“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” —Abraham Lincoln
Okay… let’s not beat around the bush. People lie. We ALL lie, and quite often. Some people lie to make themselves look better, others lie to hide a dark secret. As much as you’d like to believe that you are not part of the majority, the truth is, you lie too.
From “little white lies” like telling your host that the meal you just ate was scrumptious when really it made you want to barf, to the serious lies like cheating on someone or lying on a résumé. Basically our culture is built on lying. Politics, advertisements, even our history has been written by the victors who wanted to be perceived in a certain way.
It doesn’t take kids very long to pick up on this casual use of trickery. In fact, by the time they turn four, 90 percent of children have already grasped the concept of lying and are learning how to be masters of deceit.
According to a study performed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, 60 percent of adults lie, on average, three times in a 10-minute conversation. For some reason, we all feel this burning need to convince people that we are more accomplished, more interesting and smarter than we actually are. That means lying for no other reason than our own vanity. Doesn’t seem like a very good reason, does it?
On the other hand, as much as we lie to others, we all hate being lied to. And we all abhor the concept of lying. Sadly, this doesn’t stop us lying, and it won’t stop others from deceiving you. Ultimately, this means you have to go through life with an arsenal of tools to defend yourself against the lies.
Here are a few ways to start turning yourself into a human lie detector. Through careful observation and a copious amount of knowledge on human psychology, you can become aware of the signs and signals that will expose even the most accomplished, practiced liars.
Changing the topic
It’s a classic move straight out of the “How to Lie” handbook. When the topic hits a little too close to home for the liar, they will often try to steer the conversation in another direction. Good liars will change the subject in a subtle and seemingly natural way, and it will often be hard to detect. However, if you remain alert and aware of the possibility that you are being told a lie, it’s fairly easy to keep pressing the topic that makes the liar uncomfortable and edgy.
In an honest conversation, the amount of eye contact will seem natural. When someone is lying, often the most telling action will be too little eye contact, or too much. An unpracticed liar might feel guilty and ashamed, and avoid looking at you straight on, afraid that their eyes will betray their falsehood.
Conversely, the person who regularly lies with ease and gets away with it will perhaps hold eye contact for an unusually long amount of time — as if trying to convince you (and themselves) that the yarn they’re spinning is actually true.
This is perhaps one of the most foolproof ways to spot a lie. This method is especially used by children and those who don’t have much lying experience. Is the person moving around uncharacteristically? Are they fiddling with something on their clothes or obsessively messing with their hair. Nervous tics also include diverting focus onto something else, such as inspecting nails, cracking knuckles, and scuffing feet against the ground.
Answering a question with a question
Honest people will answer a question, not respond with one of their own. It’s also a dead giveaway when a person starts repeating a question. This buys them time to come up with an answer. Even when a question is very clear, the liar may ask, “What do you mean by that?”
Lying is hard work. The liar has to keep all their stories straight and avoid mixing up times and places. It’s a lot to remember, and often the lies will start to become clear when the liar starts stumbling over words and changing story details. It will seem rehearsed. Try throwing a curveball or demand an explanation that the person may not have an immediate answer for. The hesitation that they show when you ask for proof or validation will cause them to stumble and stutter. This buys them time to come up with a semi-plausible explanation.
Answering a question without being asked
During a simple conversation, liars will often feel like they are being interrogated. Especially if they are feeling guilty or have reason to believe that you suspect them. They may start answering questions that you haven’t even asked. The best lies are well rehearsed, and when you don’t go along with the script inside their head, the person lying will still feel the need to defend themselves from an imaginary second actor in the play that they’ve written.
Touching the nose
While this may seem like an overly simple way to unearth a liar, it’s actually quite accurate. Save from a person suffering from a dreadful cold, or a compulsive nose picker, the average adult doesn’t habitually touch their nose. Research has shown that a liar will often touch the base of their nose when telling a tall tale.
The liar will often repeat themselves in order to prove their innocence. They will also start saying things like “honestly,” “simply,” and “I swear to you.”
Other telltale signs of a liar
- checking the time
- looking towards the door
- pitch change (voice either higher or lower than normal)
- excessive blinking
- crossed arms
- sitting or standing too straight
- fake smile/smiling too often
- foot tapping
- leg shaking
- finger tapping
- not using contractions (“I am sure… “ or “I will be…”)
You get the idea!
While these tips may save you from a lot of heartache and pain, they may also be the cause of others; it’s often a lot easier to believe a lie than to find out the harsh truth. The best way to avoid being lied to is to stop lying to other people. We learn by example, and all of us could use a little less lying in our lives.
Sure, some lies are to protect those you love, but before you lie, be sure to consider your motives. Are they honorable and just, or purely selfish?
It may be too late, but surely we can still hold out hope for a change to this culture so deeply rooted in lies. Maybe this could be the encouragement you need to come clean about something that has been weighing on your conscience! You will feel much freer, happier and filled with a comforting sense of peace.
—The Alternative Daily