While I hail from a rather dramatic, perhaps dysfunctional (as we all do in some ways) family, two values were etched in my character: Never break a promise and never tell a lie. As a woman business leader and business owner, these values have helped me stay grounded throughout my career. I have to admit, though, that the drama also comes with a license to exaggerate – but only for the purposes of a good story, of course!
Consequently, spotting a liar has been very difficult for me. I think these tips I’ve condensed from an article by Bill Rosenthal and Carolyn M. Anderson are very helpful.
When evaluating a potential liar, consider these three behavioral signals — that is, both what they say and how they say it:
Does the person seem uncomfortable about what she is saying? The visible anxiety may be caused by guilt or fear of getting caught, which leads liars to hurry to end the discussion and even look relieved when it’s over. Their feet might be pointing in the direction of their getaway — perhaps a doorway or a hallway. They may also put a barrier — such as a briefcase or purse — between themselves and you.
Someone who withholds information or keeps the conversation vague when you ask for specifics might be lying, particularly if that person finds it hard to remember something that should easily be remembered.
Is the person using data that’s suspect? When you ask her a question, the liar may answer with much more detail than is needed. She may also use overly explicit language for emphasis: Adding lots of detail is a common trick of con artists, for example.
Aside from those three behavioral clues, you should also consider if the speaker is more likely to lie. You’ll find plenty of new research on this subject. For example, a person who is under pressure is more apt to stretch the truth than someone who is not.