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
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.