Identify Lies And Call Them Out: What To Expect

It takes a lot of effort to lie with a straight face, much less a neutral body language and an inconspicuous tone. As such, it isn’t all that difficult to tell when someone is lying most of the time. The trick is to see past the words and pay keener attention to their nonverbal communication.

Are there people who can pass off a lie for a truth even against keen observation? Chances are, yes. Heck, you see well-rehearsed politicans and public speakers do it all the time, especially once they get drilled and trained in acting out earnest body language. They do come few and far between, though, especially when it comes to people in your life. A lot of the time, you’ll be able to catch folks on a fib by simply watching for specific cues.

Is Reading Body Language Accurate?

There’s never any definitive proof that seeing specific body language signals is a 100% sign a person is lying. A person can have all the tells and it’s still possible that he’s telling the truth, with the body language giveaways being caused by other feelings (e.g. guilt, shame or whatever). However, the more of these signals you find, the greater the likelihood that your suspicions are on point.

Eye Contact

When people lie, the first instinct is to avoid eye contact even while speaking to you directly. Most of the time, they’ll either gaze downward (shame) or to their right. More experienced liars, though, have learned to maintain eye contact to attempt to give their stories more weight. In these cases, watch out for when they suddenly break eye contact, seeming to involuntarily dart their eyes away: that will usually happen at the exact point when they start the tall tale (or the small fib, whichever the case might be).

Look at the Face

Some people’s faces change from their usual expressions when they’re lying, making it an easy tell. In particular, look for signs of discomfort that aren’t common when you talk with them most of the time. Specific things to look out for include unusually frequent blinking (or squinting), pressed lips, tightening between the eyes, dry mouth (and its accompanying behavior, such as lip-picking, frequent swallowing and continuous drinking), and sudden flushing in the cheeks. When their face looks like the way you’d imagine when they’re pushing one out in the bathroom, they’re probably lying and finding it hard to spit out their own implausible story. And, yes, a lie stinks just as bad.

Watch for Fidgety Movements

Lying always causes some amount of mental discomfort on the person carrying it out. This will often lead to nervousness that’s then acted out in the form of fidgeting, either in the hands or feet (or both). Watch out for when they relentlessly play with their hair, touch parts of their faces, adjust clothing, tap their fingers against a surface, and other fidgety motions.

Hiding the Lie

When someone’s embarassed about their lying, it’s usually visible by how they cover parts of their face. Often, this comes out as someone covering their mouth when they speak or blocking some other facial area. Sure, they can just be shy. If they don’t usually act this way, though, they’re probably spinning something that isn’t real.

Excessive Gesturing

This one’s tricky because a lot of people are naturally exaggerated with their gestures, especially those prone to bragging and being the center of attention. I know a lot of people who have worked to add excessive gestures into their personalities, too, as a way of being more animated when conversing with people. The important thing to look out for is when the exaggerated gestures don’t seem in sync with what’s being said and how it’s being said. Incongruity is usually a result of things not lining up somewhere — either what’s being said is a lie or the person is just insecure under the circumstances.

The Shoulder Shrug

One common gesture liars do in the thick of a story is to shrug their shoulders (sometimes, several times; sometimes, just one shrug that’s held too long). Often, this is a subconscious act on the part of the person to appear more relaxed when, in reality, it makes them look very defensive.

Verbal Clues

Watch out for the voice to rise at the end of a statement, similar to the way voice would usually rise when you’re asking a question. This is a sign of the person seeking approval and reassurance (i.e. that you’re buying their story) — something people do when telling lies.

Also, many people speak in a slightly higher pitch when lying. Why? Because their muscles contract (as a result of nervousness), including the voice musicles. It’s also the same reason why liars will frequently cough or need to clear their throat — breathing gets strained from all the muscles tightening.

Look at their speaking speed, as well. Those who aren’t well-versed telling tall tales often try to get the lie over with quickly by speaking at a faster pace than usual, the same way you’d try to rush out of the bookstore when paying for a book you’re embarassed about buying.

During conversations, it’s natural for you to ask questions about the other person’s story. Do they give vague responses or indirect answers? Yep, that’s very suspicious. Dodging or changing the subject after they spun the tale? Same thing.

What to Expect

When I suspect a person is lying, I do one of two things: if the lie doesn’t affect me, I just nod and pretend to agree; if it does, I call them out on it. Confronting someone about their lies will often send them on the defensive, so expect appropriate responses.

The first instinct is usually to defend the lie, no matter how pitiful the reasoning may be. In contrast, people who are telling the truth will try to clear the matter, offering evidence or citing other people who can vouch for their story.

When a liar finds himself cornered (i.e. the defense just doesn’t work), expect them to clam up and retreat into a shell, pretending to be angry or upset. This allows them to take a break from the lie, while having the time to gather their thoughts and look to come up with alternative stories.