Taking Tea in the Kasbah

Dear Tami,

Many thanks for the praise and compliments on Frankenstein. You were absolutely right – I was going to ask you if getting the chance to see it made the long wait for the next season of Sherlock more tolerable. I was hoping it would get me back in your good graces. Come on, what do you say? Can you cut a guy some slack? Maybe of the teeny, tiny loin cloth variety?

When you think about it, just knowing Sherlock isn’t really dead should be a source of comfort. I realize Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade don’t know this yet, but they will soon enough. Filming for Sherlock begins in January so you might want to think about booking those plane tickets to London for the premiere. Just know I’ll be watching for anyone in the audience wearing an unusual disguise.

Just because I’ve been busy lately don’t think I’ve given up the search for that ever-elusive writing cave of yours. You have kept it hidden well, my friend, very well. Since that fateful night on the balcony, each time I’ve unknowingly encountered you (like that time at the lake or at the cinema), you have been clever at the art of deception, keeping your true identity hidden until the very end.

To better prepare myself for the next time, I’ve been reading up on how to detect deception from the guy who is called the “real Sherlock Holmes”, Joe Riggs. He states he is an “internationally acclaimed Mentalist, Hypnotist, Lecturer, and Consultant.” Mark Gatiss spoke highly of him and told me to check out his blog when I was lamenting how you have been able to slip by me time and time again. I figured someone who is refered to as the “real” Sherlock Holmes might be of some help to me.

On Joe’s blog, one article in particular caught my attention – Mentalist Insight: Fastest Ways to Detect Deception Like Sherlock Holmes. In the article, Joe highlights what he claims are the fastest and most reliable things to spot quickly in a someone you think might be deceiving you.

Body language cues are something to be on the lookout for, such as restricted body movements or if their hands reach up to touch their face, ear, or the back of the neck. Of course, these things could indicate nervousness for any number of reasons, but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless.

Joe also recommends listening for over-explaining (providing too many details or explaining the lie too much) and listening carefully to the wording choices a person is making (omitting contractions and pronouns, circumventing any direct questioning, repeating words in their explanations or from the questions being asked, trying hard to prove the lie as truth).

Joe also explains that he uses the foundations of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) when detecting deception. NLP refers to the ways in which our neurons, language, and behaviors interact and create patterns of thinking based on our experiences. (Editor’s note: NLP has been questioned in scientific communities and while controversial, is still used as a therapeutic technique for helping people find better ways to communicate.)

NLP can also be useful when asking someone a direct question because as Joe explains, the eyes can reveal a great deal about whether their answer is the truth or a lie. For example, when a person looks to your left, it can indicate they are making up the answer because their eyes are showing a constructed or fabricated image or sound in their mind. If the person is looking to your right, it can indicate a sound or image that is remembered and is typically the truth.

Eye chart from The Curious Blog of Joe Riggs Source: theworldofjoeriggs.com

Joe cautions that none of these cues should be taken in isolation as definitively identifying someone as lying and he urges you to look for at least four cues before being able to determine anything.

I’m not sure how much of this will be helpful to me since all of this assumes that I would have at least some direct contact with the person I’m assessing. I have not been so fortunate with you in this regard, unless you count the time you came to my flat and pretended to be a cleaning lady while attempting to sneakily ply Sherlock secrets from me.

I probably shouldn’t be sharing all of this with you but I thought it might have useful applications to your writing. I imagine you have a character or two in your novel who is deceptive or dishonest and knowing how the body shows this through mannerisms, facial expressions, and eye movements might be useful to you.

But just know I am on to you, friend. You’re going to have to work a bit harder on your disguises and deceptive ways from now on.

The game is still on.

Cleverly yours,



*Editor’s note: The views, ideas, and opinions expressed in the Letters from Benedict series are works of fiction and obviously did not come from the actor himself. This series is just my way of expressing adoration for Mr. Cumberbatch and his work and is not intended to be taken at face value or seen as a true collaborative writing endeavor with him.

17 thoughts on “Letters from Benedict: On the Art of Detecting Deception

  1. I tried using NLP techniques for learning with some of the more severely limited learning disabled children I taught in school. I never really had enough success with it to keep using it, but it is an interesting concept I believe can be used effectively in some instances.

    • What an interesting application of NLP. I didn’t know it could be used that way, but it makes total sense. I took a class on NLP in grad school but never used it much in my actual day to day therapy work with kids and families. It certainly can be useful when used in conjunction with other techniques, tools, and theories.

    • You’re funny, Sara! 🙂 Maybe someday, though I would hate to meet him with a just quick handshake or photo op. Very anticlimatic and contrived if you ask me. When I genuinely admire someone like him, just being in the presence of their awesomeness is nice, but getting to know that awesomeness first hand is so much more meaningful. A friendly sit down chat over a beverage is more my style anyway, though I would be so nervous that I fear I would take the concept of awkwardness to a whole new, unprecedented level. 😉

  2. Tami, have you thought of volunteering for a local theater group (doing anything!) so you would have access to their costumes … and probably a makeup artist or two? Something to think about! I LOVE these posts. I honestly think of him as your “real” manfriend. How funny is that?

    • That’s a great idea, Elizabeth. I should totally look into that.

      I’m thrilled you’re enjoying these posts! Thank you! He’s always struck me as someone that would be so wonderful to have in your life in any number of ways. I imagine the people in his life consider themselves fortunate and blessed that way.

  3. Huh…I’d never heard of the NLP thing before. I always enjoy your Benedict posts, but I think this one was especially cool and informative 🙂

    • Thanks, Mike! NLP is one of those techniques in psychology that isn’t as well known. It’s also been heavily scrutinized, though I think it has its place in the field of psychology. I wouldn’t advocate using it exclusively at the cost of other equally valid approaches when treating someone, but it definitely has value.

  4. on ,
    livrancourt said:

    You and Benedict make such a good team…

  5. Joe Riggs here, I love your article. However there are two minor points about your article I would like to address. Nothing negative or major yet I wish to speak with you as quickly as possible due to the fact that these two minor points are about, myself actually. Please email or call me as soon as possible. My email is Joe@TheWorldOfJoeRiggs.com or my number, is on my website. Thank you. -Joe Riggs

    • Wow, what a treat and a thrill that you stopped by! I’d be happy to connect with you about any errors I have in my post and will gladly make corrections as soon as possible.

      • Editor’s note: The two minor corrections were honored and made last night per Joe’s request. They didn’t change the overall letter or information in any way.

  6. on ,
    marcia said:

    Holy Cow… According to the eye position chart, I think I’m lying most of the time! Yikes!

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