When it comes to matters of life and love, we all want to believe the best about others. And in fact, most people are genuinely caring and conscientious. But it’s also a fact that plenty of people deceive and lie … and even good people lie sometimes to avoid conflict or embarrassment.
Although you don’t need to be paranoid and suspicious about every person you meet, some lie-detection strategies might help you when you fear you’re being deceived:
1. “Trust but verify.” This was the phrase used by President Reagan when negotiating treaties with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev—and it applies to relationships as well. Trust is the basis of all healthy relationships, but if you believe you’re being lied to, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification.
2. Watch for inconsistencies. A person who tells lies must work hard to keep track of what he’s said, and to whom. When the details of a story don’t add up or keep changing over time, it may be a sign that you’re not getting the straight scoop.
3. Be alert to vagueness. Listen for ambiguous statements that reveal nothing of substance. Sniff out the smokescreen.
4. Read nonverbal reactions. Words may conceal the truth, but a liar’s body language usually speaks volumes. Watch for excessive fidgeting, reluctance to make eye contact, closed and defensive postures like tightly folded arms, and a hand covering the mouth.
5. Ask direct questions. If you suspect someone is lying, don’t settle for partial answers or allow yourself to be sidetracked by diversions. Don’t drop the subject until you are satisfied with the response.
6. Don’t disregard lies to other people. If someone will lie to his/her boss, roommate, or coworker, there’s no reason to think you won’t be lied to as well.
7. Keep an eye out for evasiveness. If your partner develops a new defensiveness or sensitivity to requests for information about where he/she has been, the person may be hiding something and is afraid you’ll put two and two together.
8. Recognize a refusal to answer. If you ask someone a question and he doesn’t give you a forthcoming response, there’s a reason for that.
9. Be conscious of when the other person repeats your question, or asks you to repeat the question. This is a stall tactic, buying time to devise a plausible response or to avoid an awkward silence.
10. Discern defensiveness. “How could you ask that?” the person might retort. “Are you accusing me of something?” The person with nothing to hide has no reason to be defensive.
11. Beware of blame shifting. When you ask the other person for clarification or an explanation, the tables might be turned and YOU become the problem: “You’re a very suspicious person! You have trust issues!”
12. Count on counteroffensive. When someone feels backed into a corner—feeling caught—he might go into attack mode, coming at you forcefully. A sudden burst of anger can obscure the real issue.
13. Watch for a pattern secretive behavior. A lie rarely appears out of nowhere–it’s part of a larger deceptive context. If you feel closed out to certain aspects of your partner’s life, you have to wonder what’s behind those sealed-off areas. Secrets arouse suspicion—and often for good reason.
14. Listen for too much protesting. Remember Shakespeare’s famous line, “The lady doth protest too much,” meaning that sometimes people are adamant and indignant to the point where the opposite is true.
15. Listen to your gut. Don’t dismiss what your intuition is telling you. If a “gut feeling” tells you something the other person says is fishy, you are likely right.
How can you tell when someone is lying?