Here’s How One Psychologist Says You Can Tell If Someone’s Lying

Ever feel like you’re being lied to but have no idea how to tell for sure? Welcome to the club.

Everyone lies to varying degrees, with most of us fudging the truth just a bit to make our everyday interactions go a little smoother. But there’s a big difference between insignificant white lies and the big, relationship-altering falsehoods, making the ability to detect the latter an invaluable skill. While there is no foolproof method of figuring out whether someone’s trying to deceive you, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, shares seven common ways liars unknowingly expose themselves.

1. Duping delight, or the flash of a smile at the unconscious pleasure of successfully manipulating someone or getting away with a lie. It’s a subtle, suppressed smile that may show itself during inappropriate moments.

2. Non-congruent gestures, or when the body visibly “disagrees” with what the person is saying. A shrug of the shoulders or a slight shake of the head paired with a strong, affirmative statement probably means the person isn’t being truthful.

3. Gaze aversion, or avoiding and breaking eye contact. Some people feel uncomfortable, guilty, or overwhelmed when lying face-to-face, causing them to look away from the other person’s eyes.

4. Their statements are filled with an excess of words when they can easily get the point across with a few. For example, instead of saying, “I didn’t cheat on you,” they say something like, “given my behavior throughout our entire relationship, it’s ridiculous to assume that I could or would ever want to have sexual relations with anyone who isn’t you.”

5. They stick to their scripts, telling complex lies in strict chronological order. Hendriksen notes that liars tend to rehearse their stories from start to finish, so asking them to recount a detail out of order can throw them off their game, so to speak.

6. Distancing, or using vague phrases and pronouns that help them avoid being specific, such as “that man” or “that woman” instead of a name. Liars are also reluctant to use the word “I.”

7. Hendriksen calls it the used-car salesman vibe,” or trying so hard to appear trustworthy that they say all the right things and smile at the right times, often overcompensating with exaggerated, fake smiles.

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