How to Spot a Liar?


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by Jayaram V

Deception is a natural, survival strategy which is common to both humans and animals. You cannot stop people from lying and you yourself may have to lie occasionally to avoid trouble with others. Still, it is important to know when people lie or when they are dishonest or untrustworthy. Therefore, in life, in love, and in business, how do you spot a liar? This essays discusses the current studies in spotting liars and how to detect them and their deception

Research studies in modern psychology have been very helpful in understanding and improving human behavior and resolving complex psychological problems. However, over dependence upon them and any generalizations we may make out of them can also cloud our thinking and impair our judgment.

Take for example, the studies that were done to know how to spot liars. One such study suggested that people experienced stress and anxiety while lying. Therefore, if you find people who were struggling to answer or feeling anxious, and stressful it was an indication that they were not telling the truth.

However, you cannot take that finding on its face value, since there can be many exceptions. If liars can habitually lie, they can also develop defensive mechanisms to cover up their lies. They can adapt quickly to a situation and lie with a straight face, without showing any anxiety or stress. They can also look into your eyes and lie, knowing that it can influence your thinking and judgment.

It is also true that lying is an art and a skill and like other skills it can be polished, improved, and perfected. Therefore, as time goes by, people who are prone to lie may become adept in persuading you that they are honest and straightforward, and you can trust them. This is especially true in case of those who aspire for political leadership, and if lying can help them to cover their past, or their lies, why not?

Another study showed that a liar would take time to answer a question. It is because liars have to process a lot of information before inventing an answer. In other words, if you a find a person taking time to answer a question, most likely he is not honest because he is probably thinking about the consequences and the inconsistencies that need to be taken care of before framing his lie.

Although this finding has its own validity, one must be careful in using it to detect liars, since it can lead to wrong conclusions. For example, a person may have the habit of thinking before answering a question, which to others may look as if he is taking time. Many educated people do not react from their surface minds. They go deeper to answer a question or process information.

Also, busy people, who do multitasking and lead a hectic life, may take time to switch from one subject to another and from one problem to another. Therefore, they may give you the impression that they are probably lying whereas they may be struggling to refocus. On the other hand, liars who know that taking time would compromise their position, may learn to lie quickly without worrying about the consequences and beat the system.

It is therefore Important to keep an open mind and try not to rely excessively upon a particular solution or a research finding. Machines cannot always accurately detect lies and deception, because there is a human side and an emotional aspect to deceptive behavior, which cannot be easily fathomed. In drawing any conclusion about human behavior, you have to consider the complexity of human personality. This becomes evident when you watch the reality TV shows where lying is an important part of the wining strategy to bond with people and form strong alliances.

A person is a person in a context or a relationship. He may be a different person in a different context or a different relationship. You may live with a person for a lifetime and may still not know many truths about that person. You may also draw wrong conclusions about a person based upon what you know, because you are also not perfect in reasoning or judgment. One should consider the fact that people are not trained in reasoning and are prone to logical fallacies, prejudice, and irrational conclusions.

Understanding human nature is both an art and a science. Knowledge of human behavior helps to understand a person and know whether he is truthful or not, but you cannot totally rely upon it. You need to deal with each case on its merits and use your knowledge, experience, insight, and intuition to draw rational conclusions. Lie detectors are helpful, but they have limitations. If a person is smart, he can camouflage his lies and beat the lie-detectors.

Therefore, if you do not want to be duped by liars and dishonest people, you have to take all the pieces of information such as the ones mentioned below to spot liars. When you draw conclusions, you should use them with discretion, using your own insight, intuition, and experience. If necessary you should check for additional clues or verify your conclusions with others. Most importantly, you should not be gullible and trust everyone, nor you should distrust anyone without some valid reason. Once, a person betrays your trust, you should be on guard.

  1. Liars may show signs of stress and anxiety when they lie. Their blood pressure and heart rate may also go up when they do it.
  2. Liars are inconsistent and may answer the same question differently. Therefore, rephrasing the same question in different ways may often expose their lies.
  3. Liars may take more time to process information and answer a question. Therefore, they may look like as if they are struggling or at a loss to speak their minds.
  4. Liars may avoid direct eye contact, since they may suffer from guilt and fear. Therefore, they may look up, down, or sideways when they speak, besides looking defensive.
  5. Liars may not feel empathy with others as much as normal people do since they do not easily open up and do not like to betray their true feelings. Hence, when they speak, to avoid exposing themselves they may appear disconnected and indifferent.
  6. Liars may evade straight answers to your questions or give unrelated and roundabout answers. Seasoned politicians habitually do it to avoid straight answers or difficult questions.
  7. Liars may adapt an impersonal tone to distance themselves from their lies. Therefore, they tend to avoid the use of “I” “me” or “mine” in their answers.
  8. Liars may respond to a question with a counter question and avoid a straight answer. They may do it because of anger or to buy time to invent a response.
  9. People may control their verbal answers, but their body language may still betray them. Therefore, it is helpful to look for nonverbal clues when you are dealing with liars.

Detecting liars and dishonest people is crucial to your success, peace, and happiness. Having the skill can save you from a lot of trouble. In Nature, deception is a survival strategy. Therefore, you cannot prevent human beings from using it. Everyone lies in one situation or another. It is also true that the world will not like you or feel comfortable with you if you always speak truth and betray your friends and close associates, or expose confidential information.

However, it is necesary to distinguish between innocent lies to avoid personal embarassment and lies spoken with an evil intentino to deceive, hurt, and harm others. Hence, it is important for your peace of mind to become a lie-detector and perfect your art of detecting lies, dishonesty, and deception. It is especially useful in negotiations, business contracts, finding business partners, hiring professionals and reliable employees, and dealing the people and customers. It is also useful in personal life in finding trustworthy friends and life partners.

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