7 phrases in a liar's vocabulary

7 phrases in a liar's vocabulary

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — People who consistently lie may be good at telling tall tales, but their words will always give them away.

Since liars usually have to invent answers and stories to stave off accusations, a good liar will be more diligent in choosing his words. That's how experts have been able to spot the patterns and phrases liars use to try and convince others they're telling the truth.

"From word choice to vocal tone to the chronology of stories, the trained liespotter has several verbal clues with which to work," writes Pamela Meyer, author of "Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception."


The next time you suspect you're not getting the whole truth, look for these seven phrases in a liar's vocabulary:

"Where was I last night?" — Liars will often repeat questions back nearly verbatim in an effort to stall for time. "In natural conversation, people will sometimes repeat part of a question, but restating the entire question is highly awkward and unnecessary," Meyer writes. "They clearly heard you the first time."

"Would not" — To convince people that they're telling the truth, liars will often avoid using contractions and instead emphasize the full-form verbs. "The extra emphasis in the denial is unnecessary if someone is telling the truth."

"Would never" — Liars who use the word "never" when a simple "no" would suffice are usually overcompensating. According to Gary Pearlman in an article for The South Beach Times, "When the evidence is fragile, the words they use often become bold and solid to compensate." Using words like "never" to answer a question also may be a sign that they're dodging it and refusing to answer directly: Saying "I would never cheat on you" is not the same as "I did not cheat on you."

Lying Statistics

Percent of adults who admit to telling lies "sometimes" or "often"12%
Percent of people who admit to lying on their resumes31%
Percent of patients who lie to their doctor13%
Percent of people who lie at least once during a 10-minute conversation60%
Average number of lies per day by men to their partner, boss or colleagues6
Average number of lies per day by women to their partner, boss or colleagues3

"I don't want to talk about this." — Someone who is telling the truth will go to great lengths to get all the facts straight, but someone who is lying wants to escape the conversation as quickly as possible. "The guilty want the subject changed," Pearlman writes. "If you believe someone is lying, then change the subject of a conversation quickly. A liar follows along willingly and becomes more relaxed.""To tell you the truth …" — Using words and statements like "honestly" and "I swear to you" could be a sign that a liar is trying a little too earnestly to convince you he's not lying. "When people use these bolstering statements to emphasize their honesty, there’s a good chance they are hiding something," says Meyer. "There’s no need to add them if you really are telling the truth."

"As far as I know …" — Qualifying statements like "The way I see it" give the speaker an out, a way to bend the truth or outright lie without being directly called on it. Meyer cautions against relying too much on this sign, however. "Hedged statements aren’t an absolute indicator of deception, but an overuse of such qualifying phrases certainly should raise suspicion that a person isn’t being totally up front with what he or she knows."

"First we went to the bar." — A skilled liar will be diligent in getting the story straight. That's why he or she will tell that story in absolute chronological order. "They don’t want to get tripped up by an out-of-place detail — there’s enough to think about already," Meyer says. "But this isn’t how we talk when being truthful. We relate stories in the way we remember them, not in strict chronological order."

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Lindsay Maxfield


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