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You Know That Someone Is Lying When You See These…

You Know That Someone Is Lying When You See These…

Whether it’s Ricky Gervais discovering that he’s the only one in the world who can tell a fib, or the entire spectrum of lies that everyone deals with every day (everything from little white lies to stonking great ones), humans are a species and a culture for whom lying is despised and yet something virtually everyone does at some point every single day.

Is it an evolutionary instinct? A psychological response? Or maybe people just don’t want to admit they cheated on their New Year’s resolutions and binged on an entire KFC meal. Whatever it is, humans have lied and lied and lied for centuries, ever since Adam turned to Eve and implied they should keep the old apple-eating on the down-low.

Lying is such a mainstream fascination of daily media – consider all the TV shows, films, and media devoted to catching unfaithful spouses or philandering partners – that it’s no wonder that more people than ever are desperate to discover the truth about how to weed out the truth. There’s so much to be garnered from learning to read people and how to tell when they’re trying to pull the cotton over your eyes.

So, if you fancy brushing up your lie-sensing skills in order to become a human guilt detector, or if you want to learn what you might be doing when you’re trying to get away with something, then check out this list of the ten sneakiest, smartest ways to tell when someone is lying.

1. Shifting Eyes

It is such a cliche it has been parodied in every single movie genre you can think of – and The Simpsons. However, cliches aside, there is plenty of reason to use the old ‘shifty eyes’ technique to assess if someone is lying to you. A lot of analysis and research into how humans lie as a species has found evidence that people find it hard to make eye contact with people they’re lying to, possibly as a throwback to a survival tactic.

In our evolutionary past, homo sapiens learned the power of group dynamics and that surviving in a pack of people was much smarter than trying to survive on your own. However, group dynamics found that telling the truth to your pack members – about the environment you were living in, the food you were gathering, what you found out when you were scavenging – helped keep them informed and alive, and helped your pack survive. We still subconsciously feel ‘wrong’ about lying – hence why you can find it incredibly hard to look the other person in the eye; perhaps because you feel that they can ‘sense’ when someone is lying.

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Facing someone eye-to-eye and lying right to their face can be an incredibly daunting and difficult task. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to interrogate someone. After all, sometimes the old cliches are the best ones.

2. Sweating Palms

No longer just the feeling that you get from being too close to that rather attractive person you like, having sweating palms is one of the biggest indicators out there. Okay, so a lot of it can be rooted in the kind of common-sense logic that anyone with a functioning computer can Google with success, but there is a genuine scientific basis behind why sweating palms equals lying.

Sweating palms are usually caused by a change in the body’s metabolic rate, in turn caused by the person’s heart rate starting to increase. Think of it like this; when you’re running, your heart is clocking up some serious BPM mileage, causing you to sweat in order to cool your body down. When you’re lying, your heart rate increases and you start to sweat from your palms. This method of observing guilt is so well-known that polygraph detectors measure it when someone takes a lie detector test. That’s something handy to note when you’re trying out a lie, or bingeing out on several episodes of Jeremy Kyle back-to-back…

3. Too Many Unnecessary Details

The devil really is in the details, then, huh? It turns out that one of the best ways to check to see if someone’s lying is to actually listen in deep to their story and see how much they’re actually telling you. Why? Well, because unless your friend/lover/spouse/relative is one of those rare but especially verbose and chatty people who seem to populate every conversation with details, when someone is elaborating, unprompted, with details about their day… it usually means they’re lying their butts off.

Something in human behavior seems to trigger this, suggesting that humans need to cover their tracks by creating such a watertight alibi or imaginary day that is so plausible and believable that the victim of their lie will never suspect. Cheating on a partner? You spent the day at work, and give them an hour-by-hour account of what you and the annoying guy in Accounts did. Lying about not quitting your smoking habit? You spent your lunch hour with your work friends discussing a myriad of topics you’re able to accurately recall. Keep an eye out for an abundance of details; it might just be the case that someone’s recycling the truth with you.

4. Gesturing Too Much

Okay, some people are naturally adept or inclined towards gesturing when they talk. It’s fine, it’s a quirk that a lot of people have to demonstrate what they’re saying. However, going over the top with gesturing or fidgeting is, in fact, an indicator that someone is overcompensating for lying throughout their speech. Research has found that rather than the stereotypical image of a twitchy liar unable to stop with the little movements, a liar is much more likely to rein in those smaller moments and go for the big, unconscious guns.

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Anything and everything from using their hands to convey every single point, to over-emphasizing even smaller details with physical gestures and details, can be a tell-tale sign that the person in question is telling a big fat fib. So, if you’re trying to get away with a hell of a lie, maybe try and keep your physical gesturing down to your usual amount. Sure it might take a little more concentration, but isn’t it worth it compared to flailing and being caught almost instantly?

5. Responding Incorrectly To Leading Questions

One of the more proactive and more dangerous ways of trying to discover a lie is to try your hand at some leading questions. Leading questions are, in of themselves, methods examined through psychological research, and are ways that people can consciously or unconsciously lead others on in conversations. However, one of the best ways that can help you uncover the truth is to use leading questions to try and catch the suspected liar in a trap.

In a situation when you know certain things, try dropping a leading question such as ‘Boy, you must have hit all that traffic coming home’, when you know that their route home was very clear and easy. If they lie to your face and go along with your falsehood, it can suggest that they are attempting to go along with you, rather than provide an accurate re-telling of events. Does that necessarily mean they’re out-and-out lying? Well, it’s not looking good, let’s put it that way.

6. Reduced Use Of First Person Pronouns

Me, me, me. No, this isn’t the Twitter biography – or, hell, let’s be honest, the actual autobiography – of some of the world’s stars. It’s one of the best ways to check to see if the person you are having a conversation with is actually being straight with you. Studies into lying and the way humans do it have found that, etymologically, there’s one major thing that occurs when humans are trying to pull of a lie: the liar doesn’t us first person pronouns as much.

Basically, they stop saying ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, and ‘mine’ as much when they’re telling a lie. The reason behind this? Psychologists have suggested that humans stop using the first person pronouns when they’re lying in order to try and distance themselves mentally from the lie they’re telling themselves. Human beings tend to try and think of themselves of good people; so rather than deal with the fact that they’re lying, they try to make it about other people, or from a more objective point of view. It does explain why there are so few ‘I totally slept in’ excuses, and tons more ‘the traffic was insane’ ones that you probably run into on a daily basis.

7. Check Their Head Position

Okay, now you’re moving into more expert territory here, but if you can crack these babies, you’ll be a veritable lie detecting machine. One of the best ways to spot someone lying is to check their head position. Seriously, watch their head.

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When someone is lying, they’re much more likely to keep shifting or changing the position of their head, much like when you’re trying to avoid the subject of why you haven’t settled down with that special someone, or why you haven’t called your parents in a month. Lying induces a subconcious feeling of guilt in the vast majority of people, and so they adjust their head more often as an unconscious way of not having to face their guilt head on. Look at how so many people, when lying, don’t even look at their victims in the eye. A lot of power lies in unconscious movements, and the way your face and head react are telltale signs that you’re guilty as charged.

8. Microexpressions

Microexpressions. They’re the stuff of Sherlock Holmes, ‘Lie to Me’, and every pseudo-psychological publication worth their salt. A lot of modern research has been conducted into just what microexpressions are – although the name does give you a massive clue. Microexpressions are the tiny, fraction-of-a-second-long expressions that are, more often than not, done unconsciously . In the grand scheme of things, this can give you a premium, VIP seat into what even the most stoic individual is feeling at any one time.

Examining these microexpressions may seem a little bit too advanced for any basic lie detector in training, but they’ve been proven to be a useful tool in examining what people are really thinking when they let their guard down. Isn’t that worth doing a little bit of hard work and practice in? The best thing? Training in recognizing and analyzing microexpressions is becoming rapidly popular all over the world – and an hour’s worth of good training is probably coming to a city near you.

9. They Cover Their Mouth

One of the most well-known ways of examining someone’s you believe is telling a fib is to examine what they do with their mouth when they’re talking. Yes, alright, aside from talking that is, which, in itself, is important. However, when someone covers their mouth a lot whilst telling you a story, it can be a massive indicator that they’re spinning you a none-too-reliable yarn.

What is it about covering your mouth that means ‘lie’?” Psychologists have suggested that this behavior comes from an unconscious desire to close off information in case it turns out to lead to the lie being found out. Basically, it boils down to the liar wanting to shut down their information channel (i.e. mouth) and trying to avoid the situation altogether, particularly when the person they are lying to insists on bringing up more questions and information that can potentially threaten the integrity of the lie. Next time your partner tells you about their day with half their hand covering their mouth, you can begin a bit of investigation. After all, they might just be trying cover up one heck of a lie.

10. Trust Your Gut

All platitudes aside – this lie detecting technique is one of the most underrated, and yet most innately valuable.

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Trust. Your. Gut.

Okay, so it is a little bit of a cliche, but still, when you’re trying to suss out a lie, sometimes you already know the answer. Your gut instinct isn’t a thinly-veiled euphemism for your spiritual essence or soul; it’s a biological instinct developed through generations and generations of survival. Humans have this instinct in order to understand, analyze, and consider threats to themselves and those they care about. While lying might have evolved somewhat since the days of kill-or-be-killed, it’s still a threat rooted in biology.

When you’re facing off against someone you suspect of lying, listen to that little voice in your head telling you that something is wrong. More often than not, you have a reason, unconscious or otherwise, that you think that someone is lying. You’re much better at reading people and intuitively knowing that something ain’t quite right than you even know. It doesn’t mean you should go in all guns blazing. After all, everyone’s wrong at one time or another.

So, the real question is whether or not you can trust your gut when you’re dealing with a potential liar. It might just be worth trying out sometime – after all, you can’t rely on wooden noses growing all the time.

Featured photo credit: summer, holidays, vacation, happy people concept – smiling girlfriends having fun on the beach via shutterstock.com

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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