Can You Tell if Someone is Lying?
Facts About Lies
Do you know if someone is lying to you? It is not too difficult to tell when a child is lying. It is a little tougher to tell when a teen is lying, and according to Bond and DePaulo in 2006 only 54% of the people know when an adult is lying.
Considering you have a 50-50 chance of knowing when someone is lying 54% is not saying much. If someone you know well has a “tell” you may spot a lie. My mother could always tell when my sister was lying when we were teens as she had a little nerve that twitched on her throat, but she didn't know when I was lying.
Children typically lie for three reasons. They tell lies from their imagination; they want to avoid consequences or they may want to seem cool.
When we look at adults lying, there is a whole host of reasons why they may lie. They could be ashamed of some activity or of something they did. Also, they may feel the truth will hurt your feelings, or they may be protecting someone else. Consider something simple, “Yes, that dress looks great on you”, when it actually does not.
Researchers state the average person will hear about 10 to 200 lies daily. They also state that strangers lie at least three times in the first ten minutes of meeting someone.
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain
Possible Behaviors When Lying
So, how can you tell when someone is lying? There are several things you may pay attention to in order to determine if someone is lying.
Behaviors to observe to determine truthfulness:
Inconsistency is sure a clue. If the story changes, that is definitely worth a second look..
Pay attention to fake smiles, blushing, blinking, shrugging or flared nostrils. If they won’t look you in the eye that may denote shame or deceitfulness.
Repeating the question may mean they are stalling for time, or maybe they did not hear you the first time.
You may be suspicious if a person does not want to answer your question or if they quickly change the topic of conversation.
Watch for incongruity, which means terrible news, but the person has a joking attitude. They may also supposedly have good news, but they are overly enthusiastic.
If someone has to emphasize that they are telling the truth, they may well be lying. They may use terminology like, "In all candor" or "If I'm being completely truthful" or "If I had to swear on a stack of Bibles."
If someone insists on bolstering their speech to distract you, they may use words like literally, tremendous or absolutely more often than you would expect.
People may say no while closing their eyes, or stretching out the no (like nooooo), or they may hesitate or say no in a singsong manner. Ask them to say no to an open ended question to compare.
If someone cannot recall what they told you previously, or if they add new details contradicting what they previously told you, you should be suspicious. You might ask them to tell the story backwards as it is hard to recall details.
If someone holds you in contempt, which is a combination of moral superiority and anger, then you will recognize those signs and at least wonder if this person is being truthful.
Talk It Out
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
― Abraham Lincoln
If a person is lying they may tend to squirm, fidget or just more around, but according to psychologists body language is not a particularly good way to determine if someone is not telling the truth. The American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry studied body language for law enforcement, and they concluded body language is not necessarily the best way to determine truthfulness.
The psychologists determined the following behaviors were worth paying attention to:
- “Being vague; offering few details
- Repeating questions before answering them
- Speaking in sentence fragments
- Failing to provide specific details when a story is challenged
- Grooming behaviors such as playing with hair or pressing fingers to lips”
10 Simple Ways to Tell If Someone Is Lying to You
There is one theory that states when a person is retelling a story several times they will remember additional details, which means the information will change. This can make it more confusing to figure out the truth of the story.
As previously stated,telling the story backwards makes it harder to keep the details straight, because if they are lying they have to tell the story in a different way. This can be difficult for someone who is lying since lying is more mentally taxing.
“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
It may be good to simply trust your instinct as that is often the best way to determine a lie, particularly with someone you know well. After all college students lie 20% of the time to their mothers. If a mother has figured out how to tell if their child is lying, then it is probably instinct based on past experience.
Of course, there are many people who think they can spot a lie every time, but there are also people who think they are very good at lying without consequences. It is always possible to get a false positive and think you know for sure they are lying when in fact they are not.
The bottom line is to listen carefully, observe the person and ask those hard questions. There is no way to always detect a lie, but maybe some of these tips may help make you a better judge. Do not overthink the situation. I would suggest you always treat the person with respect, and you probably will get more truthful answers.
How good are you at detecting lies?
© 2018 Pamela Oglesby