Last Man Standing are articles intended to help the average guy prepare for some of life's oddest events. It's just advice. It's better than being clueless.

If you’ve ever seen a cop drama, there usually comes a point when detective so-and-so says something like, “The machine isn’t reliable. I’ve seen men beat it before.” Of course, the officer then goes ahead with the test anyway (lots of suspense), all the while bemoaning the fact that the results can’t be used to convict the jerk.

As a fan of beating the system, and the ‘man’ behind the system, you’re probably wondering if you could beat a lie detector test too. The answer is, unless you’re a hysterical nervous wreck, a resounding yes. Here are a few basic rules to get you by:

Just say no

First of all, if you’re ever asked to take a polygraph test, just say, “no,” regardless of how hard the coppers try to bend you to their will. The easiest way not to fail a test is simply not to take it.

Understand the Test Questions

Okay, you've agreed to sit for a polygraph test. Not your brightest move, but you can still beat it. In a nutshell, what this test does is measure control questions, which establish your baseline physical reactions, against relevant questions. Control questions are often designed to be awkward, forcing you to admit to everyday lies, such as asking you if you’ve ever cheated on a test or a girlfriend, lied to your mother, or exceeded the speed limit in your car.

A relevant question might be something like, “Did you kill the circus clown and his monkey?” Relevant questions pertain only to what the examiner is trying to get out of you. And make no mistake about it -- if you’re taking a polygraph test, someone is trying to get you to confess to something.

Set the Bar High for Control Questions

By setting the bar high, we mean eliciting stressful and nervous physical responses from your body during the control phase of questioning. Remember, your body’s reactions to the control questions will be compared to your reactions when asked relevant questions. So, if you are ‘falsely’ distressed during the control questions, the graphs should look better (by comparison) when you are actually stressed out during a round of relevant questions.

The best way to do this is through physical pain. Keep a tack in your shoe and press down on it when answering control questions, or bite down on the inside of your cheek hard (make sure this isn’t visible to anyone watching). Suspects used to clench their butt cheeks together to get their blood pressure rising, but the prevalence of pressure sensitive seat pads makes this tactic a no-no nowadays.

Breathe Strangely (Control Questions)

Try to make your breath as irregular as possible during the control phase of the test. Draw your breath in faster, and then slower than you would normally, or even hold it in for a moment. Again, try not to be too obvious about this. If your breathing is erratic during a round of control questions, it should read as calmer when you’re asked relevant questions, even if your nerves tend to betray you. “Of course I didn’t kill the circus clown and his monkey.”

Assume You Are Constantly Being Watched

A few hidden cameras might be strewn about, or even a two-way mirror. Don’t rush into the toilet, splash water across your brow and mumble, “I hope I can beat this damn test.” Keep your game face on at all times.

Don’t Believe the Tester

Ironically, it’s in the interest of the person testing you to gain your trust, which is often accomplished by lying, or frightening you. He or she wants you to have faith in the scientific accuracy of the machine (it’s not accurate at all) and the overall test. Treat everything this person says with doubt and skepticism.

Control Your Physical State

It’s only natural to be nervous when facing a lie detector. Keep your blood pressure low, and normalize your breathing when asked relevant questions. You can take antidepressants before the test to slow your heart rate down (but never admit to this), do math problems inside your head in order to distract your conscious brain from the stressful environment at hand, or imagine a calm setting, like a quiet beach or a country meadow. In other word, just chill out -- anyway you can.

Word of advice: If you walk in drunk or stoned out of your mind, with crossed or bloodshot eyes, the examiner will probably notice. Subtlety is key here.

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Stick to your story, and never offer more information than you have to. Here’s an example of a good response:

Tester: “Did you kill the circus clown and his monkey?”

You: “No.”

And a bad response:

Tester: “Did you kill the circus clown and his monkey?”

You: “I’m innocent, I tell you! I didn’t do it. Also, I know absolutely nothing about the diamonds inside that dead clown's inner right vest pocket.” (Apologies to all of those real clowns out there, working hard to make a living.)

Practice, and Above All Else, Be Cool

Even if the examiner accuses you of lying, or tells you something is "off," make sure you stick to your guns. “No sir, I deny all accusations.”

What the tester is trying to do, in essence, is trip you up. Practice your tricks and responses ahead of time, don’t change your story, and keep your temper in check. With the methods listed above, you should do just fine. Circus clowns be warned.

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