How To Tell If People Are Lying to You

We all lie.  After watching and interacting with thousands of business people, teens, parents and families, here are a few patterns to look out for:

(Disclaimer: these are simply observations, these clues do not mean that the person you are speaking with is lying)

Verbal Nuance

  • Timing is off between gestures and words.  The facial expression that comes after a statement (I am so sad about this, pause and then the sad expression)
  • Less full facial expression when talking.
  • Out of proportion reaction
  • Responds to questions, yet asks none of their own.
  • When the subject is changed there is physical and emotional relief that you can see in the teen.

Body Language

  • Less physical expression and movement.  Stiffness or mechanical movement.
  • The teen takes up less physical space (shrinking down in order not to be caught)
  • Their hand may go up to his face or throat, especially to the mouth.
  • They turn their body away from the adult or person they are lying to.
  • Playing with physical objects or actually placing a physical object in between the two of you as a type of barrier.

Verbal Content

  • Responding to an accusation by offering a belief in general instead of this specific instance (ie Do you smoke pot? -I believe pot is dangerous)
  • Constantly adding additional details until you believe them and to fill silences.
  • They use such phrases as “To tell you the truth”  “To be perfectly honest”  and “Why would I lie to you?”
  • The answer is very specific, almost rehearsed about a ‘casual event’
  • They repeat your question.

To Catch A Lie

  • Use an open-ended question that is not accusatory but alludes to a possible behavior.

“Anything interesting happen at the party last night?”

  • Ask their opinion on a similar example.

“I would love your opinion on this.  A friend of mine from college, recently found a lighter and some rolling papers in their child’s jeans.  She is not sure how to approach it or if the papers were used for cigarettes or pot.  What should she do?”

Lying is a very natural, yet dangerous occurrence.  Unfortunately it is part of being human. I share these tips and hope they will be used in the right circumstance.

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One Response to “How To Tell If People Are Lying to You”

  1. jrandom42
    February 4, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Interesting but totally useless for us Aspergers, who can’t detect 99% of this stuff.

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