How to tell if someone's lying

How to tell if someone's lying

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to the art of deception, some people are better at it than others.

Some people can weave a web that is so convincing few people would question it. Others have stories that are so fragile, they crumble the second someone looks into what they said.

Take sociopaths, for example. Psychologists say they can lie without hesitation or remorse. Luckily, most people aren't sociopaths and might show some signs if they're being less than honest.

Here are some typical signs.


The more you know someone, the more you can tell when they're feeling uneasy. Look for the person speaking to you to make eye contact with you. If they don't, they might be lying.

Dr. Jane Blackwell with the Utah Psychological Association said, "They also have a hard time just staying calm. They'll get kind of nervous about what they're saying. Sometimes, they'll sweat about it, literally."


Blackwell says the liar will be putting up barriers to protect themselves from questioning. Not just metaphorical barriers, but physical ones, too.

"If you're having a conversation across from a desk, they may start moving things in front of them as they're talking about this lie," she said.

Plus, their facial expressions may not match the context of what they're saying.


Blackwell says a good liar enjoys doing this. They love making you feel bad for doubting them.

"Good liars like being able to deflect and change the subject and get you to feel like, somehow, it's your problem. [They might say], ‘How dare you? How unkind of you' to even suggest that they would be lying," she said.

Changing the subject

When you're speaking with someone who is lying to you, they'll engage in the topic for as long as you want. But, when you change the topic, Blackwell says they couldn't be happier. That's not true for someone who is telling the truth.

"They get really bothered, typically, if you think they're lying," Blackwell said. "They'll come back to it and say, ‘Wait a minute. No, I want to clear this up with you.'"

Some liars think that if they invent a lot of confusing details about their story, then it will seem more convincing.

Plus, some liars think that if they invent a lot of confusing details about their story, then it will seem more convincing. That's true, up to a point. Good interrogators are trained to continually ask people about their story. Sooner or later, the liar will forget the details they've already invented.

But, despite how good we get at reading whether or not someone is being dishonest with us, we may never be able to protect ourselves completely from being duped by a good story. Apparently the people who enter the "World's Biggest Liar Competition" in Cumbria are pretty good at it. Last year's winner won by spinning a yarn about crossing a dog with a mink.

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Paul Nelson


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