Ever been in a situation where you just can’t seem to figure out whether the person you’re talking to is telling the truth or not?
Don’t worry; you’re not alone. It can be tricky to figure out if someone is being dishonest. Luckily, there are certain behaviors and signs to look out for to know if a person is being deceitful.
According to experts, here are ways to tell if someone is lying to you:
Hypnotherapist and Neuro Linguistic Programmer
Beware of the subconscious cues
Unfortunately, there are no universal signs to tell if someone is lying to you. Instead, you are actually looking for a cluster of signs indicating that someone is under stress and deviating from their normal micro-behaviors.
For most people, lying is a stressful and physiologically uncomfortable experience (the exception to this rule being clinical psychopaths, who severely lack standard levels of empathy).
Lying goes against our tribal survival mechanism of connection and closeness with other humans. It:
- Creates distance
- Reduces connection
- Diminishes closeness to whomever you are speaking to
Connection and closeness are one of the top human needs.
Because lying threatens this need, it creates a subconscious stress response in the liar. It is actually the stress response that you want to pay attention to.
When someone lies to you, the stress makes it difficult for their conscious mind to remain present, so their subconscious mind seeps through things like body language, facial expressions, and blink rate, giving you clear indicators that a lie could be taking place.
It is actually easier to spot a liar if you don’t know already know the person.
If you already have an established relationship with that person, you are negatively affected by truth bias, meaning you will naturally “shut down” your innate lie-detecting skills to preserve the relationship.
This is a disturbing fact when applied to unhealthy or abusive intimate relationships. The bonding process that takes place through sex and intimacy makes it significantly more difficult to sort for lies.
However, knowing this ahead of time gives you a huge advantage.
To become proficient in lie detection, you must understand that approximately 95% of human actions, behaviors, and body language come from their subconscious mind. The subconscious mind exists just below what you are consciously aware of.
This is important because, for lie detection, you are looking for the incongruency between someone’s conscious verbal words and their subconscious bodily or facial descriptors.
There are two main rules when it comes to lie detection:
- Look for someone’s deviation from normal
- Look for a cluster of stress signs
Deviation from normal
In order to spot a liar, you must know that person’s “normal.” This is called their baseline.
- Do they normally talk with their hands?
- Do they normally look in one direction while thinking about what to say next or accessing a memory?
- What is their normal blink rate like?
If this person is lying, they will deviate from their normal while verbally speaking about the lie.
For example, if the liar says, “No, I did not go out with that woman,” and simultaneously locks eye contact with you more than usual, stops using hand gestures, or slows down their blink rate (or maybe all 3), then there is a good chance they are lying.
Look for a cluster of stress signs
There are only two categories of body language: expansive and constrictive.
Expansive body language is open, often exposes a person’s vital arteries (inside of wrists, inguinal arteries), and is relaxed.
Constrictive body language is closed; the person takes up less space and often uses their own body or objects to “hide” or “protect” themselves.
Constrictive body language naturally happens when a person is under stress. Because there is no single trait that indicates lying, pay attention to these subtle cues that expose a heightened stress response, thus indicating a potential lie:
- Talking faster
- A rise in tonality (pitch)
- Single sided shrug
- Increased body temperature such as nostrils flaring or moving the hair of one’s neck
- Crossing arms or legs
- Touching ones throat
- Leaning back
- Placing an object between the two of you
- Stepping back
Some other indicators to look for when spotting a liar
According to Behavioral Expert (and one of my mentors) Chase Hughes, “Hushing is the strongest lie detection behavior there is.” It is anything that hides the liar’s mouth, such as bringing an object to their mouth or simply touching their mouth or lips.
Often, liars will use the expanded form of contractions, such as “do not” or “can not,” instead of the contraction. Liars may also suddenly become more polite when they begin speaking about the lie.
Obviously, lie detection is a complex process; however, starting to notice some of the traits discussed here can massively increase your social awareness.
On the flip side, knowing these subconscious cues can also bring about a healthy dose of self-awareness, as well as attunement to loved ones, simply because you have taken the focus off of yourself and onto someone else.
Dr. Ketan Parmar
Forensic Psychiatrist & Psychologist, ClinicSpots
Being lied to can be an extremely hurtful and frustrating experience. Whether it’s your spouse, family member, or friend who is lying to you, it’s important that you know how to identify if they are lying to you.
Spotting a liar is not always easy, but it will help you understand their intentions and respond appropriately.
Different factors play into whether or not someone is telling the truth; for example, trust, fear, and the relationship between two people all come into play when trying to figure out if someone is lying to you.
If you learn how to identify if someone is lying to you, it will help strengthen any relationships that may be in jeopardy and also protect you from being hurt again in the future by identifying fraudsters sooner rather than later.
Their body language and facial expressions will be a little bit off
One of the most important aspects to look out for when trying to spot a liar is their body language and facial expressions.
If you notice that a person’s non-verbal communication is incongruent with what they are saying to you, there is a strong chance that they are lying to you.
It’s essential to keep in mind that liars will often feel extremely uncomfortable and nervous when they are being dishonest, so their body language and facial expressions will more than likely be a little bit off.
Some common signs that someone is lying to you include:
- Crossed arms
- Looking away from you
- Excessive blinking
- General uneasiness in their posture
If one or more of these signs is being exhibited by the person you are speaking to, there is a strong chance that they are being dishonest with you.
Their words are not consistent with their normal speaking terms
Words and vocabulary are crucial aspects to consider when trying to spot a liar. If the words that a person is using are not consistent with their normal speaking patterns, it could be an indication that they are not being honest with you.
For example, if a normally calm and collected person begins to raise their voice or use aggressive language when speaking to you, there is a strong chance that they are lying.
Another example is if you are talking to someone who is typically very articulate and eloquent but speaks quickly and poorly.
The way they speak and the tone of their voice is unusual
The way a person speaks can be an indication that they are lying to you.
- If a person’s voice is overly loud or quiet, or if they are speaking monotonously.
- If a person uses excessive filler words such as “um” or “like.”
- If a person pauses too long in between their sentences.
- If a person is pausing too long and not finishing their sentences, it could indicate that they are not sure how to respond to what you are saying and are trying to buy themselves more time to create a false response.
They’re overly cautious and calculating with their movements and behavior
The timing and duration of certain actions can also be an indication that someone is lying to you. They might be being overly cautious and calculating with their movements and behaviors.
For example, when a person is not normally cautious but suddenly becomes overly careful with how they move their hands and position their body.
Another is if a person seems to be in a rush to get something done when they usually would not be, or if they are not answering your questions or responding to your inquiries in a timely manner.
To sum it up, when trying to spot a liar, it’s essential to take note of how all of these factors interact with each other. A person can exhibit one or two of these factors, but if all three are combined, likely, they are not being honest with you.
By being aware of various signs that indicate someone is lying to you, you can be sure that you are protected from people who try to take advantage of you and know how to respond appropriately to someone who is lying to you.
They change parts of their story; forget and add other things
Some people will talk about watching a person’s eyes, posture, facial expressions, etc., to tell if someone is lying. That can provide information, but it is not definitive and should not be the sole determinant of whether someone may be lying to you.
The only guaranteed way to determine if you’re being lied to is to discover the lie.
How do you do that? Ask more effective questions and listen to their answers. When trying to discover information, keep questions very open.
Ask “what” and “how” questions. Ask for them to be detailed and specific in their answers. Explain you are trying to build an understanding of what they just told you. If they are lying, they will change parts of their story, forget and add other things.
Ask them about the last thing first, then the second to last, third to last, and so on. They may be lying to you if they cannot explain it backward.
I personally am fond of saying, “I’m struggling to believe what you’ve shared. Please explain in a different way and help me understand.“ This will give me new information.
Knowing that you’re being lied to is a choice. You choose to accept a lie or reject it. Asking more effective questions will help you choose better.
CEO, Epiphany Wellness
It’s hard to tell if someone is lying to you. I think it’s because we’re all so good at lying to ourselves, and we tend to believe what we want to believe.
I’ve found that when people lie, they give themselves away in three ways:
- They use too many words
- They use too few words
- They don’t look me in the eye
They use too many words
If someone uses too many words, it’s probably because they’re trying to convince themselves as much as they’re trying to convince me. They’ll say things like “I swear,“ “I promise,“ or “I swear to God.“
This happens when people lie because deep down inside, they know it’s wrong but want it so bad that they need some kind of external validation—even if that validation comes from themselves.
They use too few words
If someone is using too few words, then it means that the situation is bad enough that there really aren’t any good answers for them—and I’d bet money on the fact that this person knows exactly what happened and wants to keep their mouth shut until they can figure out what their next move should be.
They don’t look you in the eye
Finally, if someone isn’t looking you in the eye, then it means that they’re having a hard time maintaining a lie over time, so they need to take a break from looking at you while they think of what else to say.
They might also feel guilty about lying and want to avoid your gaze because they know how uncomfortable it makes people feel.
Other signs to look out for
If their eyes dart around the room, or they seem stiff and uncomfortable, it could be because they’re trying to figure out how to respond to a question that’s been asked of them—or worse, it could mean that they’re lying.
Another way to tell if someone is lying is through their tone of voice and word choice.
If someone’s tone sounds off, or if they use words that don’t fit with what they’re saying (like “literally” when talking about something figuratively), it’s probably because they’re trying to cover up the truth.
Lastly, even though this isn’t always reliable, it’s worth noting that people tend to lie more often when they’re tired or stressed out—so if someone looks like they’ve had a long day at work or school, take note!
Relationship Expert, Texas Divorce Laws
Every person has the capacity to lie. And over time, this usually hurts a lot of relationships. Fortunately, it is possible to recognize warning indications of dishonesty.
They don’t say enough
Few to no more information is provided when liars are asked to elaborate beyond their rehearsed lies. Liars often conceal information like who, when, and where and provide less detail than those telling the truth.
It is known as “lying by omission.” Sometimes liars make an excessive effort to make you believe they are telling the truth without actually giving you the specifics.
They say things like:
- “Let me tell you the truth.”
- “Let me be honest with you.”
- “I want to be honest with you.”
Another indication that someone is telling the truth is when they stay to their original story while adding more details, as opposed to liars who frequently get caught and make up new stories without adding to the prior ones.
Typical gesturing may occur right before a remark after the speech
Rather than making hand signals before or during a conversation, liars frequently do so after speaking. Too many things are going through their mind at once, including:
- Making up a story
- Assessing if they are being believed
- Then embellishing it accordingly
When someone doesn’t want to deal with a problem or respond to a question, they will automatically place their hands over their lips, which is a telltale sign of lying.
Deception may also be indicated by:
- The body rocking back and forth
- The head tilting to one side
- The feet shuffling
Therefore, typical gesturing may occur right before a remark after the speech.
Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers
Lying in a relationship is the same as cheating; know that if your partner can lie to you without guilt, you may not know about them.
You need to address the issue to get closure. So always stay sharp and look for these signs when you think your partner is lying to you.
Their body language does not support what they are saying
When someone’s statements don’t line up with their body language or general demeanor, there’s a big chance they might be lying.
For example, if the liar claims to care about their partner and wants to work on the relationship, but their actions show a lack of concern and little to no attempt to make things better, they are not sincere when they say they do.
Being hesitant to react could be a clue that someone is lying
When someone expresses their mind, they typically do it quickly and forcefully to convey their feelings, thoughts, and opinions.
On the other hand, if someone looks to be revising their thoughts or hunting for the correct words, they could not be being sincere. To prevent hurting others with the truth, people occasionally make white lies. Other times, they’re trying to find ways to inspire others.
Trust your gut
In comparison to whatever cognitive lie detection you might undertake, your gut instincts may be more accurate. Our unconscious reactions could disrupt our automatic associations.
People tend to focus on the traditional traits they frequently associate with lying, such as fidgeting and lack of eye contact, rather than relying on their intuition. It becomes increasingly challenging to discriminate between truth and lies when traits that unreliable forecast deceptions are overemphasized.
Dr. Rosmy Barrios
Medical Advisor, Health Reporter
Changes on the face skin can be a traitor
If you notice that the face of the person speaking suddenly turns pale, this may be one of the signals that they are afraid.
In a state of fear, a person may begin to create false facts to support their story because they are worried that the truth will come out and they will be caught.
Another sign may be a sudden sweat on the forehead and nose area. A lying person often gets hot and uncomfortable, which can be immediately noticed on the face in the T-zone.
Senior Editor, Tandem
Because my first husband was a pathological liar, I am, unfortunately, all too familiar with frequently being able to tell when someone is lying to me.
Though I can’t always recognize liars, and though different people utilize different tactics when they aren’t being truthful, there are some things that are often true about liars.
Here are some signs to help tell if someone is lying to you:
They won’t look you in the eyes
When someone is being dishonest, you can often see this on their face. That’s why many people who are lying will have a hard time looking at you when they are speaking.
They won’t talk to you in person
For the same reason (that they don’t want to look at you), many liars will object to talking to you in person. By sending an email, a chat, or talking on the phone to you, they can hide their face while they share their mistruths.
They can’t keep their stories straight
People who frequently lie have issues keeping their stories straight. At first, they will tell you one thing, but when questioned about it, they will tell you something else.
They backtrack over/come up with excuses for what they said. If someone says something, then is repeatedly correcting themselves or making up excuses, it could be because what they are saying is a lie.
They contradict what you know to be true
One of the best ways you can tell if someone is lying is when you catch them in the act. If you were present when something transpired, and this person tries to tell you something else happened, you know their version is false.
Though we are all guilty of telling those little white lies occasionally, it’s unfortunate when someone repeatedly lies to you. It can make you feel disrespected, or it can make you lose trust in others.
If you know someone is repeatedly lying to you, address the situation head-on and determine if you need to remain in contact with them.
Are they a friend, a relative, or a coworker? Depending on the nature of your relationship, how you opt to handle the situation will be different.
Whatever you do, make sure to reach out for help. It’s difficult to face someone you are accusing of not being honest, so don’t try to do it alone.
Legal Specialist, Adamson Ahdoot LLP
When someone is making too much eye contact
Liars, particularly those who do it often, know that people are big on identifying “tells” through eye contact.
In fact, modern studies have shown that people who lie actually overcompensate on eye contact. They are conditioned to look directly into someone else’s eyes while telling lies.
There is little evidence to support that people look at the floor, look at the ceiling or roll their eyes to the right to access the creative vortex of their brain whenever they’re lying.
Lies are often premeditated, so people are prepared to make eye contact with the person they’re talking to.
One obvious sign might be whenever someone is making too much eye contact. If they’re intensely looking at you as they talk, that is a sign that they really want you to believe them. If they’re that invested in you believing them, it could be because they’re trying to deceive you.
Liars can and often will make eye contact with you when they’re spewing their malarkey. Two veteran law enforcement investigators have told me that. If they’re looking at you more intently than normal, that’s when you should be suspicious of what they’re telling you.
HR Director, Mullen and Mullen
Look at their fake smiles
One piece of advice I can give you to spot liars in conversation is to look at their fake smiles. Aside from body language, great liars are also more likely to leave you with their forced smiles as they press their lips together.
You can look at their overall reaction, including their eyes, to prevent misinterpretations. Also, look for any signs of stress because most people can’t hide it very well when they are nervous or anxious about lying about something.
Rhett Stubbendeck, CPCU
Chief Executive Officer, LeverageRx
They are too good to be true
This is a technique that most of us follow, but some of us also neglect it. No one is too good to be true. If you notice that a person always has readily available answers to your questions, something may be off.
For example, I once hired an employee as a replacement for someone who had resigned. The new employee always brought me good news. This came to me rather as a surprise because his job wasn’t as easy as he made it look.
One day, I checked the numbers he had narrated and found out he was messing up with them all this time to impress me. This caused my company much damage, as any type of business data is crucial in making critical decisions.
So, if someone behaves perfectly around you, they’re probably lying.
There is a change in the way they normally approach you
This is a very simple tactic and comes in handy if you have good observation skills.
If you notice a change in tone or increased fidgeting when someone speaks, they are most likely lying. This is because they feel nervous and scared about their lies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do people lie?
People lie for various reasons, and it’s not always a sign of bad intentions or character. Some common reasons for lying include:
• fear of punishment or rejection
• desire for social approval or admiration
• desire to protect oneself or others from harm or embarrassment
• need to gain advantage or avoid loss
• simple habit or convenience.
Lying may also be a symptom of an underlying psychological disorder or personality disorder, such as narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, or pathological lying.
It’s important to understand the motives and context of lying in order to deal with it effectively and avoid unnecessary harm.
Is there a difference between lying and withholding information?
Lying involves deliberately stating something false or misleading, whereas withholding information involves not disclosing something relevant or important to the situation.
Although both lying and withholding information may be considered deceptive or unethical under certain circumstances, the degree and intent of each behavior differ.
Withholding information may be done for various reasons, such as to protect privacy, avoid conflict, or maintain confidentiality. It may be justified if it doesn’t harm others or violate ethical or legal obligations.
However, if withholding information is done to manipulate or deceive others or to gain an unfair advantage, it may be considered unethical or dishonest.
It’s important to be aware of the distinction between lying and withholding information and to use ethical judgment in deciding when and how to disclose information.
Can lying be detected by a polygraph test?
A polygraph test, also known as a lie detector test, measures physiological responses such as heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductivity, which are thought to be associated with lying or stress. However, the accuracy and reliability of polygraph tests are controversial and debated among experts.
While some studies suggest that polygraph tests can accurately detect lying, others show that they can produce false positives or negatives and that results can be influenced by various factors such as:
• the examiner’s bias
• the type of questions asked
• the person’s physical and psychological state.
In addition, polygraph tests aren’t admissible as evidence in many jurisdictions because they’re considered unreliable and potentially prejudicial. Therefore, it’s important to approach polygraph tests with caution and skepticism, relying on multiple sources and methods to detect lies.
Is it ever okay to lie?
The morality and ethics of lying are complex and debated issues, and there is no single answer that applies to all situations and cultures.
Some people argue that lying is always wrong and should be avoided at all costs, while others believe that lying can be justified in some cases, such as to save lives, protect privacy, avoid harm, or promote social harmony.
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to lie is up to each individual and depends on their values, beliefs, and goals.
However, it’s important to consider the potential consequences of lying to oneself and others and to communicate as honestly and respectfully as possible.
How can I improve my own honesty?
Honesty is a fundamental aspect of personal and social integrity and can enhance trust, respect, and cooperation in relationships and society.
Improving honesty involves self-awareness, self-control, and improving social skills, and this can be a lifelong learning and growth process.
Ways to improve honesty include:
• mindfulness and self-reflection to become aware of one’s motives and biases
• cultivating empathy and compassion for others
• developing a strong sense of personal values and ethics
• seeking feedback and accountability from trusted others
• engaging in honesty and open communication with others
It’s also important to recognize that honesty isn’t a binary or static trait but a complex and context-dependent behavior that requires constant attention and effort.
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