8 little-known body language signs that someone is lying to you

Unless you carry a polygraph machine around with you, figuring out when people are lying isn’t always easy.

Heck, it’s not even easy using a lie detector test! Not that there’s a way to hook up someone to a machine and read their responses subtly so they don’t notice.

Lying is something people learn to do at an early age when they try to deny eating all the cookies.

For better or worse, most of us have gotten pretty good at it by the time we’re teens.

But if you want to carry out your own lie detector test without using equipment, there are some clues and cues to look for. 

While none of these clues is an absolutely sure thing, once you start to notice a whole bunch of them together, it can start to get a whole lot easier to spot subterfuge.

If you’re ready to do some of your own investigations, here are eight little-known body language signs that someone is lying to you to help you on your way.

1) Making strange eye contact

“Look me in the eye and tell me you weren’t the one who painted this ketchup mural on the living room wall!”

My mother’s words echo to this day.

Really, I don’t know why she bothered as I’ve seen the photo of two-year-old me slathered head to toe in red sauce. 

I guess she was trying to teach me about honesty.

Many people, my mom included, seem to think that you can’t look someone in the eye and lie at the same time.

They’ll tell you that a liar will look away, look down and to the left, look at their hands, or wherever! They’ll just avoid making eye contact.

Actually, there’s some truth to this because eye contact is so important in human relations. Eye contact often makes people nervous, and if they are already hiding something, they might avoid it even more than usual.

But strangely, the opposite is also true.

Some liars will stare you straight in the eye and lie right to your face. But their giveaway is that they use far more eye contact than normal.

This is probably an attempt to overcompensate and try to appear truthful, but instead, it can reveal their fabrications.

2) Faking a smile

A smile normally expresses happiness, doesn’t it?

Think again.

There are many different ways that we humans use smiling behavior, and only a few of them relate to happiness. We smile to show compassion, sympathy, soldiering on, and a whole host of other feelings.

We start smiling as babies and receive constant feedback on how to use this multi-use expression. We’re so used to seeing other people smile and smiling ourselves that most of us are bona fide experts at spotting a fake smile.

You know what I mean. It’s that smile where you pull the corner of your mouth up way too high and show too much of your teeth. But the biggest tell is that the smile doesn’t touch your eyes.

An authentic smile will cause us to squint a bit, producing crow’s-feet-like wrinkles in the corners of our eyes. No wrinkles, no authentic happiness.

Now, does that mean the person is lying, or does it just mean they’re being fake or condescending?

It might take a bit more to help you decide.

3) Having a dry mouth

What about licking your lips, coughing, and clearing your throat?

Are these sure signs of a liar in action?

Well, no, not exactly. But they certainly can raise suspicion.

The person doing these things may be sick or just dehydrated.

But they can also be lying.

See, these body language signs also happen as a result of nervousness or pressure, both of which a liar might be feeling if they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

These reactions are very hard to control, so only the most practiced liars are able to hide them away or even be conscious that they’re having them.

A liar might also reach for a drink, both to hide these nervous signs and to cover up their mouth, which is yet another way you might be able to tell they’re telling fibs.

4) Sweating a lot

Speaking of unconscious nervous reactions, profuse sweating is certainly one to look for.

Is it possible that they’re just suffering from the heat or a spicy lunch?

Sure, but if you know that these conditions have nothing to do with it, then what would explain their sweating?

Sweating can be an unconscious reaction to stress, and lying to people is usually stressful.

Of course, it’s not if you’re really accomplished at it, so professional liars are going to be a lot harder to catch, even with unconscious physical reactions.

It’s not that they can control their sweating at will; it’s just that they’re able to control their stress levels, and that keeps their unconscious reactions in check.

5) Making hand gestures

What do liars do with their hands while they’re lying to your face?

Do they sneakily cross their fingers behind their backs, hoping to protect themselves from jinxes?

I doubt it – not if they’re over six years old, anyway!

But something that you can sometimes notice with liars is unusual gesturing, or rather, gesturing more than normal.

Most people naturally gesture when they talk. Even blind people do this when they talk to other blind people, so it seems to be something totally unconscious and innate in the way we humans communicate.

But when a person starts to gesture a whole lot more than normal, it can be a sign that they’re lying.

By over-gesticulating, it’s like they’re trying harder to convince you and even convince themselves.

On the other hand (pun intended), they might gesture way less than normal, even gripping something until their knuckles turn white.

In this case, they recognize their nervous energy, and they’re trying hard to mask it.

6) Fidgeting a lot

Like hand gestures, fidgeting can be a good sign of lying.

Pacing, seeming agitated, or appearing to have a whole lot of nervous energy may be a giveaway.

Once again, this is one of those unconscious signs of stress bubbling up to the surface.

It’s not a surefire sign of only lying, though. People fidget when they’re stressed for any reason.

But when you already have a reason to suspect that the person you’re talking to is lying or covering something up, and they’re shifting and fidgeting a whole lot, you’re right to be suspicious.

Like most of the other signs I’ve mentioned, the opposite of fidgeting might also indicate lying.

Someone who sits rigid and stuck still could be trying so hard to cover up their nervous energy that the covering up actually gives them away.

7) Making micro-expressions

Most highly experienced, expert liars are able to control their stress levels and related behavior, so they don’t give away many clues when they’re practicing to deceive.

However, studies into deception detection (fancy name, huh?) have discovered that almost all people make the tiniest little facial expressions, called micro-expressions when they communicate.

While investigators often film subjects of interest and review their interviews in slow motion, you can sometimes see these micro-expressions in real time.

You might catch a slight grimace, a tiny smile, or a frown that lasts just a fraction of a second. These micro-expressions are basically impossible to control and can give away some part of the person’s thoughts and feelings.

However, interpreting them to discover lying is an art that takes time to learn.

8) Talking in a higher-than-normal tone 

I know the ability to control your voice isn’t usually considered body language.

In this case, though, it really is a response of the body to the stresses of lying that can cause a person’s voice to change.

When people are nervous, they might talk in a high-pitched voice than normal. This is another biological response to being nervous and stressed. When we feel this way, our brains can release adrenaline, and this tightens up our muscles.

The idea is that this should prepare our bodies for a fight or flight, but in the case of speaking, it can make people’s vocal muscles tense up and make them. 

Both of these responses require our muscles to be primed and ready, so in stressful situations, our brains order the release of adrenaline, which makes our muscles tighten.

That makes the voice rise in pitch.

Of course, you have to know the person’s normal speaking voice first to be able to detect any changes, and the changes don’t always mean they’re nervous because they’re lying. But it’s still a good clue!

There’s no perfect formula to detect lying, but there are clues.

If you need to sniff out the truth, these seven little-known body language signs that someone is lying to you can be a great help.

When enough of them line up, you can probably trust that you’ve caught yourself a liar.

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