Language isn’t the only way people communicate. In fact, nonverbal communication is incredibly important – so much so that someone’s body language can tell you whether they’re lying or not.
Don’t believe me?
Well, seeing as we aren’t sitting face to face and you can’t read my nonverbal cues, you’ll just have to rely on words, science, and facts.
Here are the 8 body language signs someone is not being fully honest with you.
1) They keep fidgeting
Starting off with the most obvious sign, fidgeting is the hallmark of lying. As the body language expert Traci Brown told Time, the usual signs of deception include:
- Shuffling one’s feet
- Rocking back and forth
- Cocking the head to the side
This is because lying might make you nervous, which in turn makes you feel itchy or tingly, prompting you to scratch, play with your hair, tap your feet, and fidget.
2) They seek and maintain eye contact
There are a lot of theories out there about eye contact and lying.
One such theory is that right-handed people look to the right when they’re imagining something rather than remembering, which might help you determine whether they’re telling the truth or not. This has been proven false.
It’s also not true that liars tend to avoid eye contact.
In fact, research supports the opposite – one study says that people who aren’t being honest with you will display more deliberate eye contact. While the reason behind this isn’t clear, it’s possible they do it in order to convince you that they’re telling the truth.
In other words, they try too hard.
3) They cross their arms or legs
It is a known fact amongst body language experts that crossing one’s arms or legs generally signals defensiveness.
It’s a way of protecting yourself from the world around you, retreating further into yourself, and sticking to your guns.
Therefore, it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that people who are lying might do exactly that as a coping mechanism. They might feel so uncomfortable that crossing their limbs may give them a false sense of security.
4) They cover their neck
The neck holds more secrets to the human mind than you might realize.
Similarly to when people cross their arms in order to protect their chest, covering one’s neck is a soothing strategy in the face of stress.
As the nonverbal communication expert Joe Navarro M.A. says:
“When we are under stress, our brain requires a certain amount of hand-to-body touching (hand wringing, forehead rubbing, temple massaging, lip touching, etc.). These pacifiers serve to soothe the individual when there is negative limbic arousal.”
He goes on to explain that covering one’s neck could therefore indicate stress, anxiety, insecurity, fear, or vulnerability. It’s a way to protect yourself from danger.
Of course, lying poses its own threats – someone who lies might be walking a tightrope between success and an absolute disaster – which is why people who aren’t being fully honest might cover their necks to soothe themselves on a subconscious level.
5) They roll their lips back or touch their mouth too often
Circling back to Traci Brown, the mouth can be a huge indicator of discomfort and stress as well. Brown explains that when people roll their lips back, it could mean they are withholding certain facts or emotions.
Touching your mouth frequently can also be a sign of fidgeting, which is kind of the universal language of distress, so be mindful of how much attention the person in question pays to their lips.
If they’re too fixated on their mouth, they might be lying and feeling deeply uncomfortable.
6) They scratch their nose
Did you really think you’d be able to go through this article without a single mention of Pinocchio?
While your nose doesn’t grow bigger each time you lie, something *does* happen – and it could point to dishonest behavior.
One study found that people who lie experience the so-called “Pinocchio effect”, which means that the temperature around their nose and the muscle in the inner corner of their eye increases.
And since your nose suddenly becomes hot while you’re lying, you might accidentally scratch it way too often.
Of course, take this with a grain of salt – just because your partner scratches their nose a few times during dinner doesn’t mean they’re being unfaithful – but this sign is an interesting indicator that, when combined with other nonverbal cues, might provide some useful insights.
7) They give you a fake smile
“How am I meant to distinguish between a genuine smile and a fake smile?” you might ask. “It’s just a smile!”
That’s where you’re wrong, though. In reality, smiling isn’t a simple widening of the lips. It has an impact on your face as a whole, especially your eyes and the wrinkles on the sides.
Remember when we all wore masks during the pandemic? You could still tell someone was smiling, couldn’t you? Even though you weren’t able to see their mouth, their eyes told the whole story. Because that’s where a genuine smile truly lies.
When someone widens their lips while their eyes are empty, it’s what you could call a fake smile. And it usually means there’s more going on behind the surface.
8) They frequently clear their throat
When someone clears their throat, it’s yet another sign they aren’t being fully honest with you.
Well, when you lie, you tend to experience cognitive overload (this means that there are too many demands placed on the working memory, leading to difficulties concentrating and exhaustion) and the fight-or-flight stress response.
You’re freaking the hell out because you know you’re on thin ice.
As a result, your muscles tense up, including those in the throat, which might cause a tight sensation. In order to get rid of the lump, your natural reaction will be to cough a little.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that nonverbal communication can be extremely hard to read. More often than not, you need to notice multiple signs at once to be able to draw some kind of parallel between them.
If someone clears their throat a lot, it might not mean anything.
But if they also fidget, maintain eye contact for too long, scratch their nose, and cover their neck… they might not be entirely honest with you.