Words and phrases that indicate the boss is lying

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Interesting little article that you may want to check out before it disappears behind a subscribers-only wall: The Language of Lying by Canadian Newspaper Globe and Mail. It describes specific language patterns that executives use during their earnings reports to shareholders, where computer analysis indicates that the language is correlated with executives trying to mask bad results. (e.g. the Lehman Brothers Chief Financial Officer)

There were basically three key speech patterns that indicated that the financial forecast was hiding problems within the company:

  • Use of third-person speech patterns that dissociate the speaker from the results. So instead of saying "I know" and "we  will," the executive would say things like "the team did this" or "our auditors say that"
  • Use of value-laden, over-the-top words of enthusiasm. Like "fantastic" or "great" performance, "incredible" potential, "unbelievable" breakthroughs, etc. The executive uses generic and overly enthusiastic words instead of specifics
  • Very short sentences, delivered quickly without hesitation. Indicating that the statement had been rehearsed mentally ahead of time

The newspaper jokes that when the boss boats of "the incredible year" the company has had, or will have, it may be time to dust off the resume.

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