shopify analytics


Together we are stronger

How verbal deception cues can help confirm, dispel anomalous or potentially suspicious behavior

04 Dec 2017 11:08 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Joseph “Paul” Manley, Lieutenant, Nahant Police Department

Certain words or phrases can be verbal indicators of deception. The presence of one or two of these indicators is not necessarily a sign of deception, but a good interviewer should treat them as cues to probe further. Investigators must always look for clusters of verbal indicators and treat them as markers for where to insert more probing questions.


Stalling tactics, such as asking the investigator to repeat the question, provides additional time for deceivers to think of an appropriate answer. Some stalling phrases include:

  1. “It depends on what you mean by that.”
  2. “Where did you hear that?”
  3. “Where’s this information coming from?”
  4. “Could you be more specific?”
  5. “How dare you ask me something like that?”
  6. “Well, it’s not as simple as yes or no.”
  7. “That’s an excellent question.”

Deceivers typically ask investigators to repeat questions without realizing that honest conversations do not require the restatement of questions.


Distraction techniques can be easy to spot and are crucial to note. These can take place in a variety of forms. For example, asking for directions in the middle of questioning, asking for advice on places to stay in the area, showing great interest in your work as well as complimenting you on your uniform and profession. It’s important to be aware of distraction techniques that can divert your attention from your original purpose.

Trust anchors

Trust anchors are statements or expressions offered by the potential deceiver to try to convince you that they are worthy of trust. They may even seem out of place or offered for no reason. It is typically because they don’t believe they have convinced you yet. Below are some commonly used statements:

  1. “I swear.”
  2. “Believe me when I tell you.”
  3. “To tell you the truth.”
  4. “To the best of my knowledge.”

These types of statements are often used as part of an effort to deceive.

Pitch changes or mumbling

Pay close attention to the rise and fall in pitch or tone of someone’s voice if you suspect they are telling you a lie. It is common for a liar’s voice pitch to change when they are speaking something deceitful. There are a few reasons for this change in pitch. For example, anxiety and nervousness cause a change in voice pitch. A change in voice pitch may be used to add emphasis on certain words to make it sound more believable. Voice pitch changes can be used as a distracting method.


One of the best ways to detect untruthfulness is to discover when what someone is saying and doing doesn’t match up. For example, a person may state, “Yes, everything is fine,” but they are shaking their head no. It is normal to forget or morph certain aspects of a story when it is retold, but obvious consistent changes are a red flag that the story may be fabricated.

Just having read this article, your behavioral awareness has increased. This means that your chances of spotting these warning signs have improved. Use this information wisely and be vigilant for those who may seek to manipulate you or do you harm.  

About the Author

Lt. Manley is a 30+ year law enforcement professional and adjunct faculty member at North Shore Community College in Danvers, MA. Paul is the Founder of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Nahant Massachusetts Police Department. Paul has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Anna Maria College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from American International College. Paul is proud and honored to serve on the IPSA Memorial Committee. 

Copyright 2022. International Public Safety Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Contact us.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software