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These 7 Ways Can Help You Recognize a Liar

These 7 Ways Can Help You Recognize a Liar

There are two types of signs that occur when a person is lying. There are the blatantly obvious or conscious signs, and there are the hidden, unconscious signs that are far more subtle. Whether the sign is obvious or not, the best way to recognize a liar is to use your mental skills.

Mental skills are derived from the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious mind. If you don’t have strongly developed mental skills, sometimes the signs that someone is lying fly right over your head. The good news is that they’re easy to develop and they seldom fail as long as you’re really tuned into them.

Research by Dr. Leanne ten Brinke, a forensic psychologist at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, supports the fact that our instincts for detecting liars can be fairly strong. However, the racing thoughts of our conscious minds sometimes cloud these instincts.

“A man when moderately angry, or even when enraged, may command the movements of his body, but … those muscles of the face which are least obedient to the will, will sometimes alone betray a slight and passing emotion.” — Charles Darwin

It’s safe to assume that what Charles Darwin was referring to are subtle, unconscious signs. The best way to begin recognizing these types of signs is through mental skills. If you’re not sure whether or not you use your mental skills, this may help clear it up. Think about a decision or task you’ve made in the past. Was there a time that you weren’t sure you were making the right one? Were you second guessing yourself? This is because your conscious decision, or action wasn’t in correlation with your unconscious, or subconscious thoughts — your ‘gut instincts.’  You only used your conscious thoughts to make the decision. In order to best recognize a liar, you have to listen to your unconscious thoughts as well. A great guide to knowing whether you’ve used your mental skills is when your head and your heart are balanced after making a decision.

With every sign the experts have out there for detecting lies, there are always exceptions. The best ways to recognize a liar are by watching their unconscious body language and honing your mental skills. As you observe body language, facial expressions and voice intonations, also pay attention to what your mind is saying. Listen carefully. There are your conscious thoughts: these are the loudest and the most immediate that come up. Everyone is aware of their conscious thoughts. But listen to your subconscious as well. What is it saying? These are the thoughts that crop up, sometimes only for a millisecond. It’s that flash you get that suggests a person is lying, or that something isn’t right, or that they’re leaving part of the story out.

Use the following clues, and combine them with your mental skills to better enable yourself to recognize a liar.

1. Eye contact: Either none or way too much.

The most obvious sign is when there is little to no eye contact. But you also have to look for forced, or purposeful staring, with infrequent blinking. Professional liars use deliberate, unbroken eye contact as a subtle intimidation tactic. They’re also going to feed off of the verbal and nonverbal cues from you.

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The truth teller is likely going to fall in between the extremes. Use your mental skills as a radar. Pay attention to not only your conscious thoughts, but your subconscious ones as well. This is where your expertise in detecting deception resides.

2. Sudden head movements.

Dr. Lillian Glass, in her book The Body Language of Liars, discusses head movements. When you ask a question and the person’s head jerks back, or glances away and then back at you suddenly, tilts to one side or looks down before answering, Glass suggests these are unconscious signs of deception. The mouth can lie. The body, however, cannot.

3. Fidgety versus very still.

Our nervous system has a natural defense mechanism sometimes referred to as ‘the fight or flight system.’ Lying promotes stress and anxiety, so naturally, the fight or flight reaction will take place. Liars use both. Some examples of using the ‘fight’ mechanism are when they become highly offended at your questions, intentionally stare you down, or, if standing, freeze themselves in a very stiff, intimidating stance.

Some examples of a liar whose ‘flight’ mechanism has kicked in are when they’re restless and can’t be still, they’re touching their face, mouth, ears, head and other body parts, when they continually say they have to go, and when their feet continuously shift, even while sitting.

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4. Nervous Nellie.

It’s natural for anyone who is being questioned to be a little nervous. A ‘Nervous Nellie,’ however, cannot be still. This is the person who will turn their body away from whomever they’re speaking with, have their arms crossed, or unconsciously blink more than they usually do. They either don’t smile at all or display half smiles that aren’t their usual smile. Another unconscious action is when they touch their face, rub their eyes, itch or fiddle with random objects just as a question is asked. These objects may include keys, a pen, earrings, etc.

5. Stalling tactics.

The obvious stalling tactic is when the liar changes the subject, usually with a compliment or a question. The less obvious is responding to a question by saying, “Where did you hear that?” This gives the liar a few extra seconds to fabricate his or her answer.

They can also get very squeamish during extended periods of silence.

6. Offense versus defense.

The obvious liar embellishes on explicit details regarding unimportant information. The not-so-obvious liar makes statements such as, “I did not …” instead of using the contraction didn’t. They may also make statements such as, “Well he did/said this, so I … but I did not …” Anything done or said to deflect blame or attention off of them, or any anger are always red flags. A truth teller will assume more of an offensive position. This means they’ll be cooperative and do everything they can to provide the information in a natural, relaxed disposition that isn’t aggressive, or leaning toward defensive.

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7. A story that changes.

Liars tend to either forget what they said or the order of events when they’re making the story up. Therefore, if you ask similar questions that mean the same thing and get conflicting sequences, this is a strong sign of deception.

Even lie detector machines aren’t considered 100% accurate. This is probably why they don’t hold up in any court of law. In a study that was performed in 2004, the results indicated that a liar is detected a mere 53% of the time. Experts on lie detection continue to explore technology that increases this percentage. Chances are, they will succeed. However, until then, the fastest, and most reliable way to recognize a liar is by combining the use of your mental skills with the aforementioned signs. This article by The New York Times is an excellent way to practice detecting the liar. So put your God-given mental skills to good use and become much more able to recognize a liar!

Click here for more information on detecting a liar.

Featured photo credit: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/uJCyZh8ApyP/Lindsay+Lohan+Mugshot+Collection/6fmm_Im2xuP/Lindsay+Lohan via publicdomainpictures.net

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Lynn Silva

Lynn Silva helps solo and entrepreneurs develop mental skills for business.

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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