Imagine yourself in the interrogation room of a police station.
As the interrogator, of course!
The polygraph is broken due to unforeseen circumstances. And maybe so is the logic in this story.
But you’ve been called to determine if the suspect in question is telling the truth. Armed with nothing but your wits and knowledge, you have 20 minutes to prepare yourself.
At this critical moment, you come across this article. And from this point forward, the rest will become history.
Here to help you save the day are 8 body language signs you’re in a conversation with a liar.
1) Eye contact avoidance
One of the well-known body language signs that someone is lying is a lack of eye contact.
But liars don’t always avoid eye contact or get fidgety. Especially if they know that’s a dead giveaway, they can train themselves to feign confidence.
So in many ways, this is an easy way to tell if someone’s a bad liar.
In addition, eye contact may be difficult for some people who are neurodivergent! Or in some cultures, eye contact is a sign of respect.
What you want to look for in conjunction is inconsistency.
For example, are they nodding “yes” when they say “no?” Or is there eye contact suddenly sporadic all of a sudden?
Perhaps to hide their pupil dilation?
2) Pupil dilation
Speaking of eyes, when people lie, there is an increase in stress or anxiety.
And this can affect their autonomic nervous system, including their pupil size.
Not only that, but lying requires more mental effort because the liar in question must remember to maintain their false narrative while monitoring the audience’s reactions.
I once met a girl who could increase her pupil size at will, but it’s safe to say that this isn’t a common skill. I also don’t know if she was being serious.
Meaning, most people don’t have conscious control over it.
The physiological burden is a subconscious one – their stage presence will be greatly compromised.
And with that, comes an increased heart rate.
3) Increase in heart rate
I know, this one’s hard to notice unless you have a stethoscope or an actual polygraph.
But there are other physical signs a person’s heart rate is increasing.
For example, nervousness can contribute to a person’s anxiety levels. And they might start sweating or even shaking.
Their voice may also change to reflect this. Some people might start talking at a higher pitch than usual.
And with a combination of all of the above, comes with hyperventilating. Or in the least, their breathing patterns might change all of a sudden.
So as the interrogator, you just keep your cool in your determination of the truth. Then watch your interrogee try to compose themselves when they realize you’re not budging.
4) Excessive grooming
Another sign of nervousness is excessive grooming.
They might start fixing their hair, clothes or picking at their nails in an effort to self-soothe. A subconscious way to control their appearance to deal with their discomfort.
Of course, a person might feel anxious for other reasons not related to deception. I myself have a habit of touching my hair no matter the context.
They might be hiding something, but it might not directly mean they’re lying about the subject in question.
Trust your gut – instead of trying to find out if they’re lying, get curious about what they might be lying about by noticing the intensity of their unconscious reactions.
5) Verbal inconsistencies
This might sound obvious, because what is lying if not verbal inconsistencies?
But there’s a trick to noticing these by outsmarting the suspect in question.
Start by paying attention to details in their story. Inconsistencies show themselves in conflicting timelines and events.
Ask open-ended questions, then ask for clarification (politely) to see if they can maintain their coherence. Vagueness is the truth’s worst enemy.
Details also include evasion tactics. Are they deflecting, avoiding or changing the subject?
Are their emotional responses inappropriate or forced when it comes to certain topics?
Listen for overemphasis. These are points in a liar’s stories where they try to oversell their “truth” by being overly specific.
Compare statements and question them on these until you get a general idea of a person’s intentions of why they’re saying what they say.
6) Forced facial expressions
Liars usually have a story they want to prove, but their weaknesses can be identified when the listener’s reactions aren’t aligning with their expectations.
In an effort to regain control over their influence and narrative, they might try to force certain emotional reactions using their facial muscles.
Watch out for exaggerated emotions that are incongruent with the content of their story.
For example, being theatrically sad when discussing a sad event. Or smiling in an attempt to look relaxed and create a facade of trustworthiness.
Almost as if they are badly written fanfiction characters.
Again, watch how they respond to your reactions. If they intensify their efforts through forced facial expressions, that should at least shine a light on their motives.
7) Closed off posture
We’ve talked about signs that contribute to a narrative of potential deception.
But sometimes, an absence of action can speak volumes.
When someone resorts to a closed-off posture, they are withholding their openness. As if they are hiding something.
We already talked about a lack of eye contact. But similarly, this can include crossed arms, hunched shoulders and evening leaning backwards.
These all create physical distance, but it also puts an emotional wall between them and the interrogator.
It can make it harder to read a person when they aren’t giving anything, but it does indicate that there is some truth in their minds that they’re protecting.
8) Minimal hand movements
Similar to a closed off posture, this is an indication that a person is attempting to deceive via omission.
In social settings beyond the interrogation room, a person might limit their hand movements in an attempt to blend in.
Think of it as trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves because a lie can’t be caught if the truth isn’t targeted.
This is also a way for people to have control over their non-verbal cues if they know that their nervousness and bodily reactions are subconscious.
Minimal hand movements can also be a way to manage their anxiety and stay calm.
The difference between someone who is innocent and who is lying ultimately lies in careful observation of their entire behavioral spectrum.
So make sure you remain vigilant and create a sense of discernment that takes everything we take into consideration.
There are certain situations where a person has no other choice than to lie for their safety
Therefore it’s important to get to the bottom of why someone might be lying as well to gain a nuanced truth of a situation.
But for all other circumstances, is it really worth looking like a goof trying to save your ass from the truth?
When we got the best detective – that’s you – on the scene?
Jokes aside, maintaining honesty and integrity isn’t just about the truth. It’s also about preserving your peace of mind and emotional well-being for everyone involved.
So always tell the truth – if not for truth’s sake, then for your nervous system.