If your boss asked you to go for a polygraph exam, you’re probably feeling slightly anxious about it, even if you did nothing wrong. We want you to know that it’s a perfectly normal reaction to feel this way. People feel nervous when they don’t understand something, and it presents a threat to their safety.
In the case of the polygraph exam, there is no physical threat, but there’s a threat to your livelihood. You probably imagine the worst-case scenario of filing the lie detector test and your boss firing you or reprimanding you for the result.
We promise that’s not the case. Even if you fail the polygraph, “The Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988” (EPPA) affords you protections against your employer taking action against you. While that might provide some relief, it’s probably not enough to prevent you from feeling anxious about taking the exam.
However, with the right routine, you can break free from the anxiety and limit its physiological response in your body on test day. We’re not talking about ways to cheat the polygraph here. But we can show you how a carefully considered routine before and on test day can help you feel better during the polygraph exam.
What Is the Polygraph Exam and Why Is It Used in the Workplace?
Employers use polygraph policies in the workplace to assist them with getting to the bottom of serious offenses and allegations made by their staff. For instance, there might be a recent inventory theft at your work, presenting your company with a hefty economic loss.
Or someone on the team might be suspected of defrauding clients or selling sensitive client data, but the boss isn’t sure of the suspect and needs confirmation of their suspicions. Further still, one of the staff might accuse a colleague of sexual misconduct in the workplace, and the boss wants to find out if those allegations are true.
The polygraph exam involves a qualified examiner using instruments, software, and carefully constructed questions to detect if the examinee is telling the truth or being deceptive (lying). The polygraph works on flagging the body’s “fight-or-flight” response when answering questions where they feel uncomfortable about sharing information.
When we have to lie about something in the polygraph exam room, the body enters fight-or-flight mode, and the polygraph detects this physiological activity. The examiner notes this response on their laptop software, asking the examinee why they display deceptive behavior.
Fortunately, the examiner and the polygraph software can tell the difference between a person that’s lying purposefully or if they’re just feeling nervous., So, you have nothing to worry about.
However, if you’re overly nervous on test day and don’t know what to expect, it might lead to you making a mistake, flagging you as being deceptive. By being properly prepared for the lie detector test, there’s less chance of you making a mistake that could cause you to fail the test.
Can I Prepare for the Polygraph Exam?
You might wonder if it’s acceptable for you to prepare for the polygraph exam. Yes, it’s fine for you to research the polygraph exam and its implications. As humans, we have the propensity to fear the unknown.
For instance, it might seem scary if you’ve never been on a roller coaster before and someone takes you to the amusement park. The first time you ride on it, you’ll feel terrified. However, take a second ride, and you’ll notice you don’t feel as anxious.
This is because your body and mind know what to expect from the experience. You’ve done it before, and you know the outcome doesn’t result in you dying or being critically injured. So, the second ride is much more fun than the first.
It’s the same experience with the polygraph exam. You probably have never had to go for one before and don’t know what to expect. So, understanding the process before you step into the exam room limits your brain’s fear response to the situation.
You might think this is some way to cheat on the exam, but that’s not the case. In fact, the polygraph examiner will actively encourage you to research the test and its aspects. However, they don’t want you to explore “countermeasures” to beat a polygraph.
There’s a big difference between researching how to beat a polygraph because you have something to hide and learning all you can about it to get comfortable with the process. Researching countermeasures show you have something to hide while looking up information about the exam shows you want to understand it, and that’s a big difference.
Why Do I Need to Prepare for a Polygraph Exam?
As mentioned, preparation is key for a successful polygraph exam. By preparing yourself for the lie detector test, you overcome the jitters and nervousness you experience in the exam room. Sure, you won’t get over it completely and walk into the exam room as cool as a cucumber, but you’ll find it makes a huge difference to the outcome.
You calm your subconscious mind by understanding the polygraph procedure and what to expect. You see, when the boss lets you know you’re undergoing the polygraph, your mind starts racing at the thought of losing your job.
Even though you’re innocent of any allegations, you start wondering about all the bad things you did in life and if the polygraph examiner will discover you stole your friend’s stereo when you were eight.
You assume that will come into play and make you look like the criminal in the organization your boss wants to oust from their company. However, that’s not the case. The polygraph examiner isn’t interested in your personal life, what you did 20 years ago, or if you have bad habits unbeknownst to your employer.
They’re only interested in aspects of your life relating to the reason why they’re at your company administering the polygraph. By understanding the test parameters, you alleviate this fear in your mind. As a result, you have more confidence during the lie detector test, and you make the examiner’s job a lot easier.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Physiological and Psychological Preparation for a Polygraph Exam
Preparing for a polygraph exam is perfectly legal and above board. However, how do you do that exactly? What actionable steps can you take to reduce the test-day jitters? The best option is to build a routine and stick to it. We curated this guide to give you a foolproof method for preparing for your polygraph, and it’s guaranteed to give you results.
Step #1 – Do Your Research
As mentioned, the more you know about the polygraph, the less likely you will feel nervous on exam day. So, do your research. Log onto the internet and search for articles like this one. By reading everything you can about the process and what to expect, you get a good idea of what will happen.
We have a huge archive of posts related to the polygraph exam and how it works. Please spend a few minutes reading through our resources to get to know more about the test procedure and how the examiner engages with you during the exam.
Step #2 – Stick to Your Routine
The next tip is to stick to your routine. As humans, we’re creatures of habit, and we all have a routine we run through daily. The key to successful polygraph preparation is to stick to your routine and don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do.
For instance, go to bed at the same time the night before the test. Eat your regular breakfast and get in your workout if that’s your thing. The point is that deviating from the norm affects your mind and nervous system.
It might not seem like a big deal at the time, but going outside of your routine on the day before the polygraph and on test day can have disastrous outcomes for its results. Know your routine and stick to it.
Step #3 – Ask the Examiner Questions
The examiner isn’t there to just grill you with a series of questions. One of their primary roles in the polygraph process is to make you feel at ease. The examiner wants to make you feel comfortable. They understand your nervousness and the impact that it can have on your responses during the lie detector test.
While reading through our blog to get a feel for the polygraph exam is a great idea, you might have a question or two relating to your specific situation. That’s what the examiner is there to help you resolve. They’ll likely ask you if you have any questions before you start the test, so take the opportunity to leverage their knowledge and experience to calm yourself.
Step #4 – Don’t Forget to Eat
What you eat and drink the day before the polygraph and on exam day can make a huge difference in how you feel and your performance in front of the examiner. We all need to take a nutritious, healthy diet seriously in life, not just for the sake of passing the polygraph.
What you eat on test day matters. Avoid eating sugary cereals in the morning and stick to healthy fats and slow-digesting carbs for your evening meal before the day and your breakfast on the day of the polygraph.
Take supplements like GABA to help you get a good night’s sleep. HTTP 5 or Suntheanine can help you stay calm and focused on test day.
Step #5 – Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep before you take the exam is crucial to better performance during the polygraph test. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brain suffers, impacting our mood and well-being. It’s common for people to feel nervous the day, and you’ll feel worse if you don’t get enough sleep because you’re living in fear of what to expect from the polygraph.
We’ll give you a great tip for getting a good night’s sleep in the next step. However, before we do, we want to tell you to avoid using sleep aids like supplements and drugs to get a good night’s sleep. If you don’t normally use sleep aids, then avoid them.
Sleep aids like melatonin or Ambien can make you feel groggy the next day, even after a good night’s sleep. You want to be in you’re a-game when stepping into the exam room, not feeling half asleep. So, avoid taking your partner’s sleeping pills. Plus, using them could cause you to flag in the exam because the examiner will likely ask you if you have abused any prescription medication recently.
Step #6 – Use Meditation and Breathing
As mentioned, we have a trick for keeping you from falling asleep the night before your polygraph exam. Log onto YouTube and listen to a guided breathing meditation. It will clear your mind of anxious thoughts, and the breathing technique helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Deep breathing relaxes you, and when combined with meditation techniques, you’ll find you fall asleep fast. You can also listen to your guided meditation before you go into the exam room as a way to quiet your mind before the test.
Step #7 – Don’t Overdo the Caffeine
People that don’t get a good night’s sleep before their test feel frazzled and emotionally strung out on test day. So, to compensate for how they feel, they’ll stop past the coffee shop and order a large triple-shot espresso with foam all the way to the top of the cup.
While it might seem like a good idea at the time, it’s the wrong move. The additional caffeine is outside your routine and primes the sympathetic nervous system response used to initiate the flight-or-flight mode. Skip the caffeine and drink more water to stay hydrated.
Dealing with Pre-Exam Stress and Anxiety
If you’re feeling anxious and stressed after your polygraph exam, take a moment to gather your thoughts. Go outside, breathe fresh air, and maybe run through that guided meditation again. If that’s not working, call a friend and talk out your emotions. You’ll find that expressing how you feel makes anxiety disappear.