Practice Empathy

Another important strategy when trying to get people to be truthful involves the use of empathy.

We have a fundamental need to feel understood, to have someone understand our point of view, to get where we are coming from (see Reis & Shaver; Cole and Teboul). So the more willing you are to understand another’s point of view, the more willing that person will be to open-up and share things with you.

We inherently trust someone who has the ability see things from our own perspective. We just feel more safe and comfortable talking to people who get us, even if that person does not necessarily agree with us.

For instance, a professional interrogator is much more likely to get a confession when he or she can empathize with the suspect’s point of view (as disturbing as it sounds).

Likewise, parents are more likely to hear the truth about happened on a Saturday night when they try to understand why one of their kids did not make it home on time. And a spouse is much more likely to tell the truth about having lunch with an ex, when a current partner understands that keeping in touch with an ex is important to do.

Although these examples vary widely, the principle underlying them remains the same: People are more likely to be candid and forthcoming with someone who understands where they are coming from.