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18 Easy Ways to Spot a Liar

SimiAugust 26, 2018

No one likes it when someone lies to them. In fact, it may a flaw in evolution that human beings are able to fabricate lies and distort the truth. Lying is so horrible, it falls into the realm of the unnatural. Why can’t people say what they mean and mean what they say? It helps to know these 18 easy ways to spot a liar.

But what about white lies? People tell white lies to avoid awkward or messy situations, which is understandable. No one wants to fight or make another person cry. However, a sociopathic liar falls into another category. Can you tell when someone lies to you? Keep reading to learn how to tell when someone is being dishonest with you.

1. Observe Their Body Language

People don’t just talk with their mouths. Although the vocalization process is a complex one, people often communicate with their entire bodies. This is abundantly clear when someone is angry because they tend to gesticulate wildly. The actions may not be the same, but people also use their bodies when they lie.

There is no fanfare when it comes to this variety of body language. It is far subtler. When a person lies, the brain immediately interprets it as a falsehood. Some may be tempted to label this reaction conscience, but it is neurological. A lie is unnatural to the brain.

The brain can tell when someone is fabricating a story or deviating from the truth. What’s more is that the brain is afraid of being caught. It is this fear that directly translates to the body. When a person lies they instinctively try to make themselves smaller and less vulnerable. This is evident in hunched shoulders and a general folding in of the body.

A person may also become fidgety mid-lie. This is a result of nervous tension and is evident in the hands or in a rapid shifting of the feet. When trying to conceal their fidgeting and the lie, a person may even try to hide their hands.

2. Look for Voice and Sentence Structure Clues

When you are in a conversation, you are usually quite relaxed. This is not the case when you are telling a lie because a lie is active. Lies requires thought and concentration. Words don’t flow as freely as they do when you’re telling the truth. Instead, you have to plan a lie.

A liar is always fearful of detection, so they overly plan their untruths. You can easily detect this deviation from the natural course of thought if you know what to look for. The first thing to look for is the person’s tone of voice. There is a natural fluctuation of tone in a conversation. Unless a person sounds monotonous, there will be peaks and troughs that are audible.

A person’s tone of voice will suddenly change when they are telling a lie. This may be a drop or an elevation of the pitch, they key is how rapid the change happens. The speed of one’s speech also changes during a lie. There is a natural change in the flow of a sentence depending on the emotion a liar is trying to convey.

As with tone, when lying, the speed of a person’s speech will change quickly. They may start talking faster or slower. The last thing to look for is the complexity of their sentences. Liars tend to deliver information in a more complex fashion than normal speech.

This is because the brain is trying to convince the listener and the liar themselves they are telling the truth. This translates to unnecessarily complicated sentences and wording.

3. Know the Micro-Facial Expressions of a Liar

Most people can lie rather effectively, but they can’t lie to their body. Lie detectors work by first establishing a baseline of physiological factors. The examiner asks the person mundane questions which they already know the answers to. By observing the person’s heart rate and the rate of their electrical impulses, the interrogator learns how that person’s body reacts when they tell the truth.

Then they start asking the difficult questions. The fact remains that the body reacts to a lie. The heart starts racing and electrical impulses speed up. The brain is firing on all cylinders and this results in muscle movement. While body language covered large movements, there are also smaller movements which require finer detection.

These movements often occur on a person’s face. One of the clearest ways to tell someone is lying is by looking at their facial coloration. They may grow slightly pale or even blush a bit. This is not always the case, but if it happens, it is possible the person is lying.

The next observable point is muscle movement. A person may blink quickly or not at all. They might start biting their lips. They may even sweat due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the fight or flight reaction. These physical signs may vary between people, but there will always be some random movement with facial features.

4. They May Talk About Themselves Less

Even the most modest people are driven by ego. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is simply the human condition. Everyone wants others to know and love them. So, they talk about themselves. They tell people about their achievements and loses.

You may have relayed adventures and told stories about the places you’ve been. Most people like to talk about the others they have met and things they have done. Most importantly, when you tell a story, you usually talk about how you were involved in it. You also relay what you saw and did, too.

When a person is lying, this trend tends to shift. The human body reacts to lying. They may find the lie repelling, but they will try to maintain the lie for as long as possible. Call this survival instinct or simply committing to the lie. How does this relate to ego, though?

The brain tries to maintain a lie in multiple ways, like distancing the lying individual from the story. By putting a wedge between the person and the lie, the brain is able to accept the lie better. For example, a person reduces their involvement in the story being conveyed. They will use words like “me” and “I” less.

It may even seem like they weren’t there in the first place. If you are talking to a person who suddenly stops referring to themselves, it is quite possible they are telling a lie.

5. Watch the Mouth and Eyes for Lies

A word people often associate with lying is concealment. A lie is simply a tool to conceal the truth. The motive behind this tool is individual-specific, but the person is trying to conceal something. The brain knows this, and so does the body. Have you ever been talking about a particularly hot day and spontaneously felt hot?

This is an odd characteristic of the brain where it translates what you think and makes it a reality. The same phenomenon appears when a person is lying. When the brain tries to conceal the truth, it may also try to conceal the body. And not the whole body, but the parts delivering the lie.

These parts are the eyes and mouth. First, the reason for covering the mouth is obvious. It is the portal that is emitting the untruth. During a lie, a person may cover their mouth in a feeble attempt to cover-up, literally.

The second thing to undergo concealment is the eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul, after all. A lying person will find it hard to maintain eye contact. They will try to avoid eye contact altogether. Some people will cover their eyes with their hands or even close them. If a person tries to conceal parts of their face, notably their eyes or mouth, chances are they are trying to conceal something else.

6. Liars Give You Quick Answers

Remember, a lie is an active thing. A person does not lie by mistake. They think about the lie. They tinker with it in their head and add embellishments to make it more believable. The truth works in a completely different way. For example, you meet with a friend and ask them how their weekend was. Before they respond they may pause to think.

The average person will think before they speak. They will pull up the sequence of events and ponder on the best way to relay this story. They will highlight interesting bits, while omitting the boring details. All of this will not take more than a few seconds. Once this quiet contemplation has taken place, they will delve into their story.

Now, look at premeditated lies. These are the kind of lies people prepare in advance, they are not made up on the spot. This kind of lie don’t require consideration, so people can deliver them at a moment’s notice. When you question a person who is lying, surprisingly they will not have to think about it. There will be no pause or consideration.

A liar will launch into their story which they have masterfully drawn up. There will be details, places and people. When telling a story such as this, the person will not skip a beat. They will deliver the entire story in all its falseness in one go. They may not even stop to take a breather or allow time for questions.

7. Liars Feed You a Sales Pitch

A person who is telling the truth will not think they are unbelievable. No matter how outrageous the story is, most people will not mistake the truth for a lie. You can deliver a truthful story naturally and without any unnecessary admonitions of honesty. When you tell the truth, you don’t have to convince others of the validity of your story. What’s more, your listeners will not draw attention to the truth.

Others will simply accept it as the truth and receive it in the same manner. Lies detract from themselves, placing glaring, bright signs pointing directly to honesty. The actual words of honesty and truth will pop up. And, they won’t be scattered about the conversation. They will appear in numbers and frequently.

What does this mean in terms of actual sentences? A person who is lying will try to convince you it is the truth. They know that they are being deceitful and live in absolute fear their listeners will discover the same thing. They will say thing like, ‘’I swear I’m telling the truth” or ‘’To be honest.” These phrases are completely useless in normal conversations.

A truthful person doesn’t need to highlight that they are being honest. A person who is lying needs to distinguish between the truth and any potential lies. There are times when a liar goes so far, it feels like you are getting a sales pitch.

8. Liars are Often Vague

This point directly contrasts with premeditated lies. These are the lies that can’t withstand questioning. The liar has not planned, evaluated or subjected them to an error analysis. They are the result of a person concocting nonsense on their feet. Lies such as this are quite easy to detect, especially if the person is under pressure.

Suppose you asked a person a question and they responded with some story or other. Things seem to be going well, but then you ask a follow-up question. Maybe you weren’t clear on some aspect or you want more details of the story. If you already suspect the person is lying, pay careful attention to how they respond.

Do they look flustered? Has the fluency of their speech diminished? And most importantly, are they being vague? It is possible that the person does not know the answer to your question. But, another possibility is that they are deflecting trying to be non-committal.

When a person is being deliberately vague, they are hiding something. The reason they have not produced another lie could be because they can’t think of one. The brain is an incredible thing, but it can also fail under pressure.

Unless a person is an expert liar, there will be times when they won’t be able to keep up the story. They also may be reluctant to pin down any details. This is because if they do, they have no real excuse when you try to pull it apart.

9. Liars Laugh Their Lies Away

A laugh can soothe a broken heart. It can de-stress and boost your overall health. In short, laughing in wonderful. Not even the most stoic person can resist a hearty chuckle that starts in the belly and goes all the way down to the toes. Laughing until you can’t breathe or until you have tears streaming down your face is one of the best feelings in the world.

But laughing can also tell you when a person is lying. Some people have a knack for humor. Apparently, it has something to do with timing, coupled with the ability to read the room and situation. Laughing at something funny is one of the most natural things in the world.

In fact, if something is truly funny and a person doesn’t laugh, it may signify a problem. In the same breath, if someone laughs out of context, it may signal something is afoot. One of the key things a lying person uses is distraction. They will do whatever is necessary to distract a person from the truth. This may even include an uncalled for burst of laughter.

If you have asked a person an innocuous question and they respond by letting out a laugh, you may want to raise an eyebrow or two. Yes, that person may just be weird, but they could also be trying to deceive you. Laughing adds levity to a situation. A person who is lying or who may be about to lie could laugh unexpectedly to lower your defenses. By making light of a situation, a person is more relaxed and therefore less suspicious.

10. Liars Answer a Question with a Question

Evasion, concealment and distraction – these are the tools a person utilizes when they are trying to lie. This modern world is where information is readily available. You probably enjoy being able to keep in contact with others at all hours of the day and from any corner of the globe. But what does this mean for a person telling a lie? It means that they could be caught any second.

The person receiving the lie can often verify some, if not all, of the facts. This is where evasion comes in to play. Instead of committing to details that may dissolve under scrutiny, a person will evade the question altogether. They may try to change the topic or say nothing at all. They could try to answer the question with a question.

By refraining from answering a question and posing another question, liars can accomplish a few things at once. Firstly, they have evaded the truth, if only for the moment. They have not committed themselves to details or another lie. They are for all intents and purposes, still innocent.

Secondly, they have turned the tables. They have taken the spotlight off themselves and have put you in a position where you are now under scrutiny. This not only detracts from the initial lie, but it gives them time to think. They now have the breathing room to produce a mildly convincing argument. Don’t let a person detract by keeping them on topic and getting them to answer the initial question.

11. Liars Like to Overreact

Emotions can be a fickle thing. They can catch you by surprise and completely consume you. There are times when you are probably not sure where your feelings come from. They often just appear, so you must deal with them in all their terrible glory. This is natural.

After all, you are human, and a part of your mind is undeveloped. Humans are capable of intense rage, overwhelming sadness and uncontainable happiness – all at the same time. It is a wonder people function the way they do. And yet, they do function. As you get older, you acquire a greater mastery over emotions and are able to keep them in check.

But only if you want to. Like it or not, outbursts of emotions are quite strange. They are made even odder when they don’t match the situation. People call this an overreaction. This overreaction is present because the person is hiding something.

It may not be as nefarious as an outright lie, but there is more to the story. In the context of lie detection, gauging these overreactions can be quite useful. If you ask a person a question and they respond in an unwarranted way, they may be lying. This wild outburst of emotion could be due to guilt.

Even if you have not directly caught a person in a lie, chances are they are feeling guilty about that lie. The average person has feelings, so they may experience varying amounts of guilt over the lies. This guilt will result in them kicking back emotionally when a person gets close to the lie, or worse, the truth.

12. Liars Act Outright Angry

People don’t view themselves as bad. They don’t believe that they are morally defunct and most of the time they are not. A lie may be harmful, but it doesn’t signify the breakdown of a person’s moral core. One is not evil, bad or damaged if they tell a lie. They may have even convinced themselves the lies they tell are necessary.

Most liars are protecting someone or preventing further damage by dolling out these alternate realities. Added to this is the fact people don’t want others to accuse them of being a liar. Liars don’t want others to think badly of them. They don’t want people to believe they are incapable of telling the truth. Ego and the way that people perceive a person can have a peculiar effect.

Even if you are not outrightly accusing a person of lying, like asking a question, the response is the same. A person that is in danger of being caught in a lie will almost always respond with anger or indignation. They will be astounded that you could accuse them of such a thing, even if you are not actually accusing them. Random bouts of anger to questions should be a warning sign to anyone who is trying to get to the bottom of a story.

This incident of anger not only attempts to deny blame, but it tries to shift blame altogether. If the liar delivers it in the correct way, it can leave the questioner guilty. The questioner feels guilty that they were suspicious and they had the gall to ask the question in the first place.

13. Liars give too much information

Some liars will give you too much information when answering a question. They seem to be so open and innocent because they keep sharing but what they are really trying to do is to deflect your attention away from their answer.  They have often built up a story in their head as an alibi and they will talk unnecessarily and excessively to persuade you it’s true.

If you ask someone “Where were you?” or “Why are you so late?” and they start giving you an intricate and involved rundown,  including broken traffic lights and dogs in the road, they’re likely to be lying. They have probably given much thought into coming up with a story that will convince you.  This is how insurance fraud investigators often know that a claim is fraudulent.

When a mother asks her teenager “Were you really at the library last night?” and he says “Yes, of course I was” and starts giving all kinds of information about who he went with and what they studied, she can pretty sure he was probably at a party instead of at the library. People may even include some rather odd information in their explanations because they believe it will make their story more convincing. In fact, these odd elements will often make you suspicious that someone is not telling the truth.

Liars hate silence and will often try to fill it up. Sometimes the longer someone stays quiet, the more information they offer to support their lies. They may even repeat phrases more than once as they gather their thoughts before coming up with further information. Before long they have woven such an intricate web of lies that it becomes easier to trip them up.

14. Liars can’t help showing signs of wanting to escape

Liars will often unconsciously prepare for escape.  They may angle their bodies towards the door if they are sitting or move closer to the door if they are standing. Look at the direction of their eyes because they may even keep glancing towards the door.  Someone may even lean slightly backwards when standing talking to a person and feeding them lies as they feel the need to create some distance. What they are actually doing is physically and psychologically telegraphing their desire to escape the anxiety they feel.

Liars may also use a handbag, briefcase, a newspaper or some other physical, “protective” barrier between themselves and the person they’re deceiving. They may take a defensive stance, such as crossing their arms or putting their hands in their pockets. Their posture is erect and guarded, rather than relaxed as the body is unconsciously preparing for escape. They do everything they can to shield themselves from the guilt and anxiety they are feeling.

The reaction of fear and guilt is only evident when people are bad liars and find lying unpleasant. Compulsive, experienced liars usually enjoy lying and may not show any signs of anxiety. Those who aren’t adept at lying simply want to get the process over as quickly as possible. They may even try to pull their bodies in to look smaller and less noticeable.

Lying is not an easy thing to do because you have no control over the response of your subconscious mind which automatically sends signals to your body when you are fearful of anxious.  .Someone who is feeling guilty about lying will show great relief if the other person changes the topic and they can start talking about something more pleasant. 

15. Liars fiddle and fidget to diffuse their guilt

Performing random physical acts may be an indication that someone is lying. If a woman keeps pushing her hair behind her ears or playing with her jewelry or a man keeps adjusting his tie or shirt collar, it may be a sign that a lie is being spoken. These actions are performed due to a feeling of guilt which is making them restless.  It’s not just bodily movements to watch for – they will also tend to fiddle with objects to help them disguise the fact that they are experiencing stress

This is often true when someone is not lying to a stranger but to a loved one. They know they are betraying trust and this causes anxiety. A lying husband may start fiddling with his cellphone when he is lying to his wife. A wife may suddenly feel a need to tidy up her surroundings or wash dishes when lying to her husband.

Many body movements are made by liars in an attempt to diffuse their guilt. Touching the face is often evident when covering up for someone or exaggerating. People often don’t know what to do with their hands and feet when being economical with the truth and they might tug at an ear lobe, put a hand to their mouths, rub their eyes, play with their hair, jiggle their legs or shuffle their feet.

Liars will often protect vulnerable spots on their bodies with their hands, such as the spot just above the sternum. Watching the hands of a liar can often be quite revealing – they may clench them or open and close them.  Separate gestures may not mean much but when combined with a number of other signs, they could be used to detect a lie.

16. Liars can’t easily fake emotion

We have all heard someone say they are absolutely fine when their body language indicates the opposite. A person may even answer a question with a “yes” and then make some kind of gesture that contradicts this, such as slightly moving the head to indicate a “no”.

If the timing of the words and the body language is slightly out of sync a person could be lying. Perhaps you give a person a gift and they say “I love it” and they give a smile after making the statement, they may be faking the emotion.

Even when a person appears to be happy and smiling, a momentary expression of sadness will show what they are really feeling. Many facial expressions are possible and catching momentary expressions (microexpressions) may help to uncover the truth in the face of a lie. If you’ve upset someone and they lie and tell you that they are not upset, you may catch a flash of anger that tells you what they’re really feeling.

You can be taught to pick up these momentary expressions and it’s impossible to fake them so they provide one of the closest means we have to read minds. If you’re in a relationship and you pick up a micro expression of contempt, it may signal your partner thinks he is getting away with a lie and that you’re a fool. He feels disrespect for you and it shows up in that half-smiling smirk where only one side of the mouth is raised.

17. Liars have to think too hard

It’s much easier to tell the truth than to tell a lie. If a person seems to be thinking too hard, they may be lying to you.  Deceiving someone takes more mental energy and liars are constantly trying to be as convincing as possible. Research has revealed that having to repeat a story in reverse order is difficult for someone who is lying because it increases the cognitive load.

When people have to expend more mental energy to tell a lie and they then have to repeat it in reverse order, behavioral signs of lying often become more apparent. This method of using reverse order instead of chronological order in interviews is helpful in formal interview situations. Unfortunately, it’s not really possible to use this method in daily life.

This is why it’s important to rely on gut instinct to detect lies in daily life. The reason so many of us fail to detect when we’re told lies is because we don’t rely on our natural instincts. We try to watch for stereotypical signs of lying instead, such as fidgeting and lack of eye contact. We need to trust more that we have the innate ability to distinguish between lies and truth.

This ability can help you to notice whether a person appears to be thinking too hard when it shouldn’t be necessary. If the situation does not warrant it and the wheels seem to be whirring, the person is probably trying very hard to convince you that what they are telling you is the truth.

18. Liars make you feel off balance

Compulsive liars have the ability to distort reality. They may lie with such conviction that you start second-guessing your own sanity. You feel as though the floor is shifting under you as their lies make you question yourself.  This type of manipulation or “gaslighting” takes power away from you and puts it in the hands of the liar.

The whole idea is to keep you unsteady and off balance. You are sure you heard them say they would do something but they deny they ever said it. The more they do this, the more you start questioning your own recollections and start believing theirs. They may say “I never said that. You’re making it up” and you start believing that they may be right.

This process often takes place over time.  A lie here or there, a snide comment every now and then and even the most self-aware, intelligent person can be sucked in. The liar says “What’s wrong with you? You sound so paranoid!” and you are so worn down that you start believing there is something wrong with you.

If you ever get to the end of a conversation and think, “Wait a second, what just happened?” –  you could be dealing with a lying manipulator. You need to look at what they are doing rather than what they are saying because you can’t trust what they are saying.  If you’re constantly trying to defend yourself, they have succeeded in deflecting your attention from their untrustworthy behavior. They will tell you everyone else is lying and make you turn to them for the “correct” information.  The more you are aware of the techniques these manipulators use, the quicker you are able to identify them.

These are the 18 easy ways to spot a liar? Do you recognize them in someone you know?