The natural tendency of humans is to trust their fellow social beings. When someone says to you, “I have read that book” or “I like your haircut”, you tend to take the statements at their face value. In fact, the natural trustworthiness of humans is crucial towards maintaining a harmonious and civil society.
Yet there are times when a lot depends on knowing whether you are being lied to. It may have to do with a business decision, or a personal relationship or even to know whether it is part of a pattern, which involves your habitually being taken for granted. Under such circumstances, it is worthwhile to focus on certain tell-tale signs which may tell you that someone is lying to you.
Look at the eyes
The old adage, of a liar having shifty eyes, seems to be true. Normally, people maintain eye contact for at least half of the conversation. But a person who is not telling the truth, will be hesitant to maintain eye contact with you, for at least part of the conversation. He or she may keeping looking away, or focus elsewhere, when talking to you. However, it is worth mentioning here, that seasoned liars may be able to hold your gaze more steadily than others, in order to allay your suspicions of their lies. But again, in this case, the liar is likely to blink more than usual in an attempt to “stare you down”.
Pay heed to body signs. The subconscious mind of a human being is in charge of several involuntary functions, like breathing, sweating and heart-beating. When a person lies, he may be able to control voluntary functions like eye contact or pitch of the voice, but certain involuntary body habits may give him away. Some of the unconscious signals to watch out for are rapid or shallow breathing, fidgeting, tapping the foot a lot, turning away from you or closing your palms tightly. A person lying to you, may repeatedly bring his hands to the face to touch the nose or cover the mouth in a subconscious attempt to hide his lie. Other signs of fibbing may be flared nostrils, visible signs of tension over the forehead and increased blushing or paleness, as the normal blood flow varies according to the nervous strain caused by lying.
Changes in speech patterns
Watch out for changes in speech patterns. A person may consciously decide to tell a lie, but certain changes in his or her speech pattern, may provide clues to his intention. For instance, be on your guard if a person hesitates for a split second before answering your question or there is a noticeable change in the pitch of voice, during the conversation. Also, an unusual amount of stammering, throat clearing or hemming and hawing could indicate that the person is telling a lie. Again, a person may speak unusually slowly when lying. This is because he would need to think up lies as he goes along. These are all symptoms of stalling tactics which a person unconsciously uses while engaging in falsehoods.
A pursed mouth
While lying, a person may set his or her mouth in a narrow line. This may be because the person is determined to go through with his or her lies. Alternatively, visible signs like thinner and tighter lips, may be a subconscious attempt to prevent the lies from escaping from the person’s mouth.
Notice what the person is saying
Along with changing a person’s speech pattern, lies also force changes in the content of the story. For instance, law enforcement officials often ask suspected offenders to repeat their stories several times. A frequent result is that several different versions of the story crop up with each retelling. So if you suspect a person is lying to you, mark closely what he or she is saying. If the present account seems inconsistent with other versions, be on your guard. A liar will usually forget a detail, add something new, or leave out something he or she had mentioned in previous discussions. No matter what the type of inconsistency, it is usually a sure sign that the teller is lying.
Changing the subject
Lying requires a good deal of effort and concentration and it is not something that people are usually comfortable doing. So a liar will attempt to change the subject sooner than usual, or better still, avoid bringing up the matter or even anything remotely related to it. On the other hand, a person telling the truth will demand to know why you changed the subject, and will want to return to discussing it. So if you suspect that a person is not being truthful, bring up the matter tangentially, in a discussion. If he or she avoids it and jumps on to another unrelated topic, you can assume with some measure of certainty, that he or she has something to hide.
Unnecessary sarcasm or irony
Often a liar will engage in unwarranted sarcasm or black humour, as an unconscious attempt to distance himself or herself from the lies. If you find that a person is being overly sarcastic, or using too much irony while discussing something or someone, maybe he or she is not telling it as it is.
Overloading the details
When a person has come prepared to lie, he or she may go into an extraordinary amount of details to make their point. They may pick up some obscure point and go on harping about that, instead of sticking to the main topic of conversation. This elaboration of insignificant details, is often a sign that a person is trying to hide something.
Having gone into various tell-tale signs of lying, it is imperative to mention that there is no single foolproof way of confirming that a person is lying. The above points are best used to support a decision and not to arrive at an absolute judgment of others. The best way to catch a liar in the act, is to keep track of his or her normal behaviour. And when you find that that behaviour undergoes noticeable changes, that is when you may suspect that a lie has been told.