Yesterday Steve Tobak, a really smart guy who has a regular blog on BNET, wrote the article on BSing. Tobak is a marketing and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. Some of his marketing recommendations work out of solid theory, research that he’s obviously gained both by education and experience. He’s a very good marketing guy. He really, for example, knows how to market a blog.
So, here’s a quick rundown on the 10 ways to know when someone’s bullshitting you, taken from his latest blog.
- The story changes
- They act dumb but they’re not
- They try too hard
- They appear nervous when they shouldn’t be
- They look scared when they shouldn’t be
- They repeat the question
- They’re something it for them
- They’re fanatical
- They only present one side.
Interesting stuff, guaranteed to get a lot of hits, but when it comes to lying, Tobak is out of his league. What he writes here simply won’t stand up to research scrutiny.
Communication and psychology scholars have studied lying for years. Paul Ekman, for example, has spent more than 40 years researching deception. From his professorial perch at UCSF, he’s written more than a dozen books, including, “Telling Lies.” The American Psychological Association named him as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century. His firm runs seminars for people like policemen and airport staffers who really need to study deception.
Spotting lies and liars
Here’s the kicker about spotting lies and liars. You can’t. Really, you can’t.
This is what Paul Ekman said about lying, just last year. “His firm has tested about 15,000 people in many professions, including the CIA, judges, lawyers and policemen. MOST PEOPLE ARE ONLY AT ABOUT THE LEVEL OF FLIPPING A COIN. MOST LIARS CAN FOOL MOST OF THE PEOPLE MOST OF THE TIME.”
For example, one of the most common things people do in hiding emotions and the truth is smiling. Note that that’s the opposite of three of Tobak’s statements.
Why do I bother writing this? I work out of a fundamental rule, not merely because I’m a scholar, but because research works and raises my batting average. Whenever possible, I believe it’s very important to make decisions on the basis of good information, researched information.
Over the the last 20 years social scientists have developed a huge battery of researched-based information. Why should we go with charismatic guys and intuition, when there’s so much really useful data out there about so many important matters in business and relationships?
In short, Mr Tobak’s blog on BSing is, well. . . BS.