How to Tell If Someone Is Lying

Last week I shared with you a curious secret about getting people to believe you. That ended up being a pretty good post. One week later, returning to the same theme–negotiations–I want to talk to you about the other side of the coin.

The dark side.

The Dark Art of Lying

I’m a pretty casual guy. Most of the time I think pretty well of people. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe them. And don’t think too many people lie.

My wife gives me trouble about this.

On three different April Fool’s Day I fell for fake cuisine: baby carrots, grilled cheese, chicken pot pie.

[Stop laughing. It’s not funny.]

Sometimes its hard for me to believe that someone is lying to me. I think mostly I think this way because when I think of lying I think of a malicious car thief or hateful dictator.

But lies can be common during negotiations, lies like “I don’t remember saying that I’d throw in range and microwave,” when in fact they do know that they did promise that but at this point they’ve changed their mind for one reason or another.

Instead of simply withdrawing the offer, they lie.

However, telling if someone is lying to you is not only useful in a real estate context. Anyone can use this knowledge in everyday situations where telling the truth from a lie can help prevent you from being a victim of fraud or scams and other deceptions, like April Fool food pranks.

The following rapid-fire list of techniques are to help you detect if someone is lying. These techniques are used often by police, and security experts.

Read up now and become a regular Holmes.

Body Language of Lies

If someone is lying to you, physical expression will be limited and stiff, with few arm and hand movements. Hand, arm and leg movement are toward his own body. The liar is trying to take up less space.

A person who is lying to you will avoid making eye contact.

He will touch his face and throat with his hands. He will touch or scratch his nose or behind his ear. He will not likely touch his chest where his heart is with an open hand.

But he will not look at you.

Emotional Gestures & Contradiction

Timing and duration of emotional gestures and emotions are off a normal pace. The display of emotion is delayed, stays longer than it would naturally, then stops suddenly.

Timing is also off between emotions and gestures, between expressions and words. For example: Someone says “I love it!” when receiving a gift, and then smiles after making that statement, rather then at the same time the statement is made.

A liar’s gestures and expressions don’t match the verbal statement, such as frowning when saying “I love you.”

[Ugh, that one hurts.]

When someone is faking emotions (like happy, surprised, sad, awe) instead of moving the whole face a liar’s expressions are limited to mouth movements. For example, when someone smiles naturally their whole face is involved: jaw/cheek movement, eyes and forehead push down.

Interactions and Reactions

A guilty person gets defensive. An innocent person will often go on the offensive.

A liar is uncomfortable facing his questioner or accuser and may turn his head or body away.

A liar might unconsciously place objects (book, coffee cup, etc.) between themselves and you. He’s creating that barrier. Kind of like when he tries to consume less space.

Verbal Context and Content

A liar will use your words to answer you question. When asked, “Did you eat the last cookie?” The liar answers, “No, I did not eat the last cookie.”

Liars sometimes avoid “lying” by not making direct statements. They imply answers instead of denying something directly.

The guilty person may speak more than natural, adding unnecessary details to convince you…they are not comfortable with silence or pauses in the conversation.

A liar may leave out pronouns and speak in a monotonous tone. When a truthful statement is made the pronoun is emphasized as much or more than the rest of the words in a statement.

Words may be garbled and spoken softly, and syntax and grammar may be off. In other
words, his sentences will likely be muddled rather than emphasized.

Other Signs of a Lie

If you believe someone is lying, here’s how you can test him: change the subject of the conversation quickly. A liar follows along willingly and becomes more relaxed. The guilty wants the subject changed.

On the other hand, an innocent person may be confused by the sudden change in topics and will want to get back to the previous subject.

Also, liars tend to use humor or sarcasm to avoid a subject. Ever heard the bad joke in the middle of a pretty serious discussion?


Obviously, just because someone exhibits one or more of these signs does not make them a liar. The above behaviors should be compared to a persons normal behavior whenever possible.

Got any other lie detecting tricks up your sleeve? Share and share a like.

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