Everyone tells the occasional white lie. It's really no big deal. But there often comes a time when a big lie can do a lot of damage. That's when knowing how to detect when someone is lying can come in pretty handy, especially when it comes to work and relationships.
Not to freak you out, but lying is actually more common than you might think. In fact, a 2002 study revealed that 60 percent of adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without lying at least once, according to Kathy Benjamin on MentalFloss.com. Makes you think, right?
So you might be wondering why we do it. Well, it usually all comes down to fear, says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., in an email to Bustle. "They fear being hurt. They fear that if they tell the truth the will be punished, judged as defective, abandoned or abused ... people [also] lie because they suffer from an addictive or relational condition like a narcissistic, anti-social or borderline personality disorder. These people lie to manipulate others," Hokemeyer says.
Keep in mind that this article isn't meant to make you all paranoid. It's simply meant to give you a few tools to identify a lying liar who lies when it matters most. As Hokemeyer says, "People should use this information to clean up their relationships ... Eliminate people you can't trust and who feel the need to manipulate and control you with lies."
With that in mind, check out these subtle ways liars give themselves away.
1. They Clear Their Throat... A Lot
OK fine, maybe they just have a cold. But a little too much throat clearing can be a dead give away that someone is lying. That's because, as Peter Schafer, Ph.D., said on Psychology Today, the fight-or-flight response causes the throat to dry up as moisture is rerouted towards the skin in the form of sweat. So add sweating to this list, too.
2. They Simply Cannot Look You In The Eye
When you think someone is fabricating the truth, try to hold their eye contact. Likely, they will be totally unable to do so. That's because an inability to make eye contact is the most common sign that someone is lying, Hokemeyer says. So keep this in mind the next time someone is looking away shiftily.
3. They Stare Unblinkingly
On the flip side, a liar may totally overdo eye contact with an unnerving, unblinking stare. "When people lie, it's common that they break eye contact, but the liar could go the extra mile to maintain eye contact in attempt to control and manipulate you," said Vivian Giang and Jacquelyn Smith on Business Insider, in an interview with body language expert Dr. Lillian Glass. Pretty creepy, and definitely totally notable.
4. They Fumble Over The Unexpected
You can easily trip up a liar by asking them an unexpected question. That's because liars normally rehearse a specific story they plan on telling, complete with made up time lines and fabricated details. Any deviation from that will send them reeling.
5. They're Acting... Weird
If you know a person well, it may be really easy to tell when they are acting weird. And by weird I mean a dramatic change in the person’s baseline, or how they normally act. According to Diane Dragen said on RD.com, "You should weigh rate of speech, tone of voice, posture, and hand gestures against what you know, along with the context of the situation." Anything out of the ordinary may be a bad sign.
6. Their Feet Give Them Away
Our feet tend to reveal our inner subconscious on some crazy biological levels. They often point towards the door, all on their own, when we're bored. And they also tend to do the same when we're lying. As Schafer noted, "Liars will also often point their feet toward the door, signaling their desire to physically and psychologically escape an uncomfortable situation."
7. They Get Overly Explanatory
Take note if someone is giving you way too much information, especially in answer to a straight forward question. It could be an attempt to make you believe them by seeming open and chatty, Giang and Smith said. It could also be because they rehearsed their story, and want to give you plenty of convincing (or, not so convincing) details.
8. They Tilt Their Head Back
Is this potential liar leaning back awkwardly as they talk? It may be something worth noting. As Schafer said, "Liars will tend to move their heads slightly backwards when they lie. This subtle gesture is an attempt to distance themselves from the source of their anxiety."
9. They Appear Nervous
Check for signs of nervousness, or bizarre knee jerk reactions. "If a person makes a statement then impulsively covers their mouth with their hand, or starts tapping their toes nervously or starts fiddling with their hair, chances are their statement is not a pure one," Hokemeyer says.
10. They Are Fidgeting
Little nervous ticks, or diversion tactics may also give a liar away. According to Arianne Cohen and Lindsy Van Gelder on Real Simple, "If someone keeps performing a random physical action that seems unnecessary — cleaning her glasses excessively, retying her shoelaces, or dusting off the (clean) table in front of her — she may be lying." Subtle, but true.
11. They Avoid Saying "I"
Fibbers tends to avoid saying "I" and will instead refer to themselves in the third person, Cohen and Van Gelder noted. It probably has something to do with guilt, as well as a sad attempt to redirect attention somewhere else. Either way, it's a small thing that can really give them away.
And really, that's all it takes to catch someone in a lie. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be catching liars left and right. Just remember to use your powers for good.
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