How to Spot a Liar

Lying, for most people, isn’t something that comes naturally. The careful observer should be able to spot dishonesty from a mile away. Usually, unless dealing with a complete sociopath, people will give one of several classic signs when they’re not telling the truth. Sniffing out a lie is an art form, and once mastered, this skill becomes invaluable in business, relationships and life in general.

According to a Yale University report, written by Paul Ekman, There are two reason why lies sometimes fail: either because the liar failed to prepare or because of the interference of emotions. The main reason, Ekman believes, that lies fail is inadequate preparation. An example of this type of failure is when liars forget what they’ve already lied about. This often leads to contradicting statements that show liars for what they are.

This lack of preparation can help people determine if someone’s lying to them. Liars tend to be vague in order to avoid details that would be harder to remember. Casually asking them about numerous, specific details will throw them off their rhythm, and asking them to repeat those details later is likely to make them nervous or defensive. If they react in this way, it’s highly probable they’re not being honest.

Aside from their omission of detail, liars also exhibit behavioral signs of lying. The most common of these signs is the avoidance of eye contact during the lie. If someone maintains eye contact during a conversation but diverts their gaze when asked a question, the answer is probably false. Other behavioral signs of dishonesty could include twitching, an emotional tone or attempting to change the subject.

When trying to determine if someone’s lying, it’s best to approach the situation casually. Accusing a liar of being deceitful will undoubtedly trigger a defensive reaction. This doesn’t prove anything because accusing an honest person of lying will usually result in the same reaction. To know for sure, casually ask them to provide details and watch for behavioral indicators. Over time, most liars will be unable to remember every false detail and will be caught in one of their false statements.

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