We all make small lies every day. A lot of the time, we lie to save other peoples feelings . “No, your bum doesn’t look too big in that dress”, or “No, really, size doesn’t matter!” But wouldn’t it be nice to know when someone is lying to you? These tips that I will be sharing with you will give you a great basic knowledge. They will tell you what to look out for when having a conversation with anyone, whether boss at work or potential boyfriend/ girlfriend in a social occasion.
It can be very difficult to spot when someone is lying, particularly if you don’t know them very well. The reason for this is that the best way to spot a lie is to look for inconsistencies in a persons behaviour. So, if you don’t know the person it is very hard unless you can get a “baseline” reading. This is why lie detectors start by asking some questions which the suspect has to tell the truth. Then, when they lie later they have something to compare it to. So, if you get a chance, try to calibrate a persons behaviour with small talk. Then, when you ask the difficult or challenging questions, look to see if anything changes. Having said that, there are a few things that you can look out for. These don’t necessarily mean a person is lying, it could be they are uncomfortable for some reason or nervous. But it may be a flag for you to question them a little more closely..
The Mouth Cover
The first gesture we are going to talk about is the mouth cover. This is a very common sign when people are lying. If a child is telling a lie then often, they cover up their mouth so you can’t “see” them lying. As we mature, we moderate this and cover up our mouth when we are lying in a more subtle way. Often people may cough to cover up this gesture. Or put their chin in their hand with their forefinger over their lips. So, if you ask someone how old they think you look and they immediately have a fit of coughing – don’t take their answer too seriously!
The Nose Touch
Quite often, when people are lying they find themselves having to rub their nose. Most of the time they are not aware of this so, it is a great gesture to look out for. The reason that people rub their nose when lying is actually a physical one. Scientists have discovered that when you lie, catecholamines are released. This causes tissue inside the nose to swell so that the human nose actually expands when you are lying. This is known as the “Pinocchio Effect” . Athough too small to be seen by the human eye, the increased blood pressure inflates the nose and causes the nerve endings to tingle. This means that the liar often feels the need to give the nose a brisk rub to relieve the itch.
Of course, as with all of these tips, the gestures should not be read on their own. Just as one word on its own can have many meanings and it is not until you put it into a sentence that it makes sense. The same goes for body language. You have to read the gestures and interpret them along with everything else you know. For example, the itching of the nose could be because the person has hay fever!
The Eye Rub
The Eye Rub is a common gesture, particularly with men. It is used to avoid having to look at the person they are lying to. Quite often, if it is a big lie, will be vigorous and they may look away as well. Women, perhaps because they are wearing make-up that they don’t want to spoil, are less likely to do this gesture. But they may lightly touch under their eye when lying or look away. Again, if you see children lying, then this is a gesture you will be familiar with. They will look away, look at the ground, look at their hands – they do anything except look at you! In adults it is often more subtle. But if someone doesn’t want to look you in the eyes it could be because they are lying.
As always, be aware of other contributing factors – hay fever, dust in the air etc and look for other gestures to back up your prognosis.
The Ear Grab
The Ear Grab is a gesture which is often used if a person is experiencing anxiety. It is a comforting gesture that probably goes back to when they were stroked by the mother as a baby. So, if someone is lying and they are feeling anxious about it then they may rub or grab their ear lobe and tug on it. Prince Charles is perhaps the most famous person for doing this gesture. And whilst it is clear that he isn’t lying when doing it, he may be feeling anxiety and this is his way of comforting himself.
So, if you are interviewing someone about a job, they could be feeling nervous and start tugging on their ear lobe. If however, the interview is going smoothly and the interviewee is sitting calmly and confidently. Then you ask him why he left his last job and at that point he starts tugging at his ear lobe while telling you that he just wanted a change, you might want to contact his past employer to see why he really left. Especially if he is coughing and rubbing his eyes and looking at his feet at the same time!
The Neck Scratch and Smiling
This is just a quick one, but could be useful. The neck scratch – typically about 5 times under the ear lobe normally shows uncertainty or doubt. So, if someone is saying that they agree with you, yet are scratching the side of their neck – the chances are that they are lying and that they either don’t agree or not sure.
It is generally assumed that people smile more when they are lying. We think of actors saying things with a fixed grin on their face and “lying through their teeth”. However, most people when they are lying will smile less. uUless you are used to it, lying is a stressful business! The thing to watch out for is whether the smile is genuine or not. A genuine, spontaneous smile uses the eyes as well as the mouth. So tension around the eyes is a good indication that the smile is not genuine whereas wrinkles in this occasion are good!
The Collar Pull
It has been discovered that lying cause a tingling sensation in the face and neck tissues. So, often a rub or scratch is necessary to relieve it. This may be why people use the collar pull when they are lie and suspect that they have been caught. The stress causes sweat to appear on the neck and this also causes irritation. So, if you suspect someone is lying and ask them to repeat the lie – often they will start to pull at their collar. The face becomes red and it feels as if the collar, particularly in a man if he is wearing a tie, is getting tighter and tighter and they will have to pull at it to breathe.
Women are much better at lying than men! This is true – tests have shown that women are much better at constructing complicated lies than men and much better at getting away with it. This is particularly the case if they are lying to a man. Most men are nowhere near as intuitive as women and don’t tend to spot the lies as much. Probably because most of the time they are staring at their breasts! Women often go with their “gut instinct”. Whereas men tend to rely much more on what is being said rather than the body signals that either go with it or contradict it……
Fingers in the Mouth
This is a classic comforting gesture and shows someone reverting to the time when they felt the security of a child sucking on its mothers breast or bottle. Children often suck a thumb for comfort and as adults, quite often we will put fingers in the mouth, but just as often glasses or a pen. This is one of the reasons why giving up smoking is so hard for some people – it is a comfort gesture. And when do we use comfort gestures more than any other time? When we are under pressure, and lying is quite a stressful thing to do! Consequently, we often see this sort of behaviour when someone is lying.
Again I must stress that you cannot use this in isolation – look to all the other clues. People who lie less frequently are more likely to be spotted. This is how the great conmen get away with the most outrageous lies. They have practiced lying and know how to cover most of the signals that give the more honest of us away. So, at least if you get caught lying you can say “well you caught me because I don’t lie very often and I’m not good at it!”
All in the Eyes
We said in an earlier tip that liars often look away when they are spinning their web of deceit. Well, I need to tell you about the good liars, the practiced ones that I mentioned earlier in the post. They do the opposite. When they are lying they will maintain eye contact probably more than normal. Now, tests have shown that when people lie and look straight at you, you are more likely to believe them. So, it is even more important to look for all the other signs that they might exhibit. As I have said many times, you look for and interpret clusters as opposed to just one gesture. These clusters will tell you whether the person you are talking to is telling the truth. Whether they uncomfortable and nervous or honest, open and trustworthy.
The other physical thing you can watch for is that when people are nervous and under pressure they tend to gulp more. This is more noticeable in men than women because of their adams apples.
Watch the Feet
It has been noticed that in both genders the amount of unconscious feet movement increases dramatically when someone is lying. The positions of the feet and legs also tell us lots more about what a person is feeling. I may reveal these secrets to you at a later date if there is sufficient interest. But for now, with regard to lying, it is enough to know that when someone starts shuffling their feet, tapping, rubbing one foot against the leg – you know that they are doing it because they are uncomfortable. By combining this with other signals you have picked up along the way, this could help you in making a decision as to whether that person is lying or telling the truth.
Lying over the phone or email is relatively easy. But It is much harder to lie face to face to someone, especially if there isn’t a desk to hide behind. This is why many interviewers will place the interviewee in a position so that their whole body is in view. This makes it much easier to spot signs that they are uncomfortable when answering questions.
On average we blink 6 – 10 times per minute. However when lying this can increase up to 50 times per minute! That is a huge increase. Subconsciously this is lessening the time that the liar is looking at you. And if they can’t see you then you can’t see them lying – a sort of “ostrich with its head in the sand”! Of course, if we have been for a run and sweat is dripping down our face, that might cause us to blink more too. So be aware of any other reasons before you shout “Liar, Liar” at the top of your voice. Also, we quite often see the slow blink when someone is lying so they are subconsciously closing their eyes rather than look at you whilst they are lying so something to watch out for.
So watch out for covering up the mouth, scratching the nose and side of the neck. Don’t forget rubbing the eyes and tugging of the earlobes. Pulling the collar, putting pens and glasses in the mouth, staring at you, shuffling the feet and excessive blinking. Of course if the person is doing all of these, you are probably talking to a politician! But as I said at the top of this article, the main thing is to calibrate what the person normally does when telling the truth. Then see what changes as you are talking to them.
I hope this article has been informative and interesting. If you would like to know more about my mind reading performances and workshops, please get in touch.