Some might say that telling white lies is just part of life. By some counts, we hear between 10 and 200 lies every day. We might fib when we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Or we might bend the truth to get out of making certain plans. So what do we do about it?
Detecting Lies Both Big and Small
Trying to spot a liar isn’t just for detectives or poker players. We can learn a lot about someone from studying their behavior, and that can have benefits for both our personal and professional lives. Knowing a few “tricks of the trade” from investigators and other experts might help you notice those little lies before they get out of hand.
Of course, before you begin, you have to have some basic understanding of the other person. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you might not be able to really determine what’s uncommon behavior for them. Asking a few simple questions can help you gauge their normal response to neutral questions. That’s why it’s often easier to point out a dishonest statement from someone who’s already close to us. Still, certain so-called tells can still be useful to know.
How to Pay Attention to Body Language
If you want to get a clue as to whether someone is lying, it’s a good idea to watch their eyes. Excessive blinking is one common type of tell. When under stress, someone might blink five or six times rather quickly. Compare that to the typical five or six times a minute. Similarly, pay attention to how long a person keeps their eyes closed. Keeping our eyes closed for a while can usually be interpreted as a type of defense mechanism. A solid second or two might be a sign that they’ve lied.
General fidgeting may also be a tell. If someone is rocking their body or moving their feet, they’re likely feeling nervous. The might also take on certain grooming behaviors. This can look different ways. For one, they could start playing with their hair. Or they might want to touch certain items nearby, like straightening the angle of a pen or piece of paper on the table. A Distinctly clearing your throat before answering a direct question can also be a clue. It’s not a given, but these actions could help you be on your guard for dishonest statements.
Different Ways of Telling the Story
Watching body language can be helpful, but it isn’t the only way to see through the gaps in someone’s story. How they talk is just as important as their physical actions. You might notice a person becoming increasingly vague on the details when they start spinning their lie. On the other hand, they could also start to overthink their answers. Taking a while to pause and think of how to respond might be a hint that they’re figuring out a way to trick you.
Another thing to watch for is whether someone is displaying the appropriate emotions. When faced with a startling question or some disturbing details of an event, are they responding with a deadpan expression? Or do they show something raw and honest, like shedding tears or getting visible upset?
The person might also start to get upset with you personally. When this happens, you’re likely nearing the end of the conversation. You have to maintain some level of rapport, and if someone is holding you in contempt, you aren’t likely to get far. But if you’ve been paying attention along the way, you’ll hopefully have a good sense whether you’re being told the truth!