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Liar, Liar How Can You Tell?

Can you spot a liar?


If only it were as simple as the “liar, liar, pants on fire” nursery rhyme to tell when a person is lying to you. Ahhh, yes, if only their lying pants would burst in to flames life would be so much easier. Unfortunately liars rarely spontaneously combust and so we must find other ways to identify when somebody is being untruthful. Barring a blazing miracle the only shot that those of us who do not have a lie detector handy have at recognizing a liar is good old fashioned instinct, and body language.

When people lie, especially when they are lying about something that is important to you, your version of spidey senses start to tingle. You get a gut feeling that all is not right with the other person’s words. This is your first and best sign that you are dealing with a liar. But there are some tell tale body language cues that will add credence to your instincts. If you just have a feeling you’re being deceived keep your guard up, but if you get that feeling AND observe any of the following behaviors rest assured that all is not as it may appear.

6 Tell Tale Signs that Somebody is Lying

  1. Liars fidget. They fidget a lot. They shift their feet, they sway while talking and they gesture awkwardly and inappropriately with their hands. Subconsciously, when we lie we feel on display and this makes some people feel uncomfortable. It is this discomfort that makes one act all fidgety.
  2. It’s all in the eyes! Liars don’t like to look you in the eye for too long. Or, conversely if a liar is aware of this fact, they may look you in the eye much longer than social norms dictate. Liars also blink less frequently than the norm, as if they need to keep their eyes open and on you in order to assure themselves that you believe their tale. If a person makes eye contact too little, or too much, they may be lying. At the very least they are not comfortable with the subject of the conversation. Shifty eyes, looking away and looking back quickly and awkwardly, is another sign that somebody may be lying. After all, we call being dishonest “being shifty” for a reason.
  3. Liars touch their face and mouth a lot. This is something that most liars can’t control even if they are aware they are doing it. It is a reflexive psychological response to being untruthful, a symbolic way of stopping the lies from coming out. This behavior is most often seen in liars who feel bad about being untruthful or who are being untruthful for so called noble reasons like sparring another hurt feelings or keeping a promise to another to hold a secret in strict confidence.
  4. More often than not, liars look down when telling a story. It’s as if they are thinking of what to say next. It is a well known and well studied reflexive psycho-social reaction that people who are truthfully recounting a real event look up when trying to recall the details. They are looking up and mentally picturing the events that they are talking about almost as if they are looking at their brain for answers. Liars look down because they are not remembering but creating a story and they need to look at a blank canvas, like the ground, in order to spin their story and make it convincing. It’s a way of concentrating on what is being said and making it work with what has already been said, in other words convincingly lying.
  5. Liars mix up fine details. When a liar spins a lie they make a point of registering the core of what is being said for future use but they often forget the minor credibility building details they’ve incorporated in to their lie. A truthful person is more likely to be consistent in recalling smaller details of an event than a liar because the truth-sayer has the mental picture to pull up and think of when asked a question. A liar lacks this mental picture and therefore has no failsafe way to recall smaller details.
  6. People who lie tend to get defensive or they take a defensive posture with others when confronted about the lie, even if they are not actually being accused of lying. When you second-guess a liar they are quick to react in anger in order to put YOU on the defensive and deflect attention from the lie at hand. Even if you ask an innocent question like, “where did it happen again?” or, “can you tell that story over again to Bob?” a liar may get defensive, angry or irritated. In very rare cases, a liar may act like they don’t even know what you are talking about. Inconsistency and a defensive posture combined almost always signal a liar.
So next time you fear you’re being lied to take a good close look at the body language of the liar. Non-verbal cues are not burning pants but they are a pretty good indication of what is going on in the subconscious of another person. Unless an individual suffers from a serious and well-developed social disorder lying will, on some level, make them uneasy and this discomfort will come out in their body language. The reality is most people are uncomfortable with being untruthful and body language doesn’t lie.
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