I have been working with people for almost twenty years professionally but throughout my entire life, I was always fascinated and drawn to human behavior and understanding why people would do certain things in their life. This natural curiosity encouraged me to strengthen my intuitive skills as well as build upon my observational strength upon meeting and speaking with people. This is a topic covers certain areas that I am most passionate about; people, neuroscience, human patterns, beliefs, behaviors and last but not least – leadership. There are numerous studies, tv shows and even movies that have touched upon this topic and this article is a culmination of what I believe to be some the easiest and most practical tips and signs to spot if someone is lying to you.
It’s important to remember that no one nonverbal cue can or will tell you everything you need to know. This truly is both part “art and science” and requires a substantial amount of patience, practice and presence on your part to fully understand if what you are seeing is accurate.
- They change their head position quickly.
If you see someone suddenly make a head movement when you ask them a direct question, they may be lying to you about something. This will often happen right before the person is expected to respond to a question.
- Their breathing changes.
When someone is lying to you, they may begin to breathe heavily as a reflex action. When someones breathing changes, their shoulders can rise and their voice may get shallow. Being out of breath caused by your heart rate to change and the end result or experience is nervousness and feeling tense.
- They stand very still.
It’s common knowledge that people fidget when they get nervous, but what about the people who stand completely and sometimes awkwardly still. Science calls this a reaction to our neurological ‘fight,’ rather than the ‘flight,’ response as our body prepares for a potential confrontation or conflict. When you are relaxed and have nothing to hide, you are generally more animated when speaking to another person. If you do notice someone rather rigid, it is often a tell that they may be lying or at best uncomfortable speaking both to you and possibly the topic in question.
- They repeat words or phrases.
This happens because they’re trying to convince you, and themselves, of something. From a brain science point of view, they’re trying to validate the lie in their mind. Commonly people will repeat, “I didn’t…I didn’t…” over and over again. The repetition is also a way to buy themselves time as they attempt to gather their thoughts and next move.
- They provide too much information.
When someone is rambling to no end and gives you too much information — information that is not requested and especially with colorful context — there is a very high probability that the person is not telling you the truth. Liars often talk a lot because they’re hoping that, with all their talking and seeming openness, others will believe them.
- They touch or cover their mouth.
A sure sign to see if someone is lying is to watch where their hands go, especially around touching their mouth or lips. Psychologists say that when adults put their hands over their lips, it means they aren’t revealing everything, and they are resisting telling the truth. In a sense, they are literally closing off communication.
- They instinctively cover vulnerable body parts.
This can include areas such as the throat, chest, head, or abdomen. This is a natural reactive state and one that is a huge tell for anyone in the federal government or judicial space when speaking with someone to better understand if they are telling the trust.
- They shuffle their feet.
Probably one of the easiest ways to detect if someone is lying to you and at best extremely uncomfortable. Shuffling of the feet or constant tapping of the foot is the body way of taking over. It’s a clear sign of nervousness and tells you that the person would most likely leave the room / situation if given the opportunity.
- It becomes difficult for them to speak.
Like some of the other neurological responses our body provides us at times of uncertainty or confrontation, the ability to speak can become difficult. This is a result of our nervous systems decrease in salivary flow during times of stress which as a result dries out the mouth and inhibits one to speak. Some people will open their mouths and slide their jaws back and forth. The back and forth movement of the jaw stimulates the salivary glands in the back of the throat. This movement is an attempt to moisten their dry throats due the fight-or-flight response.
- Watch their eyes.
When feeling trapped or corned, our eyes point to where the body wants to go. In this case it’s about looking for a way out or safe passage home. People often look toward the nearest exit, telegraphing their desire to physically and psychologically escape the uncertainty and stress caused by lying. People who look at their watches telegraph the same message, signaling a desire to cut short a conversation.
The best way to determine if someone is lying to you is to compare what a person said to objective facts. The facts are what will ground your observations and provide a baseline for your assessment. In the end, honest people often say and do things that make themselves look dishonest, and liars often say and do things that make themselves appear truthful. In this case, actions do speak louder than words.