20 ways to spot a liar


Whether you’re an avid marketing man or an advertising man, whether you work in another area of a business or whether you just want to learn it for the social aspects, the art of spotting a liar is an indispensable tool in a world increasingly dependant on social interaction, whether online or offline.

Spotting a liar is a powerful tool and when coupled with the art of manipulation or persuasion, which are more than often mastered by the very best marketing and advertising people out there, it becomes more than just a tool – it becomes an unstoppable force into coercing someone verbally, getting to the truth and then persuading or manipulating them in the way you wish.

One of the most efficient conman in history, according to Pamela Meyer in a TED talk, was so good at what he was doing that the British government stated he had the power to undermine the whole banking system of the western world. He was interviewed once and all he said was: “Look, I’ve got one rule. Look. Everyone is willing to give you something, they’re ready to give you something for whatever it is that they are hungry for.”

You really need to see the video at the end of this post if you want to hear more of what Pamela has to say about lying.

Now to the art of actually spotting the liar:

1. Liars like to distance themselves from the subject. Taking Bill Clinton as an example, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” has the two giveaways of “did not” and “that woman” help point out that it’s a lie.

1. Liars tend to not use contractions and use a more formal language. Just like in the example above, Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” instead of “I didn’t…”

2. Whether it’s your man, a stranger, or a friend, shoulder shrugging subconsciously signifies that someone doesn’t believe what they’re telling you.

3. When someone is nervous (like when they’re, say, lying their pants off), their mouth becomes dry-they lick their lips as a result.

4. Liars subconsciously want to put physical distance between you and themselves, so they lean their heads back a little.

5.  Wiping their hands down their arms or legs is a subconscious way of getting rid of the dirty feeling associated with lying.

6. Repeating the question before answering it dishonestly is a common indicator of a lie.

7. Liars use qualifying language, like “to tell you the truth” or “to be honest”.

8. Puckered lips is a sign that someone is holding back information-especially if they make the move after you ask them a sensitive question.

9. Just like brushing themselves off, blowing out air is a subconscious way to get the icky feeling associated with lying out of their bods.

10. Liars look you in the eyes too much. They don’t fidget, but rather freeze their upper body. Or if they do move, they over-do it.

11. Liars will fake smiles. Look at the eyes. The genuine smile is in the eyes and cannot be faked. You can’t consciously contract your “smile muscles”.

12. Liars like to offer too many details, or too little. It’s up to you, and based on how you know the person before, that you can identify a lie. Too many details are very often a strong sign of a lie, but so is too little detail. It’s subtle, but you can easily get the hang of it – usually when there are too many details they tend to be over-stretched or just feel like that they don’t belong, and when there are too little detail the explanation or story usually feels empty.

13. When liars are the culprits and trying to avoid punishment for what they did, they’re more likely to suggest strict punishments for the “real culprit.” – They try to do this in a sense of re-assuring you that they are under no circumstance the culprit, because no sane man would propose strict measures if he knows he’s the culprit, would he? Wrong.

14. Liars are terrible at telling their stories backwards. – They really are, anytime you suspect someone of lying, after they finish their little story or explanation, just start with asking the last thing: “So then you arrived home. What did you say you did before that?” and then jump two steps backwards and do the same trick. “So you said you took the cab from there, how did you say you got there in the first place?” And keep retracing his/her story or explanation, backwards, in random steps.

15. Liars will often point their feet towards an exit.

16. Liars will often put barrier objects between themselves and the person asking them about their lie. – Anything goes here, even a bottle of ketchup really.

17. Head shakes – a liar will usually shake his head from side to side (negative way) while saying something positive. – “Did you kiss her or not?” – “No way man, no way” (*shakes head from side to side*).

18. The quick-check glance. This may follow a less-than-truthful response: liars will immediately look down and away, then quickly glance back at you to see if you bought the falsehood.

19. Verbal cues. When lying, a person’s vocal tone either rises to a higher pitch than normal, or goes to a much lower pitch than normal. It’s important that you take the time and ask a few non-threatening, non-related questions before you ask the real question. You need to identify how “the target” acts under normal circumstances.

20. Face touching. A person’s nose may not grow when he tells a lie, but watch closely and you’ll notice that when someone is about to lie or make an outrageous statement, he’ll often unconsciously rub his nose. (This is most likely because a rush of adrenaline opens the capillaries and makes his nose itch.) Covering the mouth or eyes are additional common gestures people make when they are being untruthful.

And remember, you can’t base your technique on just one of these, you’ll mostly be wrong. You have to make these work together, and like Pamela says, it’s only when you identify “clusters” of tell-tale signs, there is actually a lie to be found.

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