A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth barely has a chance to get its pants on — Winston Churchill
Everybody lies. Lying as a characteristic is not just limited to humans. In fact, Koko a gorilla, who reached new heights of fame in the ’80s for mastering sign language, once blamed her pet kitten ‘All Ball’ for ripping a sink out of the wall. Poor little All Ball had no idea that the animal that would cuddle her every day was blaming her for breaking a sink because she had been bad that particular day.
Lying is one of the most primary traits we learn soon after we are born. Babies learn to fake a cry to get your attention, giving you the feeling that maybe they are not feeling alright. It is only when you fall for it you realize that even a six-month-old can outsmart you on its day with a cute lie.
Pamela Meyer, author of the book Lie Spotting aptly points out that lying is a cooperative act. The harsh truth is that if you were lied to and felt betrayed or hurt it is because you allowed it to happen. An average person lies about 1.65 times a day. From little white lies, like that's a nice song or honey, that dress looks great on you to more serious lies that result in hurting people and making them feel betrayed, understanding when you are being lied to helps you be more reflective of yourself and the situation around you.
Five of the easy and effective techniques you can use in everyday life to spot a lie are as follows:
Convey vs Convince
One of the most effective strategies you can use to gauge whether someone is lying to you or not is by interpreting their answers. Former CIA officer Susan Carnicero in her book Spy the Lie highlights that when people want to hide the truth from you, they unknowingly try to convince you with their answers rather than convey them to you.
The easiest way to spot this trend is when you ask someone a question, and they talk for anywhere between seven to ten minutes, but not once do they answer your question. This sort of behaviour is seen quite often when politicians or businessmen who are on the wrong side of the law are answering questions in the media. People tend to justify and convince you that they have done nothing wrong, yet not once do they openly deny the accusation made against them.
One of the major red flags to watch out for is when the person trying to convince you of something is invoking religion in the response. To solidify their deflection, they might swear on god as well. Yet, if they have not conveyed the answer with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, they are usually lying.
One of the most common signs of a liar is when they are running out of lies and respond by attacking the questioner with aggression. This is one of their most basic behaviours to protect themselves. Shouting and creating a scene might help them deviate the topic to a point where they feel less threatened and more comfortable to continue the conversation.
When parents question their teenage kids about something, and they respond with aggression and an accusatory tone, that’s a red flag right there. People who speak the truth don’t usually get upset or angry when talking about it.
Aggression shows signs of weakness in the sense that it announces the fear of loss of control. Aggression is usually a fear-based response to an event. Nothing is weaker than operating from a base of fear.
Reading Body Language
Another point Susan Carnicero makes in her book is non-verbal cues or reading body language. She says that if you ask someone a question and they show any form of deceptive behaviour in the first five seconds of hearing the question, that is something you should make a mental note of.
Deceptive behaviours could include anchor points movements like your feet moving when you answer the question, grooming gestures like fixing your tie or your hair, checking the time and touching the face. When people change their body language, it is a sign of discomfort. If this discomfort is only seen when they're about to answer a question, you shouldn't take them at face value.
Too Much Eye Contact
One of the most common things you will know of or hear about someone speaking the truth is that they make eye contact when talking to you. Also, on the other hand, you would hear that liars tend to evade making eye contact when lying as they don’t like the confrontation. Eye contact is one of the most common and oldest patterns to identify a lie and has helped liars evolve and exploit this notion.
Therefore, instead of making no eye contact with you, they tend to focus too much on it. However, when this action is voluntary and deliberate people tend to misplay their hand. This is a classic sign of trying to bluff your understanding.
When someone is trying so hard to look you in the eye and ensure you notice that about them, you must be aware that there is more to the story than what it is they are telling you. A truthful person does not need to try hard at all. Their conversations are free-flowing just like their eye contact.
Formal Language & Tone
The classic example to give here is when President Bill Clinton is denying having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. If you watch that two-minute clip, you can clearly identify two distinct talking patterns. When Clinton starts speaking about how he was preparing for his State Of Union speech, he sounded more natural, relaxed and informal.
The minute he changes the topic to Lewinsky, he is almost ordering people to listen to him when he says, ‘I want you to listen to me’, and he then chooses a very formal tone and choice of words to try and tell people that he had no sexual relations with ‘that woman, Ms Lewinsky’. A point to note here is that Bill Clinton unknowingly uses distancing language when referring to Monica Lewinsky, which is definitely a sign of him lying as indicated by various studies in the past.
Susan Carnicero also highlights one crucial factor you must take into account when you are trying to identify a liar. That is if you see just one of the signs from a person, they may not be lying. They could be nervous. To identify a liar, you must try and look for at least two signs that they give off within a couple of minutes or less.
If someone is shaking their leg while talking to you, that may be a sign of nervousness or a habit. However, while doing so, if you catch another sign such as giving you a long response and not answering the question or making too much eye contact, then you can categorise that person as lying to you. This is because identifying a cluster of the above signs indicates a common underlying pattern, which is deception.
Lying is one of the oldest tricks in the book. We all lie. While not all lies are harmful, knowing when you are being lied to definitely helps you in dealing with situations in a more informed manner.