We hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies a day. With all of that lying going on, how can we decipher what’s true and what isn’t? Here are ten telltale signs that someone is lying to you.
10. Shifty Eyes
As the saying goes: “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” With that said, you can study them to spot a liar. Telltale signs including rapid blinking, darting eyes, and looking in the “wrong” direction. Let us explain.
According to Mark Bouton, an FBI agent and author of How to Spot Lies Like the FBI, we blink more when we’re lying. Our eyes will also dart back and forth. This is a physiological reaction to feelings of discomfort when we’re asked questions we don’t want to answer. “It’s a throwback to when people had to seek an escape route when they feared they were in a dangerous situation, such as facing a human or animal adversary,” he told Business Insider.
The direction in which a person looks can also reveal whether or not they’re telling the truth, Bouton said. If you ask a right-handed person to recall something they saw and they look up and to the left, they’re accessing their memory, which means they’re telling the truth. If, however, they look up and to the right, they’re accessing their imagination, which means they’re lying. The same goes for sounds, smells, and sensations. If they’re telling the truth, they’ll look toward their left ear when recalling a specific sound, and they’ll look down and to the left to recall a specific smell or sensation. NOTE: Left-handed individuals will have the opposite reactions.
When a person is lying they may exhibit nervous behavior, like grooming themselves or whatever is nearby. For example, they might adjust their glasses or necktie, straighten their skirt, move their hair behind their ear, or wipe sweat from their forehead when responding to a question. They might even tidy up their surroundings.
Touching the face is another sign. Touching the face has a calming effect when the brain is under stress, Roger Strecker, Sr., a trained behavioral analysis interviewer/interrogator, told NBC News. You should also take notice of fidgety hands and feet, he added.
Other cues include lip licking or biting, ear pulling, rapid breathing, and swallowing or clearing the throat before answering a question.
This one is the most obvious. If a person is lying, they’re going to contradict themselves. However, Pamela Meyer, author of the book Liespotting, warns that this is the least reliable sign that someone is lying. That’s because there could be other reasons why their story changed, she told Inc. magazine. “In fact, most truthful people, when they’re asked to retell a story several times, will remember additional details each time–which means the stories they tell will change. One theory for this is that when you think you remember a past event, you’re actually remembering the last time you remembered it,” she said.
This one is similar to being inconsistent. But, rather than contradicting themselves (i.e. adding new details to the story), the person simply can’t remember the story–or, at least parts of it, anyway.
Here’s a neat little trick to try if you think someone’s lying to you: Ask them to tell you the story backward rather than forward in time. “For truthful people, this makes recall easier. Liars often simplify the story to avoid contradicting themselves,” former FBI counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy told Inc.
6. A Fake Smile and a Dry Mouth
If someone flashes a fake smile, it’s highly likely they’re being deceptive, says Dr. Wendy L. Patrick, behavioral expert and author of Red Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Ruthless People. But, it’s not just the mouth you have to watch. It’s their whole expression. “A truthful person smiles with their entire face, like the famous Mona Lisa. Crow’s feet indicate honesty,” Patrick told NBC News.
Dry mouth is another indicator of dishonesty. “A person’s mouth will often go dry as she’s lying. She may do a sucking motion, pursing her lips, to try to overcome this,” Bouton told Business Insider.
DID YOU KNOW?
People will often hide their mouth when being untruthful. If someone puts their hand in front of their mouth while responding to your question, it’s quite possible that they’re not telling you the truth, former CIA officers told Parade magazine.
If someone suddenly doesn’t want to talk about something or quickly tries to change the subject, they could be lying. For example, when Rep. Anthony Weiner denied sending lewd photos of himself to a female college student on Twitter, he switched topics and began talking about voting on the debt limit, a Forbes article said. At one point he even used a “limiting statement, when he replied to one of the queries, ‘I think I’ve been pretty responsive to you in the past,’ limiting his answer with ‘I think’ and ‘pretty’,” the article also said.
4. Head Nodding
Don’t just pay attention to whether or not they’re nodding their head, but pay attention to the direction in which they are nodding. When people are telling the truth, their head movement usually matches what they’re saying. For example, if they nod side-to-side while saying “No” or nod up and down while saying “Yes,” they’re likely telling the truth. If, however, their nod disagrees with what they’re saying–e.g. nodding side-to-side while saying “Yes”–they’re most likely lying.
NOTE: It’s important to keep in mind that in some cultures, nodding up and down doesn’t mean “yes,” and nodding side-to-side doesn’t mean “no,” the former CIA officers said in the Parade article.
3. Unnecessary Wordiness
Excessive use of superlatives can be a dead giveaway that someone is twisting the truth. “People who insist on peppering their speech with them might be trying to bolster their argument or distract you,” an Inc. magazine article said. By superlatives, we mean words that indicate the highest degree of something. These words are adjectives or adverbs and often end in -est or -ly.
Here are some words and phrases to listen for (depending on the context, of course):
Hold up. Wait a minute. What if you’re communicating with them on the phone? How can you tell if they’re lying? We’re glad you asked. Keep reading!
2. Different Phone Persona
People are often creatures of habit. If they change up–even in a text message–it could be that they’re hiding something. Here’s an example: You have a girlfriend who usually texts back fast. You send her a text asking her to be honest about where she went the other night. But, instead of the usual fast response, she takes forever to get back to you. Another way to tell that she’s not being honest with you is if she responds in a tone of voice that’s different from hers. For example, she uses fewer words or emojis than she normally does. Also, beware if she’s being extra nice or uses a ton of exclamation points. Lastly, if you see speech bubbles appear and disappear, that is, she’s doing a lot of typing and erasing, it could be that she’s trying to craft the perfect response… or should we say lie.
The same lie-detecting methods you use when speaking to someone face-to-face can be applied when conversing with them on the telephone. For example, if they take a long time to answer your question, use words like “umm” or “well” before answering you, or if they avoid answering a direct “yes” or “no” question, they could be lying.
Something else to listen for is a lot of throat clearing. As we mentioned before, it’s a sign of anxiety. According to Psychology Today, “liars sometimes clear their throats, in a fight-or-flight response to the stress of maintaining a lie—the moisture usually present in the throat has been rerouted to the skin.”
The next time you suspect someone is being untruthful, just follow the tips on this list. Good luck, and thanks for reading!