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How to Tell If Someone Is Lying: 12 Signs to Check

How to Tell If Someone Is Lying: 12 Signs to Check

Being able to spot a lie can keep you from falling prey to cons and scams. People lie for many reasons. Sometimes, they wish to avoid speaking the truth to take advantage of you, and other times they see dishonesty as a means for survival.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t very good at detecting lies. Research shows that without training, most people have odds slightly better than chance when it comes to spotting a lie.[1] To put it another way, you may as well flip a coin to determine if someone is swindling you.

Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to determine whether or not a person is lying. By using the power of observation, you can become a human polygraph test and identify a fibber right away.

Below are a few techniques that can help you avoid being a victim of deceit.

Liars are less likely to smile at you

When you see someone smiling too much, you may get the sense that they are being disingenuous. Some seasoned liars, have taken the opposite approach in an attempt to foil their audience. According to Paul Ekman, liars, especially men, don’t smile as much as they would when they are telling the truth.[2]

When a con artist does smile at you, it may be a fake smile. False smiles are easy to spot because the individual controls the shape of their mouth, but they aren’t able to smile with their eyes.[3]

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Look at their feet to see if they’re grounded in the truth

Foot movement can offer clues about a person’s trustworthiness. When people lie, they tend to restrict the movement of their feet.[4] This may give the liar a stiff appearance.

When a person is lying, they orient their feet toward the exit. A subconscious discomfort with dishonesty causes their feet to seek an escape. Since our feet are so far from our brains, we don’t always notice that our feet reveal our innermost feelings.[5]

Look for quick changes in facial expression to understand how someone truly feels

Your face reflects your thoughts and feelings. When someone lies, their expressions may flicker between the facade that they want you to see and their true feelings. These micro-expressions, which may last for only 1/25 of a second, are subtle indicators that a person is masking their intentions.[6]

The person who says “honestly” repeatedly is worried that you think they aren’t telling the truth

Liars may exhibit verbal tics whenever they feel the need to reinforce their trustworthiness. Over-using phrases like “to be honest”, “believe me”, and “to tell the truth” are clear indications that person is insecure about their believability. Using these phrases once in a while is okay, but if someone’s speech is peppered with such reinforcers, they’re hiding something.

Liars lick their lips because they are stressed

Lip-licking is a nervous habit that can betray a lack of confidence, but it can also show you that someone is lying. When we are under stress, we may unconsciously resort to repetitive physical behaviors, such as lip-licking, to relieve our jittery feelings.

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    If the person won’t look at you or maintains eye contact for too long, they may be worried that you’ll catch them in a lie

    If eyes are mirrors to the soul, then dishonest people tend to be nervous about what their eyes reveal. A misleading person may avoid eye contact all together, or they may try to maintain eye contact for an extended period to attempt to prove their trustworthiness.[7] When eye contact seems forced or nonexistent, look out!

      Long pauses indicate that the person is working to make up a story

      Generating a believable story out of thin air takes time and talent. When someone is telling a tall tale, they may pause frequently to create a sequence of events. The person may also have to work out the logical progression of a story as they go, which means that they’ll have to stop and think.

      You’ll only see this pause if you catch the liar off guard. If they have time to prepare a statement or story, they will work out the bugs well before they tell it. They may do such a convincing job that they believe their own lies.

      Sweating profusely can signal that a person is stressed about lying

      If you’ve watched an interrogation on a popular detective show then you might have noticed that the person being questioned often sweats profusely. That sheen across the liar’s face, neck, and palms is the body’s response to the stress of lying.[8]

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        Liars fidget excessively

        A person who is lying usually has to do something with their hands. Liars tend to adjust their clothing frequently, touch their noses, fidget with their hair, and squirm in their seats. Lying is uncomfortable business for many people, and their mental discomfort can lead them to addressing minor physical annoyances with greater frequency.

        Dishonest people have trouble fabricating a story with good posture. They may shift their weight or fuss and readjust for no obvious reason.

        Understand how a person usually acts so that you can tell when something is off

        It’s easy to catch someone you know in a lie because you have an understanding of how they normally act. You’ll have a mental image of their baseline, which you can use to determine when they are acting strangely.

        You can still establish a baseline even if you don’t know someone. Ask the person simple questions for which you already know the answers. They should be able to answer without lying, which can reveal how a person behaves when they are telling the truth.

        This is why when someone takes a polygraph (lie-detector) test, the initial questions are all based on basic information such as name and date of birth.[9] These establish the baseline to which other answers will be compared during the final analysis.

        When the story doesn’t add up, you might be dealing with a liar

        Even if you have the slightest doubt that the other person is taking you for a ride, ask him to repeat the story after discussing a couple of things in between. Of course, if a person’s response seems canned, then they may have rehearsed this tale several times before telling it.

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        Liars tend to add or remove details from the original telling. Major deviations and logical leaps are red flags that a person is lying to you.

        Changes in speech reveal a dishonest person

        Stammering, stuttering, and speech that is either faster or slower than normal often indicate that a lie is in process. In this case, you can actually hear the person struggling to take their lie from their brain and out into the world.

        We’ve already seen that symptoms of stress and signs of lying go hand in hand. Rapid speech indicates that the person may be nervous about what they are saying because it isn’t true.

        Use all the clues available to you to catch a liar

        Determining whether or not someone is telling the truth can be tough, but if they exhibit several of these signs, the likelihood that they are being dishonest is high. Use context, your instincts, and these visible indicators of dishonesty to avoid being fooled.

        Reference

        [1] Quartz: Research shows how you can tell if someone is lying
        [2] West Side Toastmasters: The Allure of Laughter and Smiles
        [3] Business Insider: A neurologist explains how to spot a fake smile
        [4] The Telegraph: Our feet can talk, says study
        [5] Wonder How To: Mind Hacks: Look down to tell what others are really thinking
        [6] Paul Ekman Group: Catching Liars
        [7] Psychology Today: How to detect a liar
        [8] North American Investigations: The physiology of lying
        [9] The Law Dictionary: Common questions asked during a lie detector test

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2021

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

        Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

        Posture

        First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

        • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
        • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
        • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
        • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

        All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

        Facial Expressions

        Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

        • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
        • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
        • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

        If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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        1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

        A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

        The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

        This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

        2. Relax Your Face

        New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

        The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

        To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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        3. Improve Your Eye Contact

        Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

        The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

        To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

        3. Smile More

        There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

        Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

        4. Hand Gestures

        Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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        It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

        5. Enhance Your Handshake

        In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

        “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

        It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

        6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

        As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

        Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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        Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

        Final Takeaways

        Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

        If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

        More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

        Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

        Reference

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