The Art and Science of Lying (Part 2) - Body Language
We previously saw how to become a human lie by learning to read the language of the eyes - the mirrors to our souls. For those of you who missed my previous article on how to read the eye language, you can find it here:
Human Lie Detection - Not a Myth
For those who think that lie detection through mere observation is a myth, let me reassure you that it is not only possible but quite easy for anyone to develop skills of immediate lie detection, simply by observing a person's behaviour, facial expressions and body language, regardless of whether he or she is known to you or not.
Yes, it takes months of practice because of the various specimens of characters we meet, but with enough experience and effort, the ability to detect lies becomes ingrained within our subconscious mind, so much so that you no longer require to think hard in order to identify a lie.
Tell-tale Signs That Someone is Lying
A person may be good at telling lies but it is easy to detect a lie by watching out for the non-verbal signs that the he or she gives out. Being the do-gooder that I am, let me impart my knowledge (to those of you who care) of some sure-shot signs to look out for, while interacting with your fellow human beings.
1. Hesitation At Straight Forward Questions
Many poor or moderately skilled liars give away one common sign while telling a lie. They always do something that displays hesitation or discomfort.
It may be in the form of an unusually long pause before answering a question, using filler words too frequently like umm.. it's not like that.. it's like.. I mean.. you know..
It may also include involuntary reactions such as swallowing unnecessarily before speaking. These are mechanisms to buy time in order to think up a lie.
Certain people may display a sharp intake of breath when asked something. While it is easy to notice, others may simply take a slow deep breath or a simple inhalation of air, which is suspicious too and must not be ruled out as a sign of lying.
The above is not be confused with exhalation on breath which indicates either irritation, impatience or relief.
FACT: Every instance of hesitation should not be considered a lie, it all depends on the question asked. If you are asking someone's opinion or point of view, they will require sometime to reflect their thoughts. On the other hand, if a straight-forward question that requires recollection of facts is met with hesitation, now that is suspicious indeed.
2. Hand and Feet Movements
People who are not expert liars show visible signs of discomfort or unwillingness to participate in the conversation when lying.
They tend to fidget around with their hands or feet, like adjusting their dress, brushing their sleeves, touching or rubbing their neck or collar.
- They may also touch nose, chin or hair while answering, scratch their head or play with their jewellery displaying nervousness.
If the person is sitting, he or she may shake his legs or tap fingers showing impatience in having to answer, not to be confused with similar signs of impatience arising out of having to listen to someone for a long period of time.
Note that folded arms also shows defensive attitude and may indicate unwillingness to answer, but that is vastly different from the unwillingness to tell the truth.
People who are generally fidgety during normal times usually tend to become quiet and still when they are lying, because they need to concentration on the lie, which makes them involuntarily stop all other movements.
3. Facial Movements
A good liar will be trained enough to refrain from making sudden hand and feet movements, but facial reaction is often beyond our control.
An itchy nose means the person is trying to avoid the answer and could be hiding something.
An answer followed by a mouth shrug shows lack of confidence in the answer, so chances are that the person is lying or exaggerating.
Licking lips shows that the person is nervous or not ready with an answer and is trying to make it up.
Some people may raise their eyebrow if they are taken by surprise at the question and are preparing to come up with a lie. However, furrowed brows in a counter-indication of lying, it simply means the person is displeased or unhappy with what he just heard.
4. Too Much Information
If someone is trying to oversell what they just said, they are more likely trying to sound extra convincing by overloading you with information. The truth usually requires no explanation unless explicitly asked.
5. Fake Surprise or Expression
Some people will overdo things in an effort to look believable. If an expression of surprise or shock is lasting for too long than needed, do not trust it.
To verify the genuineness of their reaction, you can probe a little more and watch the follow-up reaction. If the person gets irritated or gives a scornful look, it means that he or she realizes your unwillingness to believe them and therefore gets angry at it.
6. Repetition of Question While Answering
If someone rigidly repeats your question, chances are that they could be lying or about to lie.
For example, you ask "why did you go to ....". You get an answer like "the reason I went there is ....". People usually use such filler words when they are quickly trying to think up what to say.
If someone repeats your question instead of giving a direct yes or no answer, chances are that you are on to something. Probe them further to check if they try to dodge the question further.
How To Be a Good Liar
Here comes my favourite part. Let me reassure you that I do not condone telling lies. But what is a skill if you cannot exercise it yourself, when time and situation requires you to?
If you know well about the signs of lying discussed above, it is not so difficult to train yourself so that others cannot use these methods on you.
The most important lesson is to not display anything that is unusual to your normal demeanour.
If you are the quiet and silent type, remain calm and silent. Control your face, hands or feet from making any sudden movements. If you are the restless type, continue to be that way while you are cooking up the lie. Basically, avoid any change in behaviour and body language.
While fabricating a story, you will need some time to construct it properly, unless you are already prepared with an elaborate lie. To buy time, do not do anything that makes you look uncomfortable. Instead, simply glance to your left or right, as if you are trying to recollect facts.
Do not avoid eye contact. At the same time, don't overdo it in an attempt to look bold.
Do not oversell your story, just give a sufficient amount of explanation with the minimal amount of words. The more your speak, the more you increase the chance of messing it up.
© 2015 Ritu Temptor