How to tell if someone is lying: 10 signs to watch out for

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Nobody wants to be lied to. That’s a fact.

But the sad truth is that lying seems to be an unavoidable part of human nature.

According to CNN, people lie up to 728-1092 times per year, depending on gender.

Can you guess which sex lies the most? Surprise, surprise!

Of course, men lie the most. (I swear I have nothing against them.) But, women lie better.

You see, everybody lies – even you and me. Now that we’ve cleared that out, how do we know if someone is lying to us?

When we do not have mind-reading powers, how can we identify the lie from the truth? Turns out, there are some ways to watch out for to detect deception.

Here are 10 ways to recognize deceptive behaviors, both verbally and nonverbally:

Before we start, you will need a baseline of their behavior

The most important factor to tell if someone is lying is to know how they usually act in normal situations.

Behavioral expert Wendy L. Patrick explains why:

“Knowing how someone normally looks (or doesn’t) during in-person interaction can assist in judging the significance of deviations from the norm.”

So, how can you get a baseline?

Ask simple questions. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? Do you have any brothers and sisters?

Questions like these will allow you to see how they answer normal questions honestly.

Also, it’s important to recognize that there may not be one thing that will tell you that someone is lying. There is no magic bullet. Detecting lying is difficult if the person you’re dealing with is good at lying (which a lot of people naturally are).

Maria Konnikova, author of the Confidence Game, and who has extensively researched how to spot liars, says that it’s not as easy to spot a liar as many of us might think:

“There’s so much folk wisdom about how you spot a liar. They avert their gaze. They sweat. They blush, all this stuff. In truth, when you’re talking with good liars, it just doesn’t happen.”

1. Hand Gestures

How to tell if someone is lying

A study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2015 shows that people who lie move their hands much more than the ones who are telling the truth.

They came up with such a conclusion by studying over 120 high-stakes court cases video clips in order to find out how someone behaves when he is lying.

They tend to move both of their hands almost all the time because their brain is doing a lot of things at the same time.

They are thinking about what to say next, figuring out whether you are believing or not, and adding details to the story to make it more believable.

Aside from the hand gestures, people who are lying may also keep their palms away from your eyes by putting it at their back, inside their pocket or under the table.

This tends to show they’re not being genuine.

2. Itching and Fidgeting

How to tell if someone is lying

Another way to determine whether someone is lying or not is by noticing the other things that he does.

Is he rubbing his body back and forth? Is he cocking his head to the sides? Or does he shuffle his feet often? If yes, then think twice.

You’ll see them scratching at their face, neck, and arms.

They’ll scratch their hands and pick at their nails. They’ll fidget in their seats and move around in their chair.

You’ll see them trying to shift to be more comfortable so that they can focus on what they are saying.

You can expect to see them moving about so much that it will be distracting.

According to Dr. Lillian Glass, the First Lady of Communication, this happens because there is a fluctuation in the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating body functions. When someone is lying, they can tend to feel itchy which can cause someone to fidget.

3. Eye Contact

How to tell if someone is lying

The easiest way to figure out if someone is telling the truth is by directly looking into his eyes when you are talking.

If he can’t maintain his stare most especially at important times or discussions, he is probably guilty of something.

This is because he is either thinking of what to do next or he is afraid that you’ll find out that he is concealing something.

Eye movements really are one of the key indicators that someone is lying to you.

After all, they can’t look at you because subconsciously they know what they are saying is not true and the guilt prevents them from making eye contact with the person they are talking to.

According to Jack Schafer, a behavioral analyst of FBI:

“People tend to look at people or things that they like and avoid eye contact with people and things they don’t like. Liars must overcome the natural urge to avoid eye contact with their lie target to make themselves believable. Consequently, liars tend to overcompensate by maintaining longer eye contact. This behavior stems from the generally held belief that liars avoid eye contact, a lesson most people learned from their parents.”

It’s hard to understand why people lie, but if you are unsure about whether or not your partner, child, or friend is lying to you, pay attention to their eyes.

4. Lip Rolling

How to tell if someone is lying

Liars sometimes purse their lips when they are telling a lie. It’s either they are trying to hide what they feel or they are concealing facts.

This is especially true when they are asked of sensitive questions. It may also mean that they don’t want to talk or speak about it.

According to Psychology Today, the lips don’t lie. When it comes to detecting the truth, our lips are invaluable.

This is because the lips have a lot of nerves and are highly vascular which makes it react right on the very spot. For example, a person who receives bad news, his or her lips begin to disappear as vasoconstriction takes place.

Consequently, lip biting is also one way a liar pacifies himself. It is a way of getting the stress out due to keeping away the truth.

5. Voice Tone

How to tell if someone lies

People who are lying to you will have variations in their voice that is unusual from their normal voice.

They might get high-pitched sounds or they might lose their breath when they talk. They might also have a variety of tones that don’t fit with their personality or normal demeanor.

If someone is experiencing voice pitches and changes while talking to you, you might be disappointed to know they could be lying to you.

In general, people who are lying are usually high pitched. This is because of the nervousness that they are feeling which causes their vocal cord muscles to tighten up.

Their voice might even creak when they are lying. It is very important that you notice how their voice changes over time.

If their voice is higher than their normal voice, then there is a high chance that they are lying. According to Sheena Harris, it is common for someone who is lying to change the tone or pitch of his voice.

This could either be because of nervousness, anxiety, a distracting method or to emphasize something in order to make you believe in it.

6. Speech Content

How to tell if someone is lying to you

If someone is using the phrases ‘I want to be honest with you,’ ‘honestly’ or ‘let me tell you the truth’ way too much, then he might be pushing his luck too much to make you believe in his lies. He might also be convincing himself about the lie that he is fabricating.

Some other word indicators which they tend to use when lying are ‘uh,’ ‘like’ and ‘um or filler words. These words often tell something about the intention of the person you are speaking with.

So, if you hear him say those words very often, then rethink if you are going to believe or trust him or not.

A 2010 study put a light on the participants’ insight into their own behavior and speech content while lying. It states:

“It was hypothesized that participants would believe that while lying they show more behavior stereotypical of lying than they, in fact, do (Hypothesis 1), whereas they would believe that their own speech content while lying contains fewer stereotypical features than in fact is true. A stereotypical response was defined as a response people generally believe liars usually show.”

7. Hardline Pauses

How to tell if someone is lying

You may not know or notice it yet, but people who are lying take a lot of pauses when they talk. This is because they are trying to think of more details to add to their story.

Another reason is that they are still trying to figure out if what they are saying still makes sense. Sad to say, they may be such great at convincing that they believe their own lies themselves.

According to an excerpt from Spy the Lie, a book written by former CIA officer:

“Try this exercise on a friend: Ask her the question, “On this date seven years ago, what were you doing that day?” The person will invariably pause before responding, because it’s not a question that naturally evokes an immediate response—the person has to think about it, and likely still won’t be able to offer a meaningful response. Now ask her, “On this date seven years ago, did you rob a gas station?” If your friend pauses before responding, you probably need to choose your friends more carefully. Much more likely, there will be no pause—your friend will immediately respond, “No!” or “Of course not!” It’s a simple exercise, but it drives home the point that the delay needs to be considered in the context of whether it’s appropriate for the question.”

8. Too Many Details

How to tell if someone is lying

With the anxiety and nervousness that a liar is feeling, he might tell much more than what is needed. He might even tell details that a person who is telling the truth might not say in order to be more convincing.

According to Dr. Lillian Glass:

“When someone goes on and on and gives you too much information — information that is not requested and especially an excess of details — there is a very high probability that he or she is not telling you the truth. Liars often talk a lot because they are hoping that, with all their talking and seeming openness, others will believe them.”

9. Skin Changes

Lying does all kinds of things to the body without our knowledge or realization. That means that if you are lying to someone, your body might be giving you away.

You can swear up one side and down the other that you are telling the truth, but they will be able to tell based on the way you look.

Dr. Lillian Glass, author of The Body Language of Liars, says that someone going as white as a ghost can be a sign of untruthfulness because this signals blood rushing out of the face.

If you are lying, your skin may become clammy, cool, or you might start to sweat. Be mindful of this when you choose your words with people.

In the same vein, pay attention to how others approach you with information.

10. Backpedaling

Someone who is lying will have a hard time keeping track of their stories.

You’ll find that they tell you one thing and then they say another and pretend like they never said the original statement to begin with. It’s very confusing and frustrating.

Don’t let it get you down. People do things for lots of reasons we’ll never understand.

Watch for these tell tale signs to know if you are being lied to so you can decide what to do with that information. Sometimes it means making hard decisions, but nobody deserves to be lied to.

In Conclusion:

How to tell if someone is lying

The signs that someone is lying aren’t as clear as Pinocchio’s nose, the most famous liar.

But according to Dr. Leanne ten Brinke, a forensic psychologist at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, our instincts to spot deception are actually fairly strong.

It’s just that sometimes, our conscious minds fail us.

So next time you doubt what a person is saying, use these signs as a guide to detecting the lies.


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