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Body Language and Lying

How to tell if someone is lying

Writing about body language and lying is one of the most satisfying body language topics.  Why?  Because people lie all the time…some studies indicate that over a quarter of our communication involves lying and that, on average, we lie once every 15 minutes...and people want to know how to tell if someone is lying.  I find these statistics amazing but at the same time very believable, so a knowledge of body language cues people give off when they're being dishonest is essential.

Take some time to think about how many lies we all tell. There are the small, inconsequential “white lies” we tell to avoid hurting others feelings, the exaggerations we use to make our stories more colorful and interesting and the lies we tell to avoid embarrassment and to make ourselves sound cool.  These types of lies make up the majority of lies we see out there.

Then there are the big malicious lies that mislead, misdirect and misinform people.  Malicious lies are things like perjury and false accusations that have the potential to destroy people’s lives and livelihoods.  I like to think that these types of lies are less common, although I can’t say factually that they are.

Which bring us back to how we can use nonverbal communication, or body language, to detect when someone is lying.  Before I get into any details I need to offer a caveat, and that is that these methods are far from foolproof.  Heck, even a polygraph can be beat. So take these body language indicators with a grain of salt.

None of us want to be lied to.  We want to believe our spouse when they tell us we were working late, our children when they say they're spending the night at a friends and our boss when he tells us we don't have to worry about losing our jobs. 

An important thing to remember is that all body language have to be evaluated in context with the environment, the situation and the person.  One body language cue is never enough.  You have to look at everything before you conclude that you are being mislead.

Body Language Cues - What to look for

Most of us don’t like to lie, so when we do lie we feel embarrassed and tense.  This tension is a giveaway that you need to look for to know when you are being lied to.  Here the rule:

The bigger the lie, and the higher the stakes the more tense the liar will be.

You can detect this tension in a person’s facial expressions, posture and body movements.  At first this might seem difficult, but with a little practice (to hone your powers of observation!) you will find that it is easy to detect slight variations in a person’s behavior and gestures.  Here are some things to look for when a person is lying:

Using the eyes to detect if someone is lying.

The eyes are the most important element of body language as it relates to lying.  According to Neuro Linguistic Programming you can look into a persons eyes to get a clue to what they are thinking. These are known as “Eye Accessing Clues” and they can be use to detect when a person may be lying to you.  Here’s a quick reader’s digest introduction to Eye Accessing cues.

According to Neuro Linguistic Programming, or NLP, the way we move our eyes can tell others how we are thinking.  For example, if we are right-handed, when we look up and to the right, we are making up, or constructing, pictures in our mind.  Conversely, when we trying to remember something that has already happened, we will tend to look up and to the left.  The same concept works for what we hear, known as auditory and what we feel, which is known as kinesthetic.  The diagram below shows where people look when they are thinking a certain way.

NLP Eye Access Cues

Keep in mind that these eye-accessing cues tend to be reversed for the left-handed person.  I have found that it’s good practice-to-practice being aware when you are around people and to be attentive to things like what handedness they are and what their eye color is.  Practicing doing this will cause you to pay more attention to the subtleties of a person personality.  Once you know how a person reacts and responds under normal circumstances you can more easily detect when they start to act differently and to display the indications that they might be lying.  

Interpreting Body Language and Nonverbal communication

By Noted Body Language Authority Kevin Hogan

No matter what the reason you want to learn the body language -- love, dating or closing the deal, this is the one source source you need to have, it's as simple as that.

You can find out more about Kevin Hogan's Course on Body Language by Clicking here!

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