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Body Language: 9 Ways to spot a liar

Body Language: 9 Ways to spot a liar

Tuedays are (from now) Pysychology Days here at Flipping Heck where I’ll be discussing all sorts of aspects of psychology and body language. Today we have a look at “How to spot a liar”

Why would you want to spot a liar? Surely you’d love to know whether the report Arnie promised you really was lost from his PC after it was hit by lightning or that your boss believed little white lie about your being late for work because you had a flat tyre?

You might think that you’re the worlds best liar, after all your best friend doesn’t know that her new haircut makes her look like she’s been electocuted but remember this:

Everyone has a “tell” when they lie

A “tell” is a poker term that gives away what a player is thinking or the cards that they’re holding in their hands and a liar does the same thing – even experienced ones!

These tells can be huge or hardly noticeable. But, if you know what you’re looking for you’ll be able to spot them a mile off. So, let’s take a slightly lighthearted look at some of the signs:

  1. The “Um”  and “…..” Tell
    This is when people, er, like, um…… pause and stumble through a sentence (the “ums” and “ers” are known as filler pauses). The reason? They’re trying to think what to say next as they’re making it up as they go along and they fill the gaps in order to maintain (or give the appearance of maintaining) control of the conversation.

  2. The eyes have it
    A person who’s lying will do one of 2 things  – not maintain eye contact or maintain it so much that you think they’re a relative of Hannibal Lecter. I know that it’s a bit difficult to know as both of these tells are at the opposite ends of the spectrum but one thing’s for sure, they’ll blink a lot less. It’s like they’re being all wide-eyed and Bambi like – give me a break!

    Another thing a liar will do is look down rather than up. Studies have shown that when we’re trying to recall something we look up (and to the right I think) whereas if we’re lying we look down whilst we think what to say next.

  3. Boingy, Boingy, Boing
    A liar will bobble up and down like person on a pogo stick. Okay, maybe not that much but they will fiddle either with themselves (excuse me?) i.e. their hair, hands etc. (that’s okay, I wondered where that was going for a second) or with an object such as a pen, ring – whatever’s at hand. It’s almost as if they’re trying to distract your attention from them and focus it on the object as they’re uncomfortable with the attention. And watch out for the hand wringing/palm rubbing; it’s as if they’re trying to wash the lie off themselves.
  4. Loose lips sink ships
    A liar will unconciously move their hands to their mouth when they’re telling porkies, they can’t help it. They’re trying to cover up the lies that they’re uttering by hiding their mouth. Another thing liar has a tendancy to do it to stick their tongue out slighly, licking their lips. This is not only because they’re nervous  also as a throw back to when we were babies and used to reject food by sticking out tongues out. Here the liar is rejecting what they’re saying.
  5. The devil’s in the details
    Whilst a liar will spin quite a good (and believable) yarn, they aren’t that good at the finer details – basically they’ve not had time to make them up. Plus, the more detailed they are, the more they have to remember later. Ask them a question about something detailed and they end up getting all defensive.
  6. Moaning Minnie
    A person who lies will generally be more downbeat about what they’re saying with negative statements and moaning rather than being upbeat and cheery – it’s almost as if they’re not allowed to be happy as they’re a big fat liar.
  7. Honest Guv
    A person who’s telling a big fat whopper is (apparently) more likely to use phrases like “if truth be told” and “to be honest”. Ha! they’re double liars now!
  8. Round the houses
    When you finally can get a word in edgewise to ask a question it never gets answered. The liar will skirt around it and you’ll never get a full answer (especially if you asked a detailed question), that’s assuming they don’t go off on a tangent and swiftly change the subject.
  9. Blah Blah Blah
    Sometimes a liar won’t know when to stop yapping – partly as they’re still trying to convince themselves that what they’re saying is true and also they don’t want to allow you to gain control of the situation and ask awkward questions.

I have to say that I’m not a psychologist but most of the above points are fairly obvious once you know what they are.

As I’ve typed this, I’ve recognised a couple of things that I do (8 and 9. Mind you I could talk for England anyway!). What about you? What are your tells (if you’re brave enough to give them away!)

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1 Comment

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    “I liked a lot of them and I too caught myself doing number 8 and 9. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was what you said about the eyes. I was reading a lot about this, and apparently every eye movement has a reason. http://www.humanliedetection.com goes into greater detail on this, and has a lot of facts about lying. All in all, good good post!”

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