As a parent, you get pretty good at spotting your child’s dishonesty, usually because they aren’t thinking of an excuse fast enough or their story doesn’t add up. But with adults, who have already had a lifetime of practice, it can be a little harder to decipher.
Body language expert and author Carol Kinsey Goman wrote recently her 12 tips for spotting a liar at work (or really anywhere…) to help you decode the practices of a liar. She writes, “…the act of lying triggers a heightened stress response. And these signs of stress and anxiety are obvious, if you know where to look.”
Her most basic tip is to understand what a person’s “normal” behavior is so you can tell when they change this baseline behavior. She also recommends looking for several of these clues together at once as a good indicator of a person’s truthfulness.
A non-genuine smile – a fake smile involves only the mouth, not the crinkle of the eyes too.
A long response time – it takes longer to think up a lie than the speak the truth.
Listen to their language choice – stammering, rambling, qualifiers (“I might be wrong…”), and not using contractions (“I did not” instead of “I didn’t”).
Saliva problems – too much swallowing or sipping their drink too often.
Eyes dilate – this cue is something people cannot fake. Their eyes dilate due to added stress.
Blink rate – slow blinking before the lie, rapid blinking after the lie.
Dancing feet – note kicking, fidgeting, movement of the feet to release tension from lying.
Touching the face – people who lie may rub their noses, which Goman says may be due to the capillaries dilating and making the nose itch, or they may cover their mouth to subconsciously cover up what they are saying.
Incongruent expressions – if you watch very closely, people may actually shake their heads in a “no” gesture even if their mouths are saying “yes” and vice versa. Watch for that.
Changes in gestures – a person who is about to lie may hold very still or they may fidget, play with their clothes or hair or rub their hands that is out of the norm for their behavior.
“Micro-expressions” – These are fleeting and difficult to spot, she says, but they tell you all about what someone is thinking. Pay attention. (That concept is fascinating to me and is detailed in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell if you want more information.)
The quick- check glance – to see if you bought the lie. Liars will look down and then check back in with you to see if you’re going along with the lie.
Her final note is that if you are dealing with someone who really believes the lie, it might be very difficult to spot a lie. Alternatively it will be difficult if they are a skilled actor or a pathological liar.
For more information on Goman, please visit her website: http://www.SilentLanguageOfLeaders.com or follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CGoman, or “Like” her Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carol-Kinsey-Goman-PhD/105398069543578.
Marijo Tinlin is the Editor in Chief of Family First, one of the oldest family-oriented websites on the internet. She is also the author of a book about patriotism and teaching our children to love this country called “How to Raise an American Patriot, Making it Okay for Our Kids to Be Proud to Be American.” It features 13 interviews with patriotic Americans including Ed Meese, Erick Erickson and Jackie Gingrich Cushman. It’s available at www.raisinganamericanpatriot.com.