We’ve all been there.
Questioning whether your friend has actually left the house to meet you on time like they said they would.
Scrutinizing the barista as they insist that they used non-dairy milk.
Wondering whether the dog is actually the culprit behind the missing and apparently digested homework.
People lie for all sorts of reasons, so being able to tell if someone is lying to you is a very important skill. It helps to establish more honest relationships, weed out deceitful individuals, and avoid engaging in potentially harmful situations.
Working out whether or not someone is lying to you can be difficult since, with practice, humans can get pretty good at it. It’s also practically impossible to tell if someone is lying instantly unless you have evidence in hand.
However, the key is in noticing deviation, and through using the following, you’ll be able to establish an almost foolproof answer as to whether someone is being truthful or not.
1) They seem fidgety
A good baseline with which to start lie-detecting is assessing someone’s body language.
Inexperienced liars might show signs of anxiety by playing with their hands or hair, shuffling around, or otherwise showing signs of restlessness as they experience unease.
These are also symptoms of actual anxiety (which lots of us have), so don’t take a little bit of fidgeting as a definitive sign that someone is lying.
2) There’s a change in their eye contact
Using eye contact to deduce lying is a little harder. For years, it was believed that eye contact was the key to lie detection.
Can’t meet your eyes? Then they’re probably lying.
Staring deep into your soul? Also lying.
However, recent studies have shown instead that eye contact is not such a clear indicator of lying unless you’re already well acquainted with the individual and know how much eye contact they typically maintain.
Any deviations from the norm might indicate lying, but this isn’t so easily applicable to strangers.
3) The smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes
You know the saying – Genuine smiles tend to include the eyes creasing and wrinkling.
The attempt of a reassuring smile from a liar might seem emotionless or lacking.
Seeing an individual’s bottom teeth whilst they smile can also be indicative of a fake and forced smile, as one might perform for a picture.
Additionally, pursed lips or a dry mouth can also indicate emotional unease, all of which are forms of microexpressions that can suggest an individual is hiding something.
4) They’re playing Simon Says
A liar might involuntarily cover up their mouth as a subconscious way of blocking out their own dishonesties.
As children, we cover up our ears when we don’t want to hear something. For adults, this can evolve into rubbing at earlobes or earrings during periods of our own insincerity, even if it’s conversely our own words that we don’t want to hear.
The same goes for touching noses. This doesn’t mean that a brief touch of the nose indicates a definite lie, but increased facial touching can be indicative of a liar at play.
5) They start sounding squeaky
Nervousness generally tends to lead to tension in our vocal cords, leading to a higher-pitched voice.
Keep an eye out for someone who sounds extra squeaky or whose voice starts to crack.
A liar might also overcompensate by raising the volume of their voice and getting louder as they defend themselves.
6) There are holes in their story
If you do find yourself listening to a potential lie, get the liar to repeat their story.
Having to repeat a lie a few times, sometimes in reverse chronology, can often lead to a liar slipping up and exposing themselves.
Throw them off by asking some open-ended questions, or questions they might not otherwise have prepared for.
If they say they were at a work event, how did they travel there? If they went to watch a film, what time did the movie start?
7) They’re not saying enough
Caught on the spot, liars might struggle to offer extensive details into whatever they’re trying to inform you.
Their stories will be short and limited, and they’ll be unable to provide extra details into the who, where, what, and when.
There might also be a delay in their responses, and a general unwillingness to dive deep into what they’re telling you.
8) They’re saying too much
On the flip side, liars might rehearse and come with a prepared script.
A short story turns into an elaborate and detailed tale akin to something you’d hear from a bard sitting round a campfire, regaling tales of the past.
They got to the venue at 8:20 pm exactly. The traffic was horrible, and they got stopped at four red lights. The barista was wearing a tattered crew neck jumper. Their feet hurt on the way home.
Their embellished storytelling might also include excessive repetition as the liar tries to buy some time (probably to keep improvising).
9) They overemphasize their trustworthiness
A typically lying tactic is to double down and overemphasize how they could never, ever have done whatever you’re accusing them of.
They might appear wholly aghast at the accusation, with bold statements such as, “I would never”, or “I swear I’m telling the truth”.
Truthful people tend to feel less of the need to defend themselves and convince you of their honesty.
10) They get defensive
Suddenly, you’re the problem. Liars may well try to turn the situation around on you and accuse you of attacking them, even extending to trying to make you feel bad for suggesting they could possibly have been involved in whatever the scenario.
It’s a form of gaslighting, and might sound like, “How could you possibly think that?” or, “Don’t you believe me?”
In a nutshell:
Catching out a liar on the spot is difficult
Many myths of how to tell if someone is lying have risen, only to later be debunked, so it’s not as easy as seeing someone tap their nose or quickly glance away to detect a sure-fire lie.
However, by remaining skeptical, asking questions, and keeping a close eye out for inconsistencies in behaviors or details, you’ll be much more capable of quickly spotting when someone is lying to you.