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Distant royal? Best friends with Sting? The biggest lies Brits tell (and why) revealed

7 min read

01 May 2018

Editorial Director

One in ten Brits have lied about their salary at a dinner party but little white lies aren't always harmless. Here's how business owners can see through tall tales at the next networking soiree.

Owning a second property abroad, having penned a novel – and having once been in a band are just some of the ludicrous tales wheeled out by Britons at dinner parties, according to new research.
A new study by online furniture company Swoon reveals as many as one in ten Brits have exaggerated their salary at a dinner party, while 11% have embellished the places they have travelled and 8% have over egged their literary knowledge.

Other exaggerations Brits frequently wheel out to impress fellow guests at “spinner parties” include job titles, foodie credentials and even the value of property they own.

“The tendency to ‘show off’ is ingrained in human beings and is largely an unconscious effort to establish a pecking order,” psychologist Dr Becky Spelman explains. “Just as in the natural world, animals do all sorts of things do make themselves look bigger and more impressive than they really are.”

The research revealed one in five blames nerves over meeting new people for exaggerating, but 14% said they were prone to embellishing the truth after a few drinks.

“This is a natural trait that has evolved through sexual selection because the animals that manage to convince potential mates that they’ve got it all going on are the most successful, and the most likely to leave a large number of offspring to carry on the boastful genes,” Spelman says.

More than one in ten have stretched the truth about their qualifications and 7% have spun the tale that they can speak another language.

“Many of us are anxious that we don’t measure up to the other people in our social circle and after a few glasses of wine it can be very easy to turn our college anecdotes about inter-railing into a tale of derring-do worthy of Indiana Jones,” she says.

One in five people stretch the truth to impress a new crowd and one in ten said it was purely to keep up with the Jones’.

But when it comes to getting caught out, a brazen 86% said they usually get away with it, however a red-faced 14% said they were caught out when their child or other half gave the game away.

“Women and men alike are prone to this sort of behaviour, although traditional default gender roles can influence the sort of things they brag about,” says Spelman. Men more likely to show off and exaggerate how much money they earn, and women are more likely to inflate their postcode or value of property, she suggests.

But are these little white lies truly social lubricants? How does this work in the corporate context?

Experts say that 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal. A study carried out by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements like facial expressions, gestures, and postures.

Understanding the full range of communication can help entrepreneurs weed out lies and fraud and become better leaders, and better at business.

Body language should be read through a scientific and unemotional eye, report researchers at the Harvard Business School.

In addition, business owners need to realise the messages they are projecting via their own gestures, stance, handshake, and posture. Here’s how you can tell if someone is lying to you.

4 nonverbal signs of lying to watch for

1. Mismatch. Usually when people lie, their words and body language don’t match. For example, in negotiations, when a person nods “no”, but they are saying “yes, we’re happy to do that”, they’re probably lying.

2. Sudden changes in posture or movement. Fidgeting, shifting and even changes in posture can point to lying. For example, if someone is generally restless and fidgety, and they suddenly say something while their body language is calm and still, they’re probably lying.

3. Repetition. Repeating a lie is a common tell. In this case, people say the lie over and over to convince themselves and listeners that they are telling the truth. This also helps them stall for time to figure out the rest of their story. For example, when a person says “I sent them an email but it must have gone through. I definitely sent an email. I know I sent an email,” they probably didn’t.

4. Touching their face or hair. Scratching their nose, biting their lip, tucking hair behind their ear and other examples of excessive touching suggest that the person in question is nervous about lying. If they start to do this during one part of the conversation, but don’t during other parts, they’re probably lying.

The most likely topics people exaggerate in social functions

Going back to the research from Swoon, and Spelman’s insight, we’ve rounded up the most likely topics people like to lie about at soirees. Next time, you’ll know what to look for when someone’s blagging about their new yacht or being fluent in ancient Aramaic.

Film knowledge
Your qualifications
Where you have holidayed
Your salary
Literary knowledge
Your partners job title
The car you are planning to buy
Being able to speak a foreign language
Your wine knowledge
Home renovations
Having a famous friends
Your foodie credentials
Where you bought your furniture from
The value of your property / properties
Your singing ability
Your child’s exam results
You write a blog
Your child’s sporting triumphs
You are writing a book or poetry
Your postcode
You have a second home abroad
Being in a band in your youth
Your share portfolio
Knowing / being related to a distant royal