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"Getting the Truth"

**2016 Montaigne Medal Award Finalist**  2016 Montaigne Medal Award Finalists

The principles in Mr. Koenig's book, "Getting the Truth" provide principles to obtain truth, facts, and detect deception. The principles not only teach one how to analyze communications, but also provides insight and instruction into how to ask the right questions, in the right way, at the right time. A poorly constructed or timed question can actually prohibit you from getting the truth. You can purchase Mr. Koenig's book, Getting the Truth by clicking "BOOKSTORE."


The goal of "Getting the Truth" (and any fact-finding mission) is to produce “perfect communication”* between the parties. Perfect communication is defined as:

1. Knowing what was said and why it was said; and,
2. Knowing what wasn’t said and why it wasn’t said.

Our founder Joe Koenig provides examples on how he uses "Getting the Truth" to obtain information and detect deception.


I grew up in a small Michigan town in a small house. My neighbors on one side just installed a new cement driveway. On the other side the neighbors had a nice garage, full of tools that were irresistible to me. That neighbor was so irritated with my garage visitations, that he told my mom to keep me out of his garage.

One day when I was 4 years old I was playing on my next-door neighbor’s driveway. I tripped and fell on it, scratching my left knee. No big deal. After awhile, I ventured over to my neighbor’s garage – yes – that garage. I saw an axe on his workbench. I lifted the axe (it was heavy) and swung it at a tree stump on the garage floor. I missed the stump, and the axe head lodged in my left leg just below the knee.

I ran with the big gash and all the blood to my mom. She asked, “Joey, what happened?” I told her, “I fell on the new driveway!”

Now, that wasn’t a “real” lie. It was a partial truth. I had fallen on the new cement driveway. I answered her question. While I knew deep down she was asking about the gash in my leg, she was looking in the direction of my knee scrape too. It was close enough for me to answer the way I did and avoid further punishment for going in the neighbor’s garage. I could rationalize that I didn’t tell my mom a “real” lie. People don’t tell “real” lies.

So, we learn at a young age to be clever and avoid telling “real” lies. A real lie is saying, “I didn’t do it,” when I did, and everyone knows what “it” is. We don’t do that. We prevaricate. We tell lies by omitting information we want to conceal. We tell incomplete lies. We lie by not telling the “whole” truth. We lie by “omission.” Liars hide in the truth by telling partial lies.

Let’s look at the following statement by a subject who reported his car stolen:

Stolen Car Statement - handwritten note

The subject starts out in first person singular, “I came home around 10:00 PM…” He then says “I parked the car in our driveway.” Then, he writes in the passive voice, “The doors were locked and the alarm was activated.”

This is a classic “lie by omission.” He intends to tell me he drove his car home, parked it in his driveway, locked the doors and activated the alarm. But he never tells me he drove his car home. Avinoam Sapir, author of Scientific Content Analysis,, taught me “The subject is dead. The statement is alive.” We cannot assume what a subject is telling us, we have to look at exactly what the subject said and rely on that alone. The subject never states he drove his car home, so I cannot assume from what he didn’t say that he did. In fact, I now have to assume he didn’t drive his car home because he never said he did.

Further, he parked “the” car in “our” driveway. He does not show possession of “the” car. He doesn’t say “my” car. I can’t assume he means “his” car. I now assume it is “the” car, which could be anyone’s car but his. He could have said “my” car but he chose not to. He chose not to because to do so would have been to tell a “complete lie.” We, he, cannot do that.

Now look at passive voice sentence, “The doors were locked and the alarm was activated.” People write (or speak) in the passive voice when they don’t want to commit themselves to what they’re saying. Note no pronoun “I.” He could have said, “I locked the door and activated the alarm,” but he chose not to. I know he can write that because he’s done it before. He couldn’t say that because to do so would have been to tell a complete lie.

Because of those observations, I later obtained a confession from the subject that his car was not stolen. He couldn’t maintain car payments. He burned his car and reported it stolen. He put the glass in his driveway.

So now look again at his statement. He never told a complete lie. He did “come home around 10:00 PM.” He did “park ‘the’ car in his driveway.” He later told me he parked someone else’s car in his driveway and a friend later drove that car away. He never said he “locked the doors and activated the alarm,” so that was not a complete lie.

So you see how someone lies by omitting information they wish to conceal. They lie by omission.

Pronouns, as in the previous example, can provide great insights. Analysis of depositions, transcripts, witness statements, even financial statements can reveal the true message, perhaps reveal deception, and can confirm the truth.

Let’s look at the following example, which is a partial transcript of Oracle’s first quarter 2011 Earnings call on 9/16/2010 at 5:00 PM (Seeking Alpha Transcripts,, ORCL). We’re looking at President Safra Catz’s statements regarding the company’s guidance for their second quarter (Q2):

LSA So in addition to our...

See how President Catz refers to her corporate guidance. My markings in the 3rd paragraph show her first referring to this guidance as “the guidance,” then “the guidance,” then “our guidance,” and finally in the 7th paragraph, “my guidance.” These are significant changes that have to be explained by the giver of the statement. If no explanation is provided, then we must assume the literal meaning. “The guidance” shows no commitment. “Our guidance” reflects some commitment. “My guidance” shows full commitment.

Further, notice she introduces her guidance statement in the 3rd paragraph with “the guidance I’m giving.” When anyone begins a statement with “I’m giving” or “I can tell you this” or “This is what I can share with you,” etc., you cannot rely on what follows. You can’t rely on it because the person stating it is not committing to it. They are qualifying their statement. Thus, they are not committing to what they subsequently state.

So, we cannot rely on what Ms. Catz tells us until the 7th paragraph sentence where she now commits to giving “my guidance” and there is no “I’m giving” that prefaces it. She doesn’t say “this guidance” or “the guidance I gave” which could be construed to be a summation. She differentiates this sentence by calling it “my guidance” and that is entirely different and now very personal. Now, and only now, can we rely on what she tells us in this sentence: “my guidance assumes a GAAP tax rate of 30.5% and a non-GAAP rate of 28.5%.” In short, we need to rely only on what the speaker commits to.

Thus, adoption of the principles in "Getting the Truth" will save you time and money in:

  • Making better investment decisions in merger-acquisitions, stocks, real estate.
  • Identifying deception in witness statements in civil and criminal cases.
  • Evaluating threatening or anonymous letters, emails.
  • Providing better selection of applicants for special employment positions.
  • Establishing the edge over your competition.
  • Changing your employees' thought and decision processes, making them more confident, creative, and imaginative.

When someone uses the word, “money.” – what do they mean? You can see, there's a lot of "wiggle" in the definition that someone who wishes to tell a partial lie can use to their advantage. For example, does the below definition define "money" as including "confederate," or "foreign" currency, or checks that haven't been cashed? Can a person who wishes to mislead use that to his/her advantage? Of course they can. Questions have to be carefully constructed (sculpted) to avoid allowing people to tell partial truths.

money |ˈmənē|
a current medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes; coins and banknotes collectively: I counted the money before putting it in my wallet | he borrowed money to modernize the store.

  • (moneys or monies) formal sums of money: a statement of all moneys paid into and out of the account.
  • the assets, property, and resources owned by someone or something; wealth: the college is very short of money.
  • financial gain: the main aim of a commercial organization is to make money .
  • payment for work; wages: she accepted the job at the public school since the money was better.
  • a wealthy person or group: her aunt had married money.



".. unlocking the secrets of communication." - buy Mr. Koenig's autographed books at BOOKSTORE.

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