How to Tell if Someone's Lying

How to Tell if Someone's Lying

Think you're being lied to? We've got seven ways to help you find out.

By Leith Wilson | 4th May 2016

How do we tell if someone’s lying when it’s as natural as breathing? We are all guilty of telling a little white lie every so often. In fact, studies show on average we tell one to three lies a day. Extroverts will lie more than introverts (we just get excited, OK?!), men are eight times more likely to lie about themselves than women, strangers will typically lie three times in the first 10 minutes of meeting each other, and married couples lie in one out of every 10 interactions. There are some things your partner just doesn’t need to know, right?

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But WHY do we do it? According to Cornell professor of psychology Jeff Hancock, humans lie for three main reasons. Firstly, to maintain friendships. For example, the classic “Sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I didn’t see the message.” Secondly, to preserve one’s own identity – that is, making yourself seem better than you are. And lastly, to build a positive reputation.

So how do you tell if someone’s lying? And we’re not just talking about the “I’m on my way” when you’re really still in the shower lies.

They overshare

Chances are if someone is lying to you, they will go into WAY too much detail. Aldert Vrij, a professor of applied social psychology in the UK, says those who lie are more inclined to share their story from beginning to end, in chronological order. This shows you that the story has been carefully anticipated and extra thought has been put into their reasoning. Pamela Meyer, an expert in the field of lying, says a trained lie spotter will subtly ask the accused to tell their story backwards and note the questions that make them squirm.

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They stand really still

We’ve all heard that fibbers will fidget and squirm because they’re worried about being caught out. Lillian Glass, a former FBI deception analyst, says liars will actually generally adopt a very “rigid and catatonic stance”. In natural conversation we will move our body and gesture in a relaxed manner, so when someone stands very still it is a BIG sign that something is off. This is normally because they feel confrontation approaching and adopt a fight-or-flight response.

Their tone of voice and way of speaking will change

Studies show that people who lie will resort to more formal language and distance themselves from the person they’re lying to. I now happen to know this is a great way to tell if someone’s lying through firsthand experience because I do it. Take my conversation with my boyfriend last night, for example: “What on Earth are you talking about? I certainly did not eat that whole block of chocolate that your mum bought you for Easter. Why would you think that?!” BIG FAT LIE. But on a more serious note, HOW do you still have chocolate from Easter?!

They stare into your eyes a little too much

Ever had a conversation with someone where they were staring so intently you felt like they were looking into your very soul? Chances are they’re LIARS. While many believe that liars will break eye contact, someone who’s a master of deception will maintain eye contact in an attempt to control the direction of the conversation and manipulate your emotions. Moral of the story: BEWARE OF SOUL STARERS.

Their gestures don’t match their speech

“You nod your head but you want to say no. What do you mean?” EXACTLY, Justin Bieber. EXACTLY. Liars will often subconsciously shake their head “No” while they’re saying “Yes”. Total mixed signals.

Their smile isn’t sincere

Yes, smiling can help you tell if someone’s lying. In many cases, a smile can mask someone’s true feelings. We all learn to plaster on a smile when we’re unhappy, right? (Don’t lie! You totally have.) So how do you use their smile to your advantage? Look at someone’s eyes when they are smiling. A true smile will reach a person’s lips and eyes. A fake smile will leave them looking just a little dead inside.

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They’re heading for the door

Shuffling your feet is a way to use up some of that anxious energy and can indicate that a person wants to walk away from an uncomfortable situation. So next time you’re trying to tell if someone’s lying, have a little gander at the position of their feet. Chances are if they’re facing the closest door, you’re chatting to a liar.

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Learn more about deception by watching the TED video below!


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Article by Leith Wilson

A lover of ice-cream, travel, adventure seeking and fashion, Leith is a former Journalist at Style Magazines and is always on the hunt for her next pair of heels or foodie spot to squash her avocado obsession.


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