Here’s an interesting stat about lies:
The majority of people (up to 60%) lie at least once every ten minutes in social interactions (one person often lying up to three times within a short conversation).
At first, this stat may look unbelievable. But is it?
Think about it. Once you’ve told a lie, you’ll most likely need another lie to keep going. What this means is that you’re being lied to every day and you don’t even know it.
According to research, our intuition — though imperfect — is a natural lie detector. Whenever we hear these lies, we may sense that someone is hiding something, but our rational — and often biased — mind will usually derail us from believing someone is lying to us.
But despite our tendencies to shut down our natural ability to spot lies, there are several body language cues experts have found to be consistent with liars. And understanding these cues will help you in detecting a liar the next time you come across one.
1. Understand their baseline behaviors
The existence of baseline behaviors is why we intuitively know when someone is lying, even if we may not register this intuition on a conscious level.
A person’s baseline is how they behave under normal conditions. For instance, if you ask a question as simple as their name, how do they respond? If they’re telling you how their day went, what are their microexpressions and mannerisms?
It’s much easier to understand someone’s baseline if you usually have that person around, like your child, a sibling, a friend, or a colleague. But in some cases, it’s much harder to establish a baseline.
Think about how FBI agents or detectives interrogate suspects. Even if you’ve never been in a real-life situation, you’ve probably watched countless movie scenes about it.
Notice how they ask simple questions like “What do you do for a living?” before moving to the serious questions that are more relevant to the case at hand. The simple questions are just their attempt to understand the suspect’s baseline.
Once established, they can quickly spot when the person’s behavior has become inconsistent with their baseline. And this deviation will be their cue that the suspect may be hiding something.
As the author of The Body Language of Liars, Dr. Lillian Glass, explained in her book, the baseline is people’s “code of communication” and once they deviate from it, be on the lookout for other signs.
2. What the eyes can tell you about a lier
Most people think that by observing someone’s eyes, they can tell whether someone is lying or not. In fact, a study done across over 50 countries found that most people believe gauze aversion to be a good sign someone is hiding something.
But how true is this?
Well, according to the research, it turns out that both liars and non-liars have roughly the same frequency of eye contact during conversations.
But this doesn’t mean the eyes cannot tell you whether or not someone is hiding something in a conversation. It all goes back to the person’s baseline.
For instance, let’s say a detective is asking a suspect a simple question, and the suspect appears confident with good eye contact. But suddenly, he’s asked where he was by 10 pm on Friday and he quickly starts blinking and avoiding eye contact, that’s suspicious.
According to Lillian Glass, someone who is lying will most likely turn their eyes away from you at a crucial moment in a conversation. Why?
They may be trying to think of the best way to construct the lie they want to tell.
When you understand that your child is a pretty confident person who doesn’t have any issues making eye contact, it’s much easier to know that something is off when he or she deviates from this baseline.
The point here is this: The eyes can tell whether or not someone’s lying, but first you need to understand the person’s baseline. Some people naturally are not just good with eye contact.
3. Trying too hard
One way to spot a liar is how hard they try to convince you that what they are telling you is the truth.
If someone is already used to deceiving people, they probably know how to use many words to convince you or take your attention away from the truth.
According to Lillian Glass, you’ll likely hear phrases like “Let me tell you the truth,” or “I’ll be honest with you,” from someone who’s trying too hard to make you believe what they are saying.
For instance, you’ll often see this in a partner who’s trying to cover up cheating. Instead of simply giving details to the question about where they were last night, they’ll quickly try to deviate their partner’s attention from what’s on the ground with phrases like “You know I love you,” or “Believe me, I’m telling the truth.”
But in reality, all they need is a good explanation — the truth — about where they were last night. If they’re as innocent as they claim, the truth should set them free, not their desperate confessions.
Also read: How to Handle A Manipulative Person
Not everyone is a pro at lying. And one of the best — and perhaps the most reliable way — to spot a liar is by catching their slip-ups.
For instance, someone who’s cheating may give irregular narrations about their location and what they were doing on a particular day.
Yesterday night, he said he stayed out late because he had to finish up much work. But when you asked about the smell of alcohol in his shirt, he quickly added that his boss also asked him and all his colleagues to come to celebrate the success of the new deal over at his place.
Sometimes a liar might slip up without even knowing. For instance, someone might tell a story twice, but each time the details keep changing because they forgot the version they told you the first time.
Whenever you get these kinds of irregularities from someone, don’t ignore them.
5. Look out for signs of stress
You’ve probably noticed this sign more in children. Whenever a child lies, it’s often easy to tell as they’ll manifest most of these signs and make it obvious to you that they’re lying. Plus, they’ll probably have the chocolate they’re denying to have eaten all over their face.
When you press deeper (because you’re sure the child is lying) you’ll start seeing signs of stress. For instance, the child may start sweating, fidgeting, swallowing, rubbing the back of his head, avoiding gauze, etc.
According to experts, the temperature of the brain rises when it’s under stress, and this may lead to perspiration of the forehead and the upper lip area just below the nose.
The signs of stress aren’t just obvious in children. But you’ll notice it especially when someone isn’t comfortable lying to you.
6. Look for clusters of red flags
Just one red flag doesn’t mean someone is lying to you. If you pay attention to body language and the credibility of what someone is telling you, you’ll most likely see more than one sign that someone is lying to you.
When you spot a sign, like an irregularity in someone’s narrative, dig deeper. As the person starts suspecting that you’re onto them, you’ll most likely see other signs like stress, irregular blinking, and maybe slip up that just gives them away.