15 Signs You’re Lying To Me

by Ron Haynes

In the TV show, Lie To Me, Dr. Cal Lightman leads a team of experts assisting federal law enforcement, government agencies and local police with their most difficult cases. These experts on the show study the involuntary movements, facial expressions, and vocal tones of suspects to determine who is lying and why. It’s pretty interesting!

The show claims that in a 10 minute conversation, the average person lies three times. While that may or may not be the case, here are 15 different ways that may indicate someone is being less than honest with you. Realize that any single indicator may not be reliable, so be sure and look for multiple indicators and consider the whole context.

1. Lack of eye contact.
One of the classic signs of deception is little to no direct eye contact. If someone is telling the truth, she’s likely to give you her full attention and look right at you.

2. Too much eye contact.
Sometimes liars are aware that they’re not making enough eye contact, so they compensate by giving you too much eye contact. It kinda feels creepy when this happens. It’s like you can’t get away.

3. Looking up and the right.
Some brain scientists believe that looking up and to the right triggers the part of the brain linked to the imagination. Conversely, when someone looks down and to the left, he’s stimulating the section of the brain associated with memories. That’s HIS left, not yours!

4. Lack of gestures.
The less someone gestures, the more likely it is that he’s keeping a secret or telling a lie.

5. Robotic movements.
Someone who’s truly emphasizing a point will gesture with her arms and hands in a fluid or firm way. Someone who’s withholding the truth may use her arms, but the movements will appear stiff instead of natural.

6. Too much detail.
When someone’s made the decision to lie, they will work out many details of their story. Many times, there will be incredible detail with their story, but if you quiz them, there will always be some discrepancies. Wait a few hours and then ask for some detail again. You may be surprised!

7. Hey! Where are their hands?
Observe whether the person you’re talking to:

  • Places his hands on his lap or clenches them
  • Covers his mouth when speaking
  • Touches or covers his face when listening
  • Rubs his eyes
  • Scratches on or behind the side of his ear

Any of these could be a signal that you’re being deceived.

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8. The one shoulder shrug.
Observe whether the person you’re speaking with raises one shoulder slightly. That could be another indication of deception.

9. Crossed arms and legs.
Folded arms, crossed legs, and limbs kept close to the body indicate a need to protect something … sometimes. I cross my legs all the time and it doesn’t mean anything! It’s just how I sit. In general though, when you’re feeling relaxed and have nothing to conceal, you look relaxed, with your arms and legs in a natural position.

10. Tilting the head away.
Tilting the head away generally indicates discomfort with the situation. On the other hand, tilting the head toward you implies that someone is trying to get closer to the information.

11. Bad posture.
Standing or sitting up straight is an indication of confidence whereas slouching with hands buried deep in the pants pockets suggests insecurity and uncertainty. See, your mom was right, so sit up straight!

12. Inconsistencies when speaking
This is a dead giveaway. Pay attention to conflicting details and contradictions. “I thought you said you were out of town that Friday … ” BINGO!

13. Changes in vocal pitch.
When you’re familiar with someone’s normal speaking voice, you notice when it raises in pitch. This is usually a sign that the person is uncomfortable … or going through puberty.

14. A distinct pause.
When someone is making up a story as they go along, they will have to pause to think about the details. When they have to stray from their rehearsed story, they have to regroup. Pay attention to what’s said after the pause. It might be a lie.

15. A change in the rate of speech.
Again, depending on how well you know the person, you could notice not only a change in their vocal tone but also in how fast or how slowly they begin to speak.

These are just guidelines, none of them are written in stone. Just use them to help you make decisions and never be afraid to start asking questions to determine whether someone is lying or not. There are times you’ll need to push and times you need to let it go. Just make sure you consider the context when someone exhibits one of these actions before immediately assuming they’re lying.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 35 comments }

Pat Mathews

Lack of eye contact, poor posture, and too much detail is also characteristic of the geek population – who as a class are generally painfully honest.

Admin

That’s a pretty broad statement, but again, everything must be taken in context.

Alyssa

I agree with Pat. Also, people with mental disabilities, and people on the autistic spectrum, may also exhibit some of these signs when telling the truth.

Admin

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Just because these may not fully apply to 2% of the population doesn’t mean they don’t apply to the other 98.

Take a moment and re-read my last paragraph as well as my responses to the comments.

rainbowgoddess

These “signs” could easily apply to anyone who is extremely shy, socially phobic, autistic or even simply nervous or uncomfortable in social situations or situations involving authority figures (job interviews, dealing with police/law enforcement, etc.) There are also many cultures, especially non-Western cultures, where eye contact is considered inappropriate; does that mean that everyone from that culture lies routinely?

Admin

Of course not. That’s why you have to take everything into context. Exceptions to the rule don’t invalidate the rule. Always consider everything in context.

Mrs. Micah

It’s kind of sad that everyone in the comments is determined to find the exception. :) I mean, sure, it’s good to point out the exceptions. It’s crucial to remember that people from other cultures have different mannerisms and that people with phobias or autistic spectrum issues don’t conform to societal norms.

But the principles are on the whole pretty telling in our culture, it makes sense to acknowledge them. And I think the show does a great job so far of using these as a starting point rather than an ending point. Like the teen in the first episode, who was exhibiting lots of signs of guilt but it turned out to be about something else. Or like the person who used Botox….

Regina

I was thinking faster than I could type! What I meant to say in that first sentence was:

How many exceptions to the “rules” need to be found before the rules become nothing more than theories or opinions?

Admin

That’s up to you!

Regina

In my opinion, the best way to learn if someone is trustworthy is to judge them by what they DO. Observe someone long enough, and you will eventually be able to conclude whether or not they are a liar. Sure, this might set you up to potentially be hurt. Relying on this method of reading soley (or mainly) body language though, may cause you to become blind to someone’s more telling actions. You may also shun people whose only crime is shyness or lack of control over their own body language. Believe me, for I speak from experience: It hurts quite a bit to have people judge you as a liar or sneak due to your social awkwardness and poor body language, and watch people you know to be liars being accepted as wonderful, honest people. All because those accepting and rejecting judge on appearences, rather than actions.

Regina

Oh, and before you say something about the disclaimer at the bottom–I did notice it, and read it. Unfortunately, many won’t, not within your blog, or while watching this show (if the show does have a disclaimer. I have never watched it, personally). Or, they will simply forget it. Those are the people I worry about, as they, at times, seem to outnumber the people who think critically on these matters.

It’s not a horribly bad list though. Number 6 isn’t so bad, especially the suggestion to go quiz the person after an hour or so. I know I personally tend to go into too much detail when explaining nearly anything to someone, or when relating an experience or thought of some sort, but that is because I don’t know how to pick out the information the listener will actually care about. I don’t worry about that though, because my love of details will make it unlikely that I won’t be able to re-relate every detail I told a person. In fact, I pity the person who would quiz me later, for they would probably have to endure the entire conversation in near exact detail a second time! Hee hee.

I thought number 12 was far more concrete than most of the other items as well. I still believe that nearly every person will screw up their facts (or chain of events) at one time or another and look a fool, though it won’t necessarily mean they are lying. However, I would agree that a glaring inconsistency, such as the example given, would probably likely indicate lying.

All the others though… I would be wary to rely on them, unless you knew the person your talking to very, very well. Then this list might benefit; You would know to explore the situation further to see if the person was lying, or if there was something else going on that might be completely unrelated that cause the behavior.

Samantha

What you have here isn’t an accurate list of ways to tell if someone is lying — it’s a list of ways to tell if someone is uncomfortable. They might be uncomfortable for any number of reasons; deception is only one possible reason.

Many liars won’t show up at all according to these criteria. Doubly so someone who knows that people expect these signs, or someone with a sociopathic condition.

More importantly, though, a lot of people will *think* they’ve spotted liars.

Admin

I believe the readers of this blog are mature enough to realize that anything taken out of context is worthless …

LP

There’s something about this………pride maybe?……it makes me think…….that the list indicates that we should, rather than NOT, judge other people’s motives. Man routinely tries to figure out what, or why another person says what they say. Usually, not too good an idea. Your instincts are most always a better rule of thumb to follow, when you suspect someone is lying. And some people are just that. They lie, from the womb to the tomb. But, then again, today’s TV makes me suspect of everything anyway, especially the producers of these shows. And this is entertainment folks. Now….imagine me shaking my head. :-\ I know, I know, people have to do their job, but I’m just thrilled it’s not my call. There is a JUDGE Who will make us account for every word spoken.

Admin

The reasons you have instincts are because there are subtle indications of deception. Instincts are actually scientific.

Admin

What blows my mind on this post is everyone’s offense at the conclusions that body language experts reach when they detect that someone is possibly being deceptive. The tone has been that no one can tell when anyone is lying. The science, and the experts in the field, disagree with that premise.

There’s no necessary judgment of motive, only that the person is uncomfortable and that discomfort may indicate deception. When someone’s eyes betray them, or their story doesn’t just hold up, or they can’t seem to get the whole story out, or they show signs of uneasiness, I’m picking up on those clues.

ray

You people are pathetic. The man writes a post about some commonly acccepted ways to detect if someone is lying and you all get your socks in a wad. Any person can fool some of the people some of the time, but they cannot fool everyone all the time. Why? Because people detect in some way ot another that their lying.

There is an entire industry that detects lying. If it didn’t work, those people would be out of business.

Just tell the truth and move on people. Give the man a break.

Daniel Massicotte

I love these kinds of lists. That way I can study the signs I must have in order to lie effectively. :)

“Dear Dad,

You always told me an honest man has nothing to fear. So I’m trying my best not to be fearful” -Catch me if you Can

Admin

LOL! Maybe I should have titled it “How to look like you’re telling the truth when you’re really lying!”

fathersez

I was thinking along the lines of what Ray has said, though not so forcefully. More along the lines of what Mrs. M said.

My wife has her own detector. She’ll ask me something and 3 months later ask me the same thing again. And woe betide me if the story doesn’t gel.

And my daughter who did psychology says that scratching one’s nose is a sign of some shadiness.

Like you said, it all depends.

Cheers

wisp

Cool list, man. Thanks.

Of course, there is plenty more, but this is a pretty neat and concise list.

And it’s not about the AMOUNT of exceptions. It’s about statistics.

It’s like a bet. When the more elements you take into consideration, the chances of being right (if they all harmonize) get increasingly higher.

Laura

Thanks for the list, I’ve been watching the shows.
Funnily enough, A long time ago during the school year I was watching an episode. In that episode they introduced idea number 8- one shoulder shrug.
The next day my friend told a tiny lie while shrugging one shoulder. I laughed and accused her of lying and was right XD But it was all fun and games, I don’t go around accusing everyone.
Anyways, great list! Thanks :D

Jasmyn

the eye contact thing is kinda off most ppl will look away when being asked a question usually its because they are recalling a memory if they dont look away then they are probably lying. and most of these are to broad you have to narrow it down and half of it depends on who the person your talking to is and how old they are

Ron

That’s why they’re called “possible indications” of lying! They just give you some clues to follow up upon, but still they’re more often right than not.

Trisha Elwell

I agree! Also, some of these are bad habits that I, myself, exhibit on a regular basis. I guess I’d better work on that!

Jon

Its a myth that a person looks away if they are lying. If anything they will overcompensate with eye contact. they want to watch and see if you believe the lie. atleast thats what paul ekmans studies have shown… also cal lightmans calls the myth about avoiding eye contact in the very first episode :)

Ron

Did you see Sign #2? It addressed the person who looks at you too much.

Someone who’s a constant liar may indeed watch you for clues about your gullibility, but those who aren’t habitual liars (like young children–ask any parent!) will sometimes avoid eye contact when lying. The message is that these are clues, indications, markers that you need to ask more questions, nothing else.

Another myth is that you can take a list and determine who is and isn’t lying and that any person can be right about it 100% of the time! We’d probably be shocked how many times we’re lied to each day.

Robert F.

Your list of 15 signs of lying does have some real accurate information when it comes to inconsistencies in conversation in what they said they did earlier, and then the story is changed to something else later, relative to the context that the person asked has a normal and healthy memory recall. Obviously, a medically impaired individual diagnosed with Alzheimers would be out of the context for this argument. But a more affective way to detect lying, is to ask a person information that every one knows is true, like their name, similar information, and what is known that this person did in the past, and note the response in body language, with the hands, eye, and posture reactions during the expected truthful statements, and ask a series of questions with unknown answers and note the responses and compare the responses between the truthful statements and unknown answers. Most psychologists perform this procedure during prospective patient intakes. Psychological Evaluations Tests are done a little differently in detecting lies. They ask the same question in 5 to 10 different ways, given to prospective mental health patients in a 500 question battery designed to measure the honesty of the test taker and then rank these answers in sensitivity levels to categorize the individual into one of the twelve DMSI Mental Health Classifications Profiles. Employment applications use similar questions asked in a different way to look for lies in truthfulness usually formated by a licensed psychologist, thru a Psych Eval service, found on line. All minimum wage jobs usually make it mandatory to take Psych Evals. All retail outlets, seem to use the Psych Eval. Police departments use their own techniques in detecting lies, but unfortunately sometimes the interviewer turns into a lier themselves, with some of their unscrupulous practices. In general most people tell at least one lie a day if not more to protect a situation or avoid hurting some one elses feelings. People lie, for many different reason, i.e. example, making up false information of where they really were, why they can’t go somewhere, why they can’t go on a date, why they are sick from school or work, why they didn’t do their homework the night before it was due; the dog ate it, who they really were with to their boyfriend or husband trying to avoid an argument, trying to get out of a traffic ticket, why they didn’t have dinner ready and newspaper available when the husband gets home. The list goes on and on. There are approximately 400 million people living in the United States right now. This is most likely why there are so many private detective services, and bankground check services operating and thriving today in the United States. People lie.
In conclusions, unfortunately lies will always be around as long as their is a need, motive, or reason to lie. Families do it all the time, trying to avoid getting out of the blame, or responsibility for doing something. And once one lie is told, then another lie is told to cover up the first lie until finally there are maybe six lies told for just that single lie. From my experiences in dating girls, they do it all the time, giving out bad phone numbers, saying they will meet you again and never do. or a car salesman, who promises how wonderfull the car drives, only to find out later, their is a massive oil leak underneath by the oil pan, that will cost 400 dollars to fix. The only time a person doesn’t lie, is when they are innocent, naive and very young, and haven’t learned yet. Honesty is the best policy. And we as parents should always strive to teach our children, from day one, to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help us god. And to bear honest witness to all we do in this life. Day by Day.

SoSouth

I find this to be very accurate seeing as how I had to confront someone about have an affair with my wife, she had already admitted it after I exsposed her for lying an he damn near did everything in this post. he even said “man all I can do is look you in your eyes an tell you 100% of the truth” but it was more of a hard stare rather a honest look. I knew he was lying to because when I asked when was the last time you talked to my wife he says “ummm…..you mean like like calling or like texting or what” (was trying to confuse me and think of a lie) BULL! you know what I mean!

Sociopath

I found this article to be very interesting. Let me begin by giving you all a first hand account from someone that is personally a self proclaimed expert liar and possibly even a sociopath. I’ve been a world class liar ever since I was a child. I’ve honed my craft over the years to the point that I can look anyone in the face and comfortably lie about absolutely anything whenever I so desire. I have a whole network of friends that wholeheartedly believe that I’m a good person and would not be capable of some of the things I’ve done and or thought of doing. The answer to that is nothing more then the fact that I am able to lie without remorse in a way that most people can not. Before I scare anyone to deeply, No I’ve never killed anyone but yes I’ve seriously thought about it. Truth be told I believe myself to be a sociopath. Though maybe I am not because I truly deplore this aspect of myself and would do just about anything to rid myself of this burden. All of that to say, that these cues mentioned in this article will likely only identify a poor liar. Someone that probably doesn’t make a habit out of telling lies. People such as myself on the other hand can pass every single one of these cues in our sleep. We can lie undetected and not skip a beat. We are those anonymous individuals that live and work amongst honest hardworking people that can go undetected for a lifetime. This is the cold hard truth of skilled liars. Most of us are respected in our communities. Many times heralded as good citizens. Even good trustworthy friends, family and neighbors. I am married to an extremely wonderful human being that seemingly has no clue about this aspect of personality. That’s how great of a liar I’ve become. So skilled that those closest to me would not believe it if it were laid out plain as day right before there eyes. As much as you all do not want to hear this, truly skilled liars are extremely difficult to pinpoint. We have become so great at lying that we even begin to truly believe our own lies, and once that begins to happen to a person true skill in regard to lying fully begins to evolve. I truly wish I knew the remedy for this horrible horrible affliction but I do not. I hope by writing this I’ve given a bit of insight into the mind of pathological liar. I only pray that this can in some way shed light on this subject.

Introspectively,
NoMoreLies

Nax

Well ain’t you just a hero.

Andrew Taylor

One thing I find big that was left out was the guilty party becoming defensive suddenly when asked a question calmly, and wanting to flee the situation after.

Ron

That’s a good one!

TundraGirl

I’m curious, if someone is a good (or great) actor, would he/she be a good liar? Or does he/she lose acting ability and veracity if the issue is real and personal? Just wonderin’…

Ron

I think the issue is that great actors are great because they’re able to “get into character” and actually believe they’re King Lear or Hamlet. It can be difficult to spot a liar who truly believes what he’s saying and great actors are able to do just that.

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