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How To Tell When A Person Is Lying


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Last Updated on April 5, 2020 by Corinne Schmitt

As a mom, it’s really helpful if you know how to tell when a person is lying. This skill helps you parent better and can also help safeguard your children.

a person crossing their fingers behind their back with title text reading 4 Ways to tell When A Person Is Lying

When you’re dealing with a liar, it’s almost pointless to have any interaction with them since you can never know for sure if anything they tell you is true.

Trust is really important in my relationships, so I’ve spent a lot of time (for an amateur) studying body language, handwriting, and psychology to help me avoid relationships with people who aren’t trustworthy.

As it turns out, unless someone is a sociopath, it’s very difficult to prevent your body from betraying you if you are lying. That makes it relatively easy to tell when a person is lying.

This is a handy skill when you want to keep your kids on the right path. It also helps protect you from scams. For these reasons, I think all moms should know some basic things about how to tell when a person is lying.

How to Tell When a Person is Lying

I’m going to share with you the most common signs that someone is lying. Please keep in mind that sometimes extenuating circumstances can affect individual’s reactions so while these might be typical behaviors indicating a lie, other explanations might be that the person is distracted or mentally preoccupied with another problem.

In other words, don’t punish someone for lying to you based on the fact that they display the behaviors I’m about to describe. Instead, use them to alert you to people or situations to which you should watch more closely.

Change in Behavior

If you’ve ever watched Judge Judy or a movie or television show where a police officer is interrogating a suspect, you may have noticed that the interrogator typically begins by asking some mundane questions that are seemingly unrelated to the case. They do this to establish a baseline. By asking questions the suspect has no reason to lie about, they develop an understanding of how that person responds to questions truthfully.

Typically a person will change the way they answer questions if they are lying. They may speak faster or slower.  If they are animated when answering truthfully, they may become more reserved or vice versa. Each person is different so that is why it’s important to discover their baseline. After you have a good idea of how they talk and behave when they are telling the truth, watch for behavior changes since that’s a signal they are no longer being truthful. They might change their tone, posture, volume, tempo, timing or pitch.

Verbal Response Cues

When someone is lying, he or she will typically use stalling tactics to buy time to come up with a story. Stalling techniques include repeating the question, asking for you to repeat the question, and pondering the question or the motivation for the question without providing an answer.

Watch for repetition. When someone is telling the truth, he or she will offer more details or change the way in which they are presenting the story if you appear to suspect a lie. In contrast, liars want to avoid accidentally contradicting themselves so they will continue to repeat their story almost verbatim.

Liars typically speak with fewer pronouns, particularly the word “I.”

Liars will often try to avoid lying by using indirect denials (e.g. “I can’t believe you think I ate the last cookie.”)

Listen for pauses in response to questions, especially if you have asked a question the person wasn’t expecting. Very few people (only about 4% of the population) are good enough liars that they can come up with one on the spot.

The rest of us need a moment to fabricate an untruthful response. In contrast, if the person being questioned is expecting the question, his or her response will be almost too quick and thorough since he or she is likely reciting a story practiced many times before you asked.

Body Language

Most people, when being truthful, will lean in towards you and will tend to mirror your body language. Liars are more likely to lean away from the listener and will not engage in typical gesture mirroring.

People often touch their noses, cover their mouths, or cover their throats when they are telling a lie. It’s almost as if we are trying to keep the lie from coming out. Some people will also rub at their eyes or blink longer than usual when lying.

We produce extra adrenaline when we lie because we are stressed. One side effect of adrenaline is increased saliva production. So, frequent swallowing or throat clearing might be an indication that the person is lying.

If you are emotionally close to the person, he or she is more likely to fidget when lying to you.

Watch for incongruence between a person’s words and their body language. For example, if they nod while they are claiming they are saying no, they might be lying.

Also, if your best friend proclaims she just LOVES the gift you gave her but the smile comes late and doesn’t reach her eyes, she’s lying to you to spare your feelings because you gave her a crappy gift. Don’t call her out on the lie, but do use this information to choose a better gift next time!

Tactics You Can Use to Tell if a Person is Lying

Liars feel compelled to fill dead space in a conversation. When you aren’t talking, they aren’t getting any feedback from you as to whether you believe them or not so they will often keep talking to try and elicit a response they can read. So, to catch a liar, stop talking.

If you change subjects suddenly in the middle of a conversation, a liar will typically follow your lead, happy to leave behind the uncomfortable subject about which they were lying. Someone who is telling the truth will be confused and will either try to draw you back to the unfinished conversation or be slow to follow you on to the next topic.

Important Things to Remember

Again, no one behavior on this list can help you know FOR CERTAIN that someone is lying.

If your child tends to exaggerate, rather than tell outright lies, it might be a symptom of low self-esteem.  If your daughter has a cold and is constantly wiping her nose and clearing her throat a lot, please don’t jump to the conclusion that she’s lying about where she was all day.

Instead watch for these signs to help you determine when someone MIGHT be lying so that you know when you should dig deeper or when you should let something go.

29 thoughts on “How To Tell When A Person Is Lying”

  1. I really hate being lied to also. I even stress to my middle school students the importance of telling the truth and being honest with others.

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  2. I hate people who lie! And, thanks for sharing! A body language is very important to pay attention when talking to someone. I’ll remember this.

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  3. I hate being lied to as well and I have a son who does it constantly even for things that we know he’s lying about. Now how do you get a liar to actually stop lying completely?

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  4. I hate being lied too, right now it’s just been all based on instinct on the normal behavior of a person and then the “off” way they suddenly start to act.. it’s just not right

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  5. Great post. I am going to pay attention to this from now on. Especially the gestures. And that’s a great way to put it, that they’re trying to keep the lie from coming out!

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  6. That’s an interesting thing to study. I didn’t know the mundane questions at the beginning of an interrogation were for determining how suspects tell the truth. I bet the classes they take in Criminal Justice are sometimes fun (maybe not always the real work, but the classes, yes). 🙂

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  7. Great post about lying, I think everyone should learn these points including kids (adults have more experience with that) to protect themselves and identify a dangerous situation(if any).

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  8. That’s one thing I can’t stand and that is lying! There are some people that lie so much that I think they believe their own lies half of the time. 🙂

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  9. Great post – I hate being lied to and while I can tell with those close to me it’s always useful to know other little things to look out for. x

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  10. i generally can read people if i think they’re lying, but sometimes people just lie about small things and it just doesn’t make sense

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  11. Grr! I hate being lied too. Thanks for sharing these signals. I am going to watch this because I have someone around I know is lying but just can’t prove it.

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  12. Woah, thanks for sharing these tips! I’m going to need it soon, hmm they touch their throat and nose? I’ll be keeping and eye and I’ll be making sure that I won’t say anything!!

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  13. Good list you have here. I like to think I can generally tell when someone is lying to me, but a few have slipped past me.

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  14. I hate being lied to, but not sure if I am invested enough to watch all those signs. Maybe I am too trusting, but I give people the benefit of the doubt unless and until they prove themselves to be liars.

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  15. These are all great tips. I knew some of them, my other half works in the prison system and they learn all of this. It makes me crazy when someone lies to me. Thanks for sharing this

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  16. I have always been a pretty good judge of character and also a pretty good human lie detector. I agree with your points.

    I hate to be lied to. It is such a betrayal if it is someone close.

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  17. Hmmmm…. I need to watch the body language when people are talking to me. Thanks…. I too hate being lied to.

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  18. Oh yes, you hit a hot button for me as well. My ex was a pathological liar. So aggravating to have someone lie to you, know you know they are lying, and then continue to tell more lies!! I recognize so many of these things.

    Reply

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