Five Warning Signs that Someone is Lying to You

Jon Hawkins

Let's distinguish the frogs from princes.

Whether we’ve just received a new job offer or started dating someone new — we have all experienced that gut feeling. Is this too good to be true? When that happens, we start to question ourselves, our circumstances, and the people around us. Can we trust what’s happening?

You hear of people stealing, cheating, and deceiving others for their own gain. These behaviors are closer to home than you might think — according to America’s Generation Gap in Extramarital Affairs, up to 20% of couples admit to cheating while married.

If your gut is telling you things feel too good to be true, how do you work out whether you’ve been lied to? How do you distinguish the princes from the frogs in your life?

Research from forensic Psychologist Dr. Leanne ten Brinke (University of California,) suggests that our instincts for judging liars is fairly strong. It’s our conscious minds that fail us. It talks us out of confronting the warning signs — because we tell ourselves we’re just being silly.

Sometimes, we ignore our gut feeling because we like living the lie we find ourselves in. Bit if you’re worried you are being decieved, these are the tell-tale signs to look out for.

“A truth that’s told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.” ― William Blake

They Act Abnormally

A lot of research tries to find universal ways of identifying deception. But, according to Brinke’s research, those universal truths don’t exist — because everybody acts differently and has different tell-tale signs.

Behavioral analyst Dr. Lillian Glass, tells us that, when trying to figure out if someone is lying, you first need to understand how they usually act. This is because habits like oversharing, could be indicative of a liar, but might be perfectly with the character of the individual.

Therefore, you should only start to question whether something is up if that person is acting abnormally.

It’s also important to note that acting normally is a possible indication of deception, but it’s not definite proof. On the other hand, some liars are able to hide tell-tale signs. Just because someone is acting within character, doesn’t entail that they are telling the truth.

They Backtrack on Their Story

According to Psychological Brain Scientist Susan Krauss Whitbourne, when storytelling, liars are utilizing their creative function part of the brain. What they are saying is fictitious, so they make up what they are saying as they go.

As a result, it's quite common for liars to backtrack and make spontaneous corrections. They heavily edit their stories — changing the location, the name, the scenario, midway through.

Of course, this won’t happen every time. But if it happens enough for you to notice in your conversation, then it's possible that the individual is covering something up.

Stories With Contradictions

A true story holds up to scrutiny better than lies.

One reason that liars backtrack, is that fictional stories made up on the spot are susceptible to contradictions. They make mistakes, and to make things coherent liars have to change, adapt, and “correct” what they’re saying to make it more believable.

If what you’re hearing doesn’t match, and contradicts with what you know to be the case, then somethings not quite right.

They’re Well Rehearsed, But Talk too Much

According to Lillian Glass, liars are trying to convince us that what they are saying is true. In doing so, they often talk too much, and begin sharing information that isn’t relevant and you didn’t ask for.

Liars often talk a lot in an attempt to make themselves appear open and honest. If they’re sharing information you didn’t ask for, they’re trying to trick you into thinking they have nothing to hide.

According to research, a lot of lies are well-rehearsed. The reason the deceiver overshares is that the way they rehearsed involved them revealing this additional information to you — and they’re just sticking to the script.

If you suspect foul play, you should put them on the spot. Ask them a direct question, or get them to explain things differently (one that couldn’t have been rehearsed.)

If they can’t talk through things on the spot, or are oversharing too much, then you should question their integrity.

Watch Their Hands, Not Their Eyes

For years, it’s been thought that watching someone's eye movements was a sure way to spot a liar. The claim linking eye movement and lying was an element of the psychological process called neuro-linguistic programming.

Many psychologists believe looking to the right as you speak is a sign of dishonesty, whereas looking left is a sign of truth-telling. The thought was that, when looking to the right, the subject is “visualising” or “imagining” an event.

But according to Professor Richard Wiseman, this claim is a myth that needs debunking. His research involved asking volunteers questions that force them to lie, and them measuring their responses.

His research found no correlation between eye movement and truth-telling. Instead, Wiseman claims hand gestures reveal more about the candidate.

Body language expert, Traci Brown, has since supported this claim. She theorizes that liars use hand gestures after they speak, as opposed to during. During her work with the FBI, she discovered that —

“The mind is doing too many things including making up the story, figuring out if they’re being believed and adding to the story accordingly…so normal gesturing that might normally happen just before a statement happens after the statement.”

Therefore, if you suspect someone is lying to you; keep a close eye on their hands.

Gesturing With Both Hands

A study by the University of Michigan reviewed 120 high-stake court cases, to distinguish how people act when they’re lying to when truth-telling

Their results indicated that liars are much more likely to gesture with both hands, rather than just one. During their observation, liars gestured with both hands 40% of the time, as opposed to only 25% of truth-tellers.

They Move Their Head too Often

According to Lillian Glass’s research, another key indicator of deception is fidgeting and constant head movements. Liars can rarely sit still.

If you see someone make a sudden head movement when you address or ask them a question directly, then they are probably feeling uneasy and nervous — and that’s a sign that they are trying to hide something.

In her own words:

“The head will be retracted or jerked back, bowed down, or cocked or tilted to the side, This will often happen right before the person is expected to respond to a question.”

So pay attention to the way someone’s head moves the next time you suspect they are lying to you.

Final Thoughts

We’ve all been there. When something good happens in our lives, we can’t help but wonder— is this too good to be true?

If you’ve got that gut feeling that something’s not quite right, here are the key signs that you are being lied to:

  1. Liars act abnormally. While trying to hide something, they tend to start doing things that are out of character.
  2. They backtrack on their stories. Because they make things up on the spot, liars often have to change their story midway through to avoid contradictions and to keep things believable.
  3. They’re well-rehearsed and stick to the script no matter what. At times, that can lead to them talking too much, and they’ll be thrown off by direct questions.
  4. They often use hand gestures after talking, and are statistically more likely to use both hands.
  5. They move their head too often, with sudden jerks as an indicator that they’re trying to hide something.

Regardless of how long you’ve believed something for, if you suspect you’re being lied to, its better to confront it than live in denial. Interrogate all your beliefs, no matter how entrenched they are. After all, in the words of Adolf Hitler:

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

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Asking questions, seeking answers. I write articles that help you better understand the Universe. Durham University.


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