Some people just aren’t good at lying, so you can tell pretty easily when they aren’t being honest with you. They stutter and stammer, and generally give themselves away the minute they start to say anything that isn’t absolutely true.
But what about good liars, people who can tell a lie without batting an eye or breaking a sweat? It can be hard to tell when they aren’t being honest. Hard, but not impossible.
Even good liars sometimes give themselves away. You just have to know what to look for.
Here are some ways to tell when someone is lying to you.
They Pause to Gather Their Thoughts
Even good liars need a minute to come up with a good lie, especially if you’ve put them on the spot. So if someone doesn’t answer your question immediately, and even seem to freeze for a moment or two before they start to talk, it’s possible they feverishly trying to think of something to tell you besides the truth.
Another stalling tactic is asking you to repeat your question, which gives the liar a few extra seconds to think of something. Or they might even repeat the question themselves. For example, if you ask, “Where were you Friday night?” someone who doesn’t want to tell you where they actually were might say, “Where was I Friday night?” while they try to come up with anything to tell you but the truth.
They Explain Too Much…or Too Little
Many believe that someone who is “making stuff up,” will over embellish their stories, going into great but unnecessary detail. But people who are telling a fabricated story are actually more likely to give few details, and to be very vague in general. However, if they have to tell their story more than once, the story will often get more detailed with each retelling as they have time to fill in the blanks.
They Look To the Left
Many people think that a person not looking them in the eye means they’re lying. But it could just mean they are shy or distracted.
A better hint is to look at the way a person’s eyes move when they’re talking. According to the science of Visual Accessing Cues, the direction a person’s eyes move in tells you which part of the brain they are accessing.
Someone who looks to the right is probably accessing a memory of something that actually happened, so it’s likely they are telling the truth.
Someone who looks to the left is probably accessing the creative part of the brain, the part we use when we are inventing or creating things, like stories. And lies.
However, this only works with people who are right handed. Someone who’s left-handed will do the opposite. So they’ll look to the left when they’re remembering something, and to the right when they’re making something up.
Luckily you can tell if a total stranger is right or left-handed with a little observation.
Whether you’re dealing with your kids, a co-worker, or someone you’ve just met, being able to spot a lie is a valuable skill. Of course, these tells aren’t surefire. There are always exceptions. But knowing what to look for will give you a huge advantage when you’re trying to figure out who you can trust…and who you can’t.