How to Spot a Liar: 7 Clues Anyone Can Use

Who hasn’t heard the old saying “Liars never look you in the eye”? Here are a few more tips from the experts on how to spot a liar, even if he is lying right to your face.

By Reader's Digest Editors
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    1. Is her face giving it away?

    You may think a smile can easily disguise your true feelings, but the expressions that flash across a liar's face will give away what she's really thinking—whether she knows it or not. Experts advise paying close attention to hard-to-hide micro-expressions; these clues are often so difficult to detect that even trained experts have trouble discerning them. But you may be able to spot a liar by the red color on her cheeks, since anxiety can cause people to blush. Other indicators of lying? Flared nostrils, lip nibbling, deep breathing, and rapid blinking, which hint that the brain is working overtime.

    2. Does the body language follow the story?

    It’s more important to examine a person’s entire demeanor, as there’s no one feature that’s apt to give away a liar. Honesty is characterized by features that are in sync with one another—so besides posture, note the fit between face, body, voice, and speech. Like an animal avoiding detection, a liar may pull his arms and legs inward or keep his movements to a minimum—anything to appear smaller. Liars often shove their hands behind their back because those fidgety digits might give them away. 

    3. How is the person smiling?

    A smile can sometimes mask a person’s true feelings. Pay close attention to how a person smiles as well as other facial movements. You may be able to detect the emotions he or she is trying to hide—such as fear, anger, and disgust. A true smile will incorporate both a person’s lips and eyes.

    4. How is the person speaking?

    Although a change in voice can be the tip-off to spot a liar, experts say that to be sure, you should also pay attention to a person’s speech rate and breathing pattern—if either speeds up or slows down, chances are you’re not hearing the whole truth.

    5. What is the person saying?

    Liars tend to avoid exclusionary words like “but,” “nor,” “except,” and “whereas,” because they have trouble with complex thought processes. Also, they are less likely to use the words “I,” “me,” and “mine.” In their attempts to distance themselves psychologically from their tall tales, liars will tend to communicate using fewer personal pronouns.

    6. Is your subject behaving uncharacteristically?

    Experts believe changes in a person’s baseline—how she generally conducts herself—are worthy of your attention. You should weigh rate of speech, tone of voice, posture, and hand gestures against what you know, along with the context of the situation. When your husband says “I loved the tie you bought me” while he’s wearing a tight smile that doesn’t reach his eyes, expect to see him in a turtleneck.

    7. Is the question simple or embarrassing?

    It’s normal for someone to look away when asked a difficult question. But when someone avoids your gaze when asked a simple question, you should be suspicious.

    Your Comments

    • Kim collar

      This was pretty helpful. My husband is a car salesman and did not get his commission check which was suppose to be over 7 grand. Well its been almost two and he keeps telling me they had a meeting about and that they shouldn’t have to wait much longer and blah blah blah. Well now he is saying everyone else got their check except for him because there was a problem at the bank. I know he is lying to me and I have confronted him several times but yet he still holds his ground. I don’t know why he is lying about the money whether he is hiding the money or lying about how much he made and is scared to tell me the truth but, whatever the reason is its not worth the. Its keeping me up at night and I just can’t have a conversation with him because all I can think about is why the lie?

      • Christy

        There are only a few reasons a spouse would lie about money. Trust your instincts. Look over your own bank accounts..I hope it’s not a big old monkey on his back and if it is. I promise you. Your not alone.

    • Jimtaryon

      I’m a bit late to this, but honestly, there is not one sentence in this entire piece that can help you spot a liar. It should be retitled either Acting 101, or else titled: ways to convince the strangely gullible that you’re a forthright honest person. Include firm handshake, strait from the hip and you’re ready to sell used cars!

    • Davesworld

      It is difficult for some people, especially those who fall within the autism spectrum such as aspergers syndrome to look people in the eye. It can also be shyness or a cultural trait.

    • coytle

      Most people think I am always lying because I am so uncomfortable with confrontation I get nervous and give off many indications of someone who is lying. I just hate being confronted or spoken to.

    • smash44

      The Top Seven Traits of Liars:
      Born-again Christian.
      Pro-Gun Control.
      Drives a Subaru.

      • daveg

        I love when people just have to make public their need to want to take cheap shots at a particular group of people because they dont agree with or where hurt by one person who “claims” to be part of a group. I see your hurt not your hate.

      • Chloe


    • Al

      Not exactly scientific or proven, but it sure does work wonders on the TV mystery shows.

    • zamanta

      I.want to know if my boyfriends cheating on me but he always had some reasons that sometimes Im not sure of. He never text me, although he doenst have load but if he really cares, he’ll do anything just to text or call me. I have a weird feeling about what his doing or maybe Im just worrying coz he did it before. Can I have some advise?

      • DLKeith

        If you have sensed something that isn’t clearly described, you have a good chance of being right. Sometimes what you are describing is easy to judge without all the skills in this article. Validation of that can be found in Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear. My wife is better at that than I am. She bought more copies of this book by a recognized & hired expert to give to our daughter & her friend. I took notes & recommend it.

    • abigailgrant76

      Thank you so much for posting this! Now I can catch anyone who tries to lie to me. I now know how to determine if someone is lying to me by noticing their body language and pay attention to the type of words that they use. This can come in handy, especially because just today my friend was telling me about how her friend might be lying to her about a rumor that’s going around at her school. I’ll send her the link to this so she can become a mini detective like me and find out the truth! I’ve always noticed that people do look away when they are asked questions but now I know that if it’s just a simple question they may be lying to me. I will keep these tips for catching people in a lie for the rest of my life and it may come in handy once I have my children, and just like my mother, I’ll always know the truth.

      Abigail Grant

      4008 sand palm ct. Tampa Fl


      • Crazy_Jake

        You are not all there are you?

        These are not set in stone ways of spotting a liar.. They help but dont just say YOU ARE LYING..
        and you posted your phone number and address online in the comments section?? REALLY?? WOW….

        • Onaan

          @Crazy_Jake i believe he or she is lying about the info posted…. I guess u couldnt spot a liar

    • Hank Vankampen

      Readers Digest keeps billing me(Tree times so far)for something I paid for 2 Months ago,.March 4 Are they crooks or just incompetent?

      • lol

        Get in contact with theM?

      • teriquajones

        Talk to your bank who issued your credit or debit card. If you have told them to stop your subscription, your bank may be able to dispute the charges.
        If all else fails, close down your card and open a different one. It will have a new number and Reader’s Digest will have to get it from you.
        Seems magazines are notorious for taking advantage of customers. I’ve had it done to me before.
        Good luck.

      • Douglas Carlson

        Gee, Hank. This is REALLY an appropriate forum to air your problem! I think I see the issue, and it AIN’T them. #moron.