Body Language of Lies: 6 Ways to Spot a Liar

body languageBody language is a powerful non-verbal communication tool, allowing you to decode subtle messages and even spot a liar. However, before you learn how to do this, I want you to ask yourself one question – why would you want to stop a liar?

They say that with great power comes great responsibility. Mastering the art of body language is a great power and you should be ready to assume the responsibility that comes with it. For one you will start noticing that people tell more untruths than you would have ever imagined. In fact, researchers have discovered that 60% of people lie at least once during a 10 minute conversation with an average telling 3 false things during that time span.

Most of the untruths that we say are white lies, such as “those jeans look great on you”, “sorry, I didn’t hear your phone call” or “there was a lot of traffic on the road”.

We do it quite often ourselves and we accept that others should be “tactful” enough in order not to hurt our feelings as well.

However, sometimes the issue is too important and we need to be sure if the person is telling the truth or is trying to hide something from us.

Here are some of the little-known body language signs that will allow you to spot a liar and get down to the truth:

1. Lying with the eyes.

Usually when people tell a lie their eyes give them away in two ways, depending on how well they are prepared and their efficiency at lying. Inexperienced liars (including most kids) usually avoid making eye contact for two reasons: they are ashamed and they are making the story up as they go.

Experienced liars know this and rehearse their lies before telling them, so they make it a point to hold eye contact for as long as possible. In this case their blink rate slows down and you may get a feeling that the person is staring at you or giving you an innocent wide-eyed Bambi look. (read more about body language of the eyes here).

2. Lying with your hands.

Hands are associated with honesty and openness of the heart. We embrace people with our hands, we close a deal with a handshake and we say that we “wash our hands of something” when we don’t want to accept responsibility for something we don’t believe in or consider unjust.

It is only natural that our hand gestures can give us away when we are being deceptive.

  • When a lie escapes our mouth, our first instinct is to conceal it in some way. If a person is making repetitive and slight movements to cover up their mouth by touching their lips, throat or touching the base of the nose, it is a signal to you to stay on guard for their lies.
  • Hiding hands by putting them into pockets, clenching them together or holding them behind the back are subconscious hand gestures that we use to prevent another person from discovering the truth.
  • Another sign of spontaneous lying is excessive hand gesturing, especially twirling with hair, drumming fingers, adjusting clothing or nervously playing with another object, like a ring or a pen. It can also be a sign of nervousness, so you will have to interpret this gesture in the context.

3. Lying with your lips.

Deceiving someone is not a pleasant task. Our mind and body protests against it and it goes to a much deeper emotional level than you would imagine.

One such gesture is sticking your tongue out slightly to, sort of, lick the lips. An interesting thing about this gesture is that it is not only a sign of nervousness. Its origins go back to when we were toddlers and would reject food we did not want to eat by sticking our tongues out. As we grow older we might have the same reaction to lies that don’t sit well with us. We try to reject them!

4. Lying with our voice.

A person, who knows that they are not being honest, tries very hard to control their voice and prevent themselves from portraying their true emotions. Often they overdo it by speaking in a low, monotonous tone. If you notice such speech alterations, pay greater attention to the person’s body language, because there is a high chance that the person is hiding something.

Another way lies affect communication is called “speech hesitations”. Frequent pauses, throat clearing or filler pauses such as “ums” and “ers” may indicate that a person is making the story up as they are talking and needs some time to reflect on what to say next. Paying attention to these verbal clues will help you to spot a liar easily.

5. Lying with our body.

Just as we don’t want to give our lies away with our tone of voice, we try to control our body language. The only way we can do this is to try to keep gestures and facial expressions to a minimum. As a result, our body looks stiff and facial expression guarded. Of course, there are people who can sweet talk others and even seem relaxed, but the vast majority of us are not experienced at lying. So just the thought of being viewed in a negative light or being called “a liar”, makes us nervous.

6. Lying with our mind.

Sometimes our mind can act as the devil’s advocate, trying to bend the truth, find loopholes and come up with rational justifications of our irrational actions. It also uses some pretty advanced deception techniques by picking some obscure point and talking about it excessively instead of confronting the main question.

The strategy between non-stop talking is very simple – shift the conversation away from the unpleasant topic and do not let another person ask other clarifying questions that could uncover the lie.

Note: Just one gesture or facial expression indicating deception does not automatically make someone a liar. You need to look for clusters of these body language signals.

And one more thing… before offending someone or labeling him or her as a “liar”, stop and think how often you have expressed politically-correct “untruths” or bent the facts to make yourself look better?

Actually, here is a great experiment I want to offer you. Next time you catch yourself telling a half-truth, pay attention to your own body language.

Can you recognize some of the ‘how to spot a liar’ gestures that give YOU away?

I know that I am guilty of #1 and #6.

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  • Farouk

    Great useful tips. Thank you.