How to spot a liar

SONY DSCIt is very important to know when a person is being economical with the truth, or just plain lying in any business situation.  To the skilled observer the majority of people can be quickly detected when not telling the truth (I exclude politicians from this as they make a career from avoiding uttering the truth!).

People signify their discomfort with what they are saying through combinations of body language gestures and eye movements.  We are looking for the combination.  Never take one movement in isolation – the person may have a nervous twitch!

Typical body language movements that would indicate discomfort with the spoken message include:

Pulling at the corner of his eye, his ear or his collar.  All of these gestures show major discomfort.  Watch you actions next time you spot a Police car in your mirror when driving.  If you have any reason to feel guilty your free hand will be pulling the bottom of your ear down.  Incidentally, the Police have been trained to look for this gesture – it is so common!

Remember that it is the feeling guilty that generates the reaction, not actual guilt.  This is important when interpreting body language.  If you are dealing with a nervous person and you ask her a direct question that she feels nervous about answering, even if she tells the absolute truth she is still going to exhibit some of these signs, as she is nervous.  It is the combination of changes this is important.

Blushing.  Many people cannot help blushing when they lie.  It may be subtle, but is often noticeable.

Foot Tapping.  This is often a sign of lying, almost as if the person is saying “get on with it, I’m not comfortable with this.”

Movement stops.  When a person is normally animated in their speech, using lots of arm movements and being expressive with his face, he can go very still when not telling the truth.  This is almost as if he fears that movement or expression will give the untruth away.

Eyes shut.  It is a sure sign of lying when someone shuts their eyes as they talk.  The person is worried that you will see the lie in their eyes and so shuts them.

Erratic breathing and flat voice.  Both of these signs come from a person trying to control their body to not give away their discomfort with their words.

Licking/touching lips or mouth.  If you have ever seen a young child tell an untruth, you will often see him put his whole hand over his mouth.  Touching the lips or mouth is an “adult” version of this gesture.  Most people would recognise licking lips as a nervous gesture that can indicate lying if used in conjunction with other gestures.

The eyes.  It has been said that the eyes are the only visible part of the brain.  They can certainly provide you with much information about the thoughts inside a persons head!

Generally, when a person is retrieving past memories, she will look to your left as you face her (she left them there) and if she is in the process of creating new information, she will look to your right.  If you ask here a question to which she should already know the answer (eg, “when is your birthday?”) she should look to the left as you face her to retrieve the information.  If she looks to the right it is an indication that she is creating the information, and in this case as she would already know her birthday, is likely to not be telling the truth.

This incredibly powerful technique can tell you a lot about what the person you are talking to is thinking about.  One word of warning, some left handed people have switched over the functions of the two sides of the brain so they will react opposite to how I have described here.  As long as you know the person, you should with practise be able to almost read their thoughts.

An interesting exercise now that you know what to look for is to watch interviews on television and see how the interviewee’s eyes move with each question – it can be very enlightening!

In summary…  This list of indications of lying should help you to identify those people who routinely avoid telling you the truth and those who only do so occasionally.  This information is extremely useful to you professionally.  A word of warning.  It is unlikely to help your case to blurt out “Liar!!” when a person lies to you.  This will simply entrench him in his position and he will become overtly hostile to you as you have shown him up.  Far better to file the information away for use next time you have to deal with that person.

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