Everyone lies from time to time. Whether they're little lies to spare feelings or full-on whoppers, it's hard to avoid them entirely. And since you know that pretty much everyone tells a lie, leaves information out of the discussion, or stretches the truth at least every once in a while, you might be interested in knowing about some of the little signs someone is lying to you so that you can pick up on the lies and recognize when you're being lied to. You don't want to be unknowingly lied to and manipulated, right? Though, I suppose, you'd probably just rather not be lied to at all for the most part.
Still, knowing when someone might not be telling you the truth or giving you the whole story is a useful skill to have. It helps you bypass the BS and get to what's really going on. If you can't tell when someone might be lying to you, you might just accept what they're saying as true, without even thinking to ask more questions that could ultimately expose their lie. If you pay attention to what they're saying, how they're saying it, their body language, and the energy they're giving off, you might be able to suss out whether or not someone is lying to you with plenty of time left to still call them out on it.
If they repeat the questions you ask them back to you before responding, they might be looking for a way to buy some time, as Pamela Meyer, a deception expert and author, told Thrillist. In the little bit of time it takes for them to parrot the question back to you, they're trying to come up with a passable response that — hopefully — won't invite more questions.
Of course, completely changing a story from one telling to the next is an obvious sign that someone might not be telling you the truth about what happened, but even tiny, subtle changes can indicate a lie. J.J. Newberry, a former federal agent and police officer, told WebMD that inconsistencies in stories, like saying that they did something that logically wouldn't have been done, is a way to know that they're lying, as well.
People who are lying want you to believe what they're saying and don't want you to get suspicious, so sometimes they tend to overdo it on the details. "People will give you more details than what is necessary because they have fabricated an intense lie and they need to tell you all the details of the lie because they've memorized the whole story," Casherie Bright, ACMHC, a mental health counselor, tells Romper by email. "Sometimes if you come back and clarify or ask advanced questions, they get tripped up."
Bright says that saying too little is also a sign that they might be lying to you. In this case, "[s]omeone gives you [very little] information, very briefly answers questions, and seems disinterested or disconnected from you," she says. They don't want to get caught telling falsehoods, but they don't have the details.
In an interview with NBC News' Better, Roger Strecker, Sr., a trained behavioral analysis interviewer/interrogator and the CEO of Ternion Risk Mitigation Group, said that blinking faster or slower than normal could be a sign that someone is lying, as can other eye changes.
Changes in eye contact are also important to note. "Many times people won't look you directly in their eye when they're lying," Bright says. "Or they will look you in the eye as like a staring and power play and then when you meet their gaze they dart their eyes away from you."
Sure, a fake smile might be a giveaway that something's not right, but did you know that it could be a sign that someone is lying? And do you know how to spot one? In an interview with Business Insider, Mark Bouton, a long-time FBI agent and the author of How to Spot Lies Like the FBI, said that when people truly smile, the skin around their eyes wrinkle, but when the smile is fake, that skin probably won't be as affected.
In an interview with Prevention, Dr. Maria Hartwig, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that it can sometimes be difficult for people who are lying to answer questions — especially super-specific questions — about their lie. If you're asking for more details and they can't seem to remember the decor of the restaurant they claimed to eat at or where in the mall the store is that they said they were shopping at, it might be a sign that they're not telling you the truth.
If you ask someone a question and they immediately get defensive and worked up, it might be because they're lying, Dr. Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist, told Glamour. It's not a good sign.
Interestingly enough, if you're talking to someone and it seems like their voice is a higher pitch than usual, it could be that they're lying. In an interview with Reader's Digest Canada, Mary Ann Campbell, director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Brunswick, said that a person's voice is often higher when they're lying than when they're not. Good to know.
Not using "I" statements is one way to make it seem as though it's not you, you're not the one lying. It's about this other person, not you.
"In my research, I’ve discovered that when people fib about themselves, they tend to use "I" and "me" less often than people who are being truthful. Instead, they’ll speak about themselves in the third person," Jeffrey Hancock, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University told Real Simple.
In a piece that he wrote for Yahoo News UK, Rob Waugh wrote that Philip Houston, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero, former CIA officers and the authors of Spy the Lie, noted in their book that unnecessary pauses or hesitations can be a sign you're being lied to. It's another way that they can stall a bit and figure out what to say next.
Someone clearing their throat is response to the fight or flight stress that comes with lying, as Dr. Jack R. Schafer, Ph.D., a behavioral analyst for the FBI and author of The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, wrote in a post for Psychology Today. Sometimes clearing your throat is necessary, other times it can be a giveaway that you're not telling the truth.
When you're having a conversation with someone, it might not be all that unusual to incorporate emotional words like "angry" into the discussion where they'd naturally fit. When you're lying, however, it's less likely that you'll use emotional words, Dr. Diana Raab, MFA, Ph.D., an author and speaker, wrote in a piece for Psychology Today. It might be that they're not feeling those things because the situation is false. It's a lie.
Some people just naturally twirl their hair, so, like everything else on this list, it alone does not mean that someone is lying to you, but a study conducted by UCLA researchers and published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry found that "grooming behaviors such as playing with hair or pressing fingers to lips" could be a sign of deception, VeryWell Mind reported.
Don't always fall hook, line, and sinker for a charming personality. It can go along with lying and deception. In an interview with Thrillist for the aforementioned article, Charles Radinger, a former robbery and homicide detective and SWAT specialist, said that, in some people, the charm is used to pull you in and get you to trust them, which can make it harder to tell when they're lying.
Janine Driver, a former federal law enforcement investigator and lie detector expert, told Oprah that unless the person lying to you is well-versed in body language, if they're facing the door, they're trying to get away from the conversation. There's probably a reason for that and it could be that they lied to you and don't want to get caught.
In a piece that he wrote for Inc. in which he compiled information from deception experts, Bill Murphy, Jr., executive editor of operations at Some Spider and founder of ProGhostwriters.com, wrote that the use of lots of unnecessary superlatives where they don't belong can indicate lying. If everything is suddenly "awesome," "genius," "exceptional," or "brilliant," something might be up.
Fidgeting, touching their face, pulling at a necklace, and more can all be nervous behaviors that could potentially mean someone is lying, Raab wrote in her previously-mentioned piece for Psychology Today. That nervous energy has to go somewhere.
In an interview with Prevention for the previously-mentioned article, Dr. David Matsumoto, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, said that, usually, when people are being truthful, what they're saying and feeling tend to match. If they're saying something happy, but look miserable, it might not be true.
In an interview with Reader's Digest Canada for the aforementioned article, David Skillicorn, a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said that when people are lying in emails or cover letters, or on resumes, they tend to use more negative words like "ashamed." Maybe it's because they're ashamed of the lie they told.
If their story sounds rehearsed, it might be because they're fibbing about it. Julia Chung, an assistant principal, told Real Simple in the previously-mentioned article that the kids that come into her office sounding rehearsed and with an answer for everything are oftentimes lying.
Watch carefully how they act after they say something that you know is true. If their behavior changes, it could indicate that they're lying. "It’s really about how to observe very carefully," Meyer told Yahoo News UK in the aforementioned article. If you know how they normally respond to things, it can be easier to determine if they've changed.
Another sign of lying? Not speaking in full sentences. VeryWell Mind reported in the aforementioned article that UCLA researchers also found this to be a possible sign of deception.
Like clearing your throat, this is also linked to your body's fight or flight response. In his previously-mentioned post from Psychology Today, Schafer wrote that moving your jaw back and forth can stimulate salivary gland production, which you need if your throat went dry while you were lying.
In an interview for the previously-mentioned Thrillist article, Steve Albrecht, a veteran police officer and author, said that answering a question with another question is a red flag that they might be lying. They're trying to shift the focus of the conversation.
Are they saying things like, "as far as I know?" That could be a sign that they're lying, as Meyer told Thrillist in the aforementioned article. They're qualifying their denials and making them more specific — because that's all they can do.
Changing the subject is easy for people who are lying to want to do because it takes the heat off of them. If you're talking about something else, you can't focus as much on the lie just told you and there's less of a chance that you'll immediately figure it out.
If they have to vigorously defend the fact that they're telling you the truth, it might actually be because they're not telling you the truth. In an interview with Real Simple, Joseph Buckley, the president of John E. Reid and Associates, said that people who are lying use statements like "as God as my witness" to try to convince you that they're being honest, but if they actually were they wouldn't have to try so hard.
In his aforementioned piece for Psychology Today, Schafer wrote that moving or leaning backwards is a sort of cue that you're uncomfortable with or don't like the lie you're telling. It might be making you nervous or anxious or you might just otherwise feel a little upset. If someone is leaning away from you, you might want to think more critically about what they're saying.
In a different article, Business Insider reported that Dr. Lillian Glass, a behavioral analyst and body language expert, wrote in her book, The Body Language of Liars, that if someone is lying to you, you might notice that they start to breathe more heavily. If it's a change from how they were breathing before, take note.
In an interview for a different article, Dr. Daniel Levitin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University and an author, told Oprah that an emotional reaction to little questions can mean that someone might be lying. They don't want to be found out and if you're asking questions, you could figure out what's going on.
While fidgeting can sometimes indicate that someone is lying to you, the opposite is also true. In the aforementioned article, Business Insider reported that Glass also wrote that since some unconscious movement during conversations comes naturally, if the person you're talking to is eerily still, it could be a sign that they're not telling you the truth.
Glass also told Business Insider in the previously-mentioned article that repeating words or phrases could be a stalling tactic or it could also be a sign that they're still trying to convince themselves that the lie they're telling is actually the truth.
Microexpressions, which just flash ever-so-briefly across a person's face, can be hard to spot, but if you do see them, it might mean that the person you're talking to is trying to deceive you. Paul Ekman, an expert in lie detection, told WebMD in the aforementioned article that most people can't see them, but that you can learn how to see them better. If you learn how to see them, you might be better at spotting a lie as well.
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