How to Tell If Someone Is Lying (Other Than the Long Nose)


When we interact as humans, there's an implicit assumption that the other person is dealing with you in good faith. This is why liars are such insidious creatures; they prey upon the natural trust that must exist between people in a civilized society. However, you don't have to be at the mercy of the liar. There are a number of ways you can tell if someone is lying to you. If your natural suspicions are aroused, just look for these signs, and you'll become a human lie detector… or close enough. (See also: 16 Ways to Improve Your Body Language)

1. Deviation From the Norm

One of the most immediate signs that you're being lied to is that the person speaks or acts in a way that's different from how they normally do. Establish a baseline for everyone. See what they act and talk like naturally. Deviations from this norm might not mean lying, but then again, they might. Asking simple questions that you already know the answer to allows you to get some kind of comparison there in the moment. (See also: Why Cultivating Relationships Is Good for You)

2. Immediate Answers

Try this out: ask a person what they had for breakfast last Tuesday. Chances are better than good that they have no idea off the top of their head and that they have to think about it a bit before they can answer you. Compare with the liar who knows exactly what he had for breakfast last Tuesday, along with a bunch of other details that an honest person probably wouldn't volunteer.

3. No Personal Pronouns

From the "strange, but true" files: people who are lying tend to use personal pronouns less than people who are telling the truth. Rather than saying "I" or "me," liars refer to themselves in the third person or cut off sentences to omit themselves as the subject.

4. Body Language Doesn't Match Verbal Language

Here's one you've probably never thought of. Liars often nod "yes" while saying "no" and vice versa. It's one of the most common tells that people aren't aware of. Note that you're looking for a pattern of behavior here. A sharp head nod with a "no" doesn't mean anything, but if the person keeps doing it, they might be lying to you.

5. More Stories Than Daytime TV

One thing that a liar rarely ever does is answer "I don't know" or "I'm not sure." Instead, they've got an answer for anything that you might throw at them. Not knowing the answer to a question is normal and natural. Knowing the answer to just about everything is not. (See also: How to Always Have Something Interesting to Say)

6. Covering the Face

Your face can give away a lie. This is something that everyone, especially liars, knows instinctively. If a person keeps covering their eyes or mouth when they're talking to you, they might be trying to hide something — namely, the truth.

7. Fidgeting...

OK, so maybe you just asked a question that's uncomfortable on its own. However, fidgeting and physically fussing around is a sign that a person might be being less than truthful with you. Things like playing around with facial hair, adjusting clothes, or cleaning glasses can be clear signs that a person isn't telling you the truth if they're done in excess. (See also: Body Language Mistakes That Sabotage Interviews)

8. ...Or Lack Thereof

Here's something we bet that you never knew that liars did: they make fewer gestures than other people. In fact, if a person is holding their hands still, it might be because they're affecting a character, rather than just being themselves. Again, it's important to get a baseline to see what normal behavior is, then compare what you're seeing to that.

9. Proclamations of Honesty

One who exclaims "honestly!" once or twice isn't really that big of a concern. One who is constantly asserting their honesty and trying to convince you that they're being honest might be being less than truthful with you. Look for statements like "well, to be honest" or "to tell the truth." "I swear on my mother's grave" or "with God as my witness" are other ones that are worth watching out for.

10. No "Smoking Guns"

Remember that one of these things, even in a strong way, doesn't mean that the person is necessarily lying to you. What you want to look for are overall patterns of dishonesty and dishonest speech. That's what's going to let you know if you're being misled or the person is just nervous, or has a quirky conversation style. Happy lie hunting!

Anything I've missed? How do you spot liars? No fibbing!

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