentioned that she has been discriminated against in the workplace, but she never let it get in her head because she needed to be able to focus, stay positive, and do her job well.
One specific incident of discrimination she mentioned was when she was protecting President Obama at a speech at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. She and several other agents were meeting the Colonel Lieutenant for orders. Evy was actually the agent in charge of securing the outside perimeter of the stadium, but when the Colonel came to shake the hands of each agent, he skipped her completely because he assumed she was just a secretary or staff.
Here’s how she dealt with it:
“I think why would I take it personally? If somebody is ignorant enough to do that, then why would I want that person’s attention or respect? At least for me, I never let it get in my head because it’s like, I have a job to do. I have a mission. And if I allow somebody to get in my head, people will die.” —Evy Poumpouras
That’s definitely a quality we all want to attain: caring less about what other people think of us. The “stay in your lane” rings true. Don’t look to your right and left to see what someone else is doing. Stay in your lane and run the race that was designed for you!
So how do you continue to be the “truest” and most confident version of yourself? Here are Evy’s words of wisdom.
If you found value in what Evy and I talked about today, please tag Evy Pompouras and me, Lewis Howes, on Instagram with your key takeaways. Please also go to Apple Podcasts, give it a five-star rating, and don’t forget to subscribe!
I always ask my guests about their definition of greatness at the end of each interview and this is what Evy had to say:
“My definition of greatness is trying to help people and protect people. Our society is very much about minding our own business and ‘me me me,’ and we’ve lost that ability to protect one another. Protecting people you don’t even know, and helping people when it’s not to your own benefit, is greatness to me.” – Evy Poumpouras
If you’re ready to learn about how to build command, authority, and credibility, you can check out the entire podcast here. You can also browse the entire library of podcasts on The School of Greatness! Until next time!