Can you spot the body language of a liar?
People lie all the time. They tell small lies to their boss, to a casual friend, and even to themselves. They tell bigger lies to get themselves out of trouble or to avoid conflict. We all try to be honest, but sometimes it seems as if it's crucial to lie.
There are times that people tell tall tales in order to seem more interesting, and when questioned about the validity of their story they become defensive and hostile.
Lies can cause serious damage, like when you're scammed in business, cheated out of money, betrayed by a loved one, or cheated on by a spouse. Lies can destroy a relationship, or if doesn't totally obliterate the relationship it can wreck the trust that was once there.
Unfortunately, we can't always tell the difference between someone not being honest and someone telling a huge, life-changing whopper of a lie. For the most part, we want to give people the benefit of the doubt as we do'’t want to think of them as liars and cheats, and when we discover the truth, it can be heartbreaking.
Dr. Lillian Glass is a behavioral analyst and body language expert. Dr. Glass has worked closely with the FBI on identifying signals of deception. She says that in order to know if someone is lying to you, you need to be familiar with their behavior when they're not lying. Then you'll want to observe their facial expressions, body language, speech patterns, and even their online writing patterns.
In her book The Body Language of Liars, Dr. Glass gives some hints on how to uncover the signs of deception, from bluffing to flat-out fraud.
One of the major tells of lying is when the person suddenly changes the position of their head when you ask them a question directly.
"The head will be retracted or jerked back, bowed down, or cocked or tilted to the side," says Dr. Glass.
When someone is nervous and lying to you, they start breathing heavily. It's a reflex action and their voice may become shallow.
"They are out of breath because their heart rate and blood flow change," says Dr. Glass. "Your body experiences these types of changes when you're nervous and feeling tense."
We've all seen the way the nervous person is portrayed on TV and movies as being very fidgety. But don't overlook those people who stand scarily still, as someone in a rigid stance is a major red flag.
When someone is repeating words and phrases, they're trying to buy some time to gather their thoughts. They're working hard to try to convince you, and themselves, that what they're saying is the truth.
The liar isn't aware that when they lie they often touch or cover their mouth. It's a way to avoid answering a question.
When someone subconsciously covers the vulnerable places on their body — such as their throat, chest, head, and stomach — it's an indication that they're lying.
They tend to become defensive when they think you're onto them, which results in a great deal of pointing.
A person who isn't telling the truth will often give an excess of details.
"Liars often talk a lot because they are hoping that, with all their talking and seeming openness, others will believe them," says Dr. Glass.
When liars find it difficult to speak, it's not because their lies are hot and uncomfortable to say — it's because when we're stressed and lying, our mouths get dry. Be alert for sudden lip-biting and pursed lips.
Liars believe that if they can maintain eye contact with you, you'll believe they're telling the truth, so they overcompensate with staring and less blinking.
"When people tell the truth, most will occasionally shift their eyes around and may even look away from time to time," says Dr. Glass. "Liars, on the other hand, will use a cold, steady gaze to intimidate and control."