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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 October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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