It is likely something we’ve all experienced, perhaps, even did to others. Lying, one of the things Moses commanded us not to do. It’s not good to lie to others if you can avoid doing so, as it’ll always come back to haunt you. Some people are pathological liars and seem to be incapable of telling the truth while others might say a white lie off and on. Regardless of the type of liar someone is, there are ways to tell if someone is lying to you.
Lying can be tough to deal with, and some claim to be masters at it. However, every single person has a “tell” when they lie to others. Even psychopaths and smooth talkers have them, no one is good enough to hide things. The reason for this is that there are involuntary things we do when we lie. Due to this, our bodies and brain betray us and force us to do things that give away the fact that we are not being truthful. If you want to know the ways to tell if someone is lying to you, read on!
Watch Their Mouth
While it might seem odd, watching a person’s mouth when they speak can be a really easy way to catch them in a lie. If you suspect them of lying, of course. Usually, one of the ways to tell if someone is lying is by watching their mouth. It’s common to tell because a person is giving away a lot without even realizing it. When a person lies, many will roll their lips back to the point that they seemingly disappear. As if they sucked them up inside their own mouth.
When someone is doing this, essentially sucking their lips in, it’s a tell. They are expressing one thing by not saying something or giving the entire truth. This is a situation in which someone is holding something back. That sucking in is basically saying they are “keeping something in.” As in, they are not telling you something and could be holding back information. When you see this mouth movement, remember, they might not be telling you everything they know.
While some people very experienced with lying will try not to do this, at least not noticeably, sometimes people slip up. When we lie, a lot of the time eye movement happens. For example, the eyes might dart back and forth as if they are looking around for someone. The reason for this is that a person might feel somewhat trapped and need to lie to get out of that situation. Eye movement like this often happens under interrogation.
A person feels as if they are being crowded and now, a sort of “fight or flight” issue comes up. Where their brain makes them think, “we need to get outta here.” That trigger in one’s brain makes them feel they need to say anything that will get them out of their current issue. Therefore, the eyes dart side to side. Imagine you are in a dangerous place, are you going to sit around and potentially get hurt? No, you’ll look for any exit you can. That’s the exact same situation.
When people are lying about being happy, they will try to smile so that people will assume they are being truthful. This often happens in bad relationships, especially abusive ones. A woman might say that she and her husband/wife are happy together, and might even smile to signal she is happy. But this is often a false smile, where a person’s eyes are not part of the smile at all and just their mouth moves to smile.
When people smile genuinely, both the eyes and mouth are part of this. Usually, one’s skin will bunch up beneath the eyes and wrinkles will nest up beside the eyes. This indicates a true smile, so without it, you know someone is faking the smile. You might have heard of people “smiling with their eyes.” Exactly the same things we listed will occur then but the mouth will not move. This is, again, a manufactured thing and does not signal a true smile. They work exactly the same.
Have you ever been talking with someone only to see them touch their face as they tell you a wild story? Face touching is one of the ways to tell if someone is lying. Usually, a person will seemingly scratch their face as if they have some sort of itch going on. While this is not a universal tell, you can often see it in poker tournaments. A person will scratch their faces in preparation for a lie or hustle.
Not all players do this, but those uncomfortable on such a stage might struggle against veteran players. Nerves combined with their attempt to do well, combined with the hustle, make them itch. But in regular lying circumstances, this happens due to a chemical reaction in our bodies. It might not happen to everyone but has happened with enough people lying over the years that it has become a tell for people in the criminal justice system.
Potentially, this is the most popular thing people know about when it comes to liars. In fact, it’s the ultimate tell that just about everyone knows about. When people are upset or anxious, they might sweat. This same concept occurs for many people that lie, as they will begin to sweat in a variety of ways. You might also take note that many lawyers are known for sweating when making their cases in court for their clients. While they might not be outright lying, many do know the truth about a client.
For example, if they are trying to defend a murderer. They clearly know he did it if all evidence points to this, but their job is to defend them. Sometimes, this causes the lawyer to sweat because they are not telling the full truth and their inner ethics tell them they are doing a bad thing. When normal people lie, they might sweat from the back of the neck, cheeks, or forehead. In fact, you might even visibly see them wiping sweat away.
This goes along with sweating. When we sweat, our face might be red or come off yellow at times. The coloring might differ in women, as make-up can cover up some of this. A person’s face color might be completely different from this too. The reason for this is that some react the same way they do when sick or when they have a deep fear. When we’re sick, sometimes our face goes flush and we look yellow or white like a ghost.
The reason for this is due to our blood. Sometimes, when we’re sick our blood rushes out of our face or does not operate like normal. This is usually due to our blood vessels being sent elsewhere to help remove a virus or infection. But the reason this is one of the ways to tell if someone is lying is due to how stress works. When we’re stressed, our body might signal the “stress response.” This is when our body’s blood flow changes up, and in doing so, causes our skin to go pale for a bit.
When it comes to ways to tell if someone is lying, blushing can be a tell for some people. While more common for women to do, some men will blush too. The reason for this is very similar to the reason our eyes might dart back and forth when we lie. It is part of the sympathetic nervous system responses. Blushing is an involuntary reflex some people cannot help, and it’ll cause face cheeks to turn red or pink. It is usually triggered out of fear, high stress, or high anxiety.
While blushing is mostly just a sudden reddening of the face, it happens due to our “flight or fight” response being triggered. It will, in turn, cause the release of adrenaline. That adrenaline release might make us begin to feel warmer, and our face will then get a sudden release of increased blood flow. That flow of blood will cause blood vessels to enlarge, thereby causing our face to turn red. Of course, you cannot miss it when a person blushes too. Making it an easy tell.
When we tell the truth, we naturally might move our heads in a random way. However, when we lie, there are times when our heads tell on us. Many people will not realize they are doing it, and some will feel the need to move their head and will wait until an opening in their statement to do so. Some people might say that we nod our heads up and down when we are in agreement on something. But if we claim to be telling the truth, yet shake our head as if it’s not, that’s a clear “tell.”
However, we do not move our heads up and down when talking and agreeing with our statement normally. It’s not until what we say is said back to us that we respond. Yet when people lie, sometimes they will move their heads a little to the left and/or right. This tends to happen the most when someone is put into a threatening situation. They might be confronted and back up shaking their head that they did not do something. Of course, that head shake has betrayed them and the lie they have told.
One of the ways to tell if someone is lying is by looking to see if they are looking in a specific direction. This goes along with their dominant hand. We’ll explain all of this as if someone is right-handed. If you ask them about something they have seen, they will look up and to the left to recall a memory truthfully. But if they look up and to the right, they are using their imagination and thus, lying.
If they are asked about visual memory, they’ll look straight to the left when thinking of something truthfully, but to the right when lying about what they saw. When a person is asked about what they heard, they will shift their left eye toward their left ear to recall a sound. If shifting to the right, it’s a lie. When asked about a smell, touch, or sensation a person will look down to the left to recall the truth, but to down to the right when lying. All of this is simply in reverse for left-handed people.
While rapid blinking when in conversation can sometimes indicate someone is stressed or dealing with anxiety, it can be one of the ways to tell if someone is lying too. It’s difficult to discern whether the stress/anxiety is triggered by a lie or just general stress in their life. But people will feel anxious or stressed when lying a lot of the time. This is ultimately what lie detection machines work off of entirely. Thus, if you’re calm while strapped up to one, you could pass it while lying the whole time. But rapid blinking can happen involuntarily.
This means that this excessive blinking issue is something you cannot control even if you’re calm because it is happening without your control. Normally, a person blinks 5 to 6 times a minute or once every 10 to 15 seconds. When someone knows they are lying, they will blink 5 to even 8 times in rapid succession. Some claim that the high blink rate has to do with dopamine production. Those with higher dopamine will blink more than those that do, therefore, it could be linked to this.
Under interrogation, there are many things people do when asked questions. A lot of the time, our responses will be quick or seemingly forced. We might even have many issues stated above, such as sweating, blushing, etc. However, interrogation can be a high-pressure situation. Due to this, we have a lot of these issues without realizing it. Yet some realize this is high pressure and decide to act calm. Yet by doing this, many use one of the ways to tell if someone is lying.
They will close their eyes for usually a few seconds at maximum. Some do this as a calming method, allowing them to clear their mind and tell what they know or remember. This means they might not be lying at all, but composing themselves. Yet at times, this method actually allows one to calm down and allow their imagination to work properly. Closing the eyes can be used as a defensive mechanism only if they are closing their eyes while also speaking. Not when calming themselves.
While some people are just going to use their hands a lot when they speak, sometimes, gestures can give away a lie. The way most people in the criminal investigation world follow this is how and when gestures are applied. For example, most use their hands while speaking. Therefore, they might point to the right and use their hands to say “this guy at that store did this” or something along those lines.
However, when people lie, they tend to use these types of gestures AFTER they speak. In 2015, a study regarding how often one gestured when lying was conducted at the University of Michigan. They studied 120 media clips from major court cases where they followed how liars and those telling the truth gestured. Sure enough, those that lied would gesture with both of their hands 40% of the time. But those that were being truthful only did this 25% of the time.
Some people know that their eye movement or mouth might give them away. This is why they will attempt, sometimes in some really weird ways, to hide both of these areas. Many have a natural tendency to cover their mouth with their hands when lying once asked a direct question. When shielding the eyes, sometimes this is a person’s subconscious telling on them. As people tend to do this when they are coming up with a pretty big lie.
On top of this, if a person closes their eyes completely while answering a question that does not require reflection, this can be telling. When we reflect on a memory, sometimes it is natural to close our eyes to picture something. But if that reflection is not in play, the closed eyes issue is an attempt to hide the eyes. Likely to prevent you from seeing a direction they might move to. Therefore, this type of action is usually done when someone is lying.
Watch For Phrasing Using The Term “Honest” Or “Truth”
A lot of people seem to tell on themselves with the wording they employ rather than straight-up lying. To understand this, we’ll use an example. Let’s say you are asking someone if they saw the person that robbed a store across the street. For this example, they DID see who did it but aren’t willing to tell you. They will try to use buzzwords to convince you of their honesty when they tell you they didn’t see anyone.
This will come in the form of “let me be honest” or “honestly, this is what happened.” Sometimes, they might even use words like “to tell you the truth” or “let me tell you the truth.” They are hoping by using words involving honesty and truth, you will hear that wording and buy into their lie. Sometimes, this can work quite well. People are more open to believing people than thinking they are being lied to. Using these words can be useful in tricking people, but not for the trained investigator.
Using Filler Stress Words Such As “Uh, Like, and Um”
There are many people out there who struggle with public speaking. They might also struggle to have a conversation with someone without using what many call “stress words.” These are words often used as filler words between breaks in a discussion, often like the comma we just used. They act pretty much like a worded comma. Many use these words as filler between things, such as “I came to California to um, like, eat at In-N-Out Burger.”
Sometimes, however, these word-commas happen when people are not telling the truth. This is why many will spot them when used by someone in conversation, then note them as ways to tell if someone is lying to them. The reason for this is that those words are often used when a person is having to think about what they are saying. Usually, when we recall a memory we can reference it without much thought. But when people are making something up, they’ll often use one of the three words above.
A lot of people repeat themselves when they speak, especially teachers. This is often by design for an instructor because what they are saying is important and they want it to sink in. Others might be ADHD or have trouble remembering if they said something or not, thus causing them to repeat themselves. It even happens to writers, such as the writer of this article, quite often. Therefore, repeating yourself is not a “tell” for lying 100% of the time.
However, the reason is it one of the ways to tell if someone is lying is that people tend to repeat things when flustered. As we referenced, lying can create internal stress, and our subconscious causes us to give things away. When flustered or stressed, people will repeat things in an attempt to keep people focused on something. At times, they might repeat themselves but tell slightly different versions of a story with enough similarities that people do not notice. This does not always go well for them.
You might note that when people argue, one or all involved will raise their voice. It is out of anger and even defensiveness, especially if an argument has to do with something a person did or did not do. When we’re confronted, it is human nature to get defensive, especially if someone is coming at us with several questions. We might also get defensive if someone is coming at us already yelling or belittling us.
Again, it’s all human nature to get upset during this situation even when you were in the wrong. But when people are questioned and begin to lie, sometimes they raise the volume of their voice in defense. The reason for this is that they are trying to fake being upset or fake defensiveness. Since we naturally do this when defending ourselves when we’re in the right, it only makes sense to fake it when lying. Therefore, it’s a “tell” for many liars.
This is a “tell” that several people have and they do it without even realizing it. Sometimes, when we’re nervous or stressed our voice will change. Basically, our nervousness is causing the muscles in our vocal cords to tighten up. That will then cause our voice to get higher in pitch as we speak. Sometimes, it’ll begin to crack a bit like a teenage boy in puberty. One way people tend to combat this when stressed or nervous is by clearing their throat. Some will use cough drops or drink water.
This allows their vocal cords to relax a bit. But even this won’t help some people, especially when lying. The reason? It is in our instinct to feel nervous or stressed when lying because we’re trying to get away with something and do not know what will happen if caught in this lie. Unlike with other stress or nervousness that can be calmed, this does not happen under continued stress or nervousness, such as being questioned. Thus, the high-pitched voice.
One of the most obvious ways to tell if someone is lying is if they are constantly itching or fidgeting. When we try to deceive people, we often tell on ourselves without realizing it. Even if you’re not saying a word or looking around, you still might be moving your body. Rocking back and forth, moving your head or feet (especially in a direction you’re trying to hide something), and more can be easy “tells” to watch for.
On top of this, when people lie, it tends to cause disruptions in the autonomic nervous system. These disruptions start fluctuations within the nervous system to randomly make us feel like we’re itching. It could be an itch on the neck, arm, or some obvious area that is clearly visible. They won’t even know why they are itching. Sometimes, a person might feel tingles in a specific area. That will only cause more fidgeting, especially if they are seated.
This is one of the most common things people do in order to “feel” like they are not lying. They simply leave out information. This method tends to happen a lot with people because they will assume leaving out details will allow people to assume that it was a mistake or memory lapse issue. Usually, if someone is being truthful, they might need to be asked if they know more and will likely reveal more details when pressed. People tend to be nervous, especially when questioned by police or lawyers.
That causes them to have memory issues and not reveal everything. When asked if there is anything else, many will often remember more. But liars, well, they do not have many details. After going with their prepared story, they cannot offer much else. The American Psychological Association calls them “liars by omission.” In that, they leave out details because their story was false to start with. Meaning, they cannot tell you more because they didn’t think of anything else. Especially not something that’ll match their previous story. That can cause them to get details wrong and their story starts to dissolve.
If saying too little is an issue, how is saying too much a problem, right? Harvard University found that many people will try to lie by using a lot of words to add to a story. When you add a lot of information, you might look like someone willing to help. But this can also be done to confuse or send investigators in the wrong direction. Since many liars will often make things up as they go, their story might over embellish things or they will add a lot of excessive detail to even the smallest stuff.
When telling the truth, most people are willing to give as much detail as possible. But most of the time, the stories are well-grounded and usually underplayed. As in, they do not go over the top in details but say what is needed. Truth tellers also use a lot of “I, me, my, mine” language to discuss what they saw or experienced. Liars, however, want to distance themselves. Thus, they will use a lot of “he, she, they” language to remove themselves from the story as much as possible.
Going along with the ending point of the last section, people who lie want to distance themselves from things. Following this is one of the ways to tell if someone is lying to you. They might figuratively or even literally point their finger toward someone else so that people focus on them as the target. Trying to push the blame onto another, especially when you could be the prime target, is Liar 101.
Some people, however, do not like to be involved in things at all. They might feel they are never involved in anything and will finger point toward others often. Someone might also try to switch things up a bit too. There are some liars that try to pass off a story in a calm and measured demeanor while also finger-pointing. Meanwhile, others might act hostile and want you to look toward someone and will aggressively make you see it as they do. Both issues can indicate someone is lying to you.
While this is not common for everyone, following how a person is breathing can be one of the best ways to tell if someone is lying to you. If they are notably breathing in deeply or you can hear their breathing (which is not common), this could indicate that someone is stressed or nervous. Sometimes, this stress or nervous issue might even cause them to hold their breath as if they are preparing for something.
Normal breaths tend to offer up a level of calmness. Even if someone is being chaotic or over the top, so long as their breathing is calm, they’re likely not lying. When our heart speeds up, such as what happens under stress or nervousness, we’ll often talk faster or take more breaths. If someone is calm, they have no reason to be acting this way. Even if nervous, they won’t be overly stressed and won’t need as much breath. This is why it’s good to follow breathing patterns to spot a liar.
Have you ever spoke to someone who almost seems robotic when you ask them a question? They will be asked something, look at you for a bit, then respond after an uncomfortable delay. The reason for this is pretty obvious. They are simply thinking about what to say. Many people will pause before responding, especially if you’re asking them about what they did at their job a long time ago. It requires deep thinking, therefore, you expect them to pause.
This type of question should not get an immediate response. But if you ask them if they killed a person at their job several years ago, they should immediately respond with “no” or something similar to it. If they need to think about it, then this is a huge problem. Many liars will feel they need to pause before responding to any question that involves anything close to the thing they are lying about. Thus, this is one of the best ways to tell if someone is lying.
There are very few liars in this world who are able to tell lies and get away with them. Many will blow it by saying they were in a place that does not match up to a previous story. They might also get days or times mixed up. On top of this, they will get other fine details wrong that they claimed before. Such as someone’s hair color, height, or exactly what they were doing. There is quite a lot that will eventually come out. Very few people are naturally born to lie incredibly well.
It’s rare that a person will be able to avoid any issue with the numerous lies they tell. Therefore, it’s pretty obvious that this is one of the best ways to tell if someone is lying. The person will always slip up eventually. It is just a matter of time. That is why investigators often ask questions that are broad about something that took place. Yet they will also ask other small details, mostly to then ask the same person about in the future by using leading questions to see if someone is lying to them.