Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Can You Tell if Someone is Lying?

If you want to know how to spot someone who is being dishonest, just ask any mother! Often you hear moms say, "you have a neon sign on your forehead that tells me you're lying!", or I've got eyes in the back of my head...I always know what you're doing!" How many of us have ever heard those things? Well, if you don't have an extra eye or are unable to notice that neon sign, there are other ways to gather clues about someone who is being dishonest.

The first thing to bear in mind is what kind of a person you are dealing with. When dealing with people who lie, they often fall into one of 4 categories, according to Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, Ph.D. Dr. Dimitrius wrote a book called "Reading People" and she says that people are either occasional, frequent, habitual or professional liars. If you are dealing with someone who is an occasional or even a frequent liar, their body language is usually a good indicator of whether they are telling the truth or not. These individuals don't practice being dishonest and they usually know they are being dishonest when they tell a lie and that makes them uncomfortable about what they are doing. These individuals can telegraph their dishonesty by fidgeting, a change in their voice tone or inflection, signs of nervousness, sweating, shaking, leaning forward or inappropriate familiarity such as back slapping or getting too close (invading personal space). Shifting or wandering eyes are also signs of dishonesty.

In looking for these clues, it is important to look at the person in the context of who they are, their character and what their normal patterns of communication happen to be. That is why mother's are so good at catching their children in lies....they know their children and they know how they normally communicate. A person who is being truthful is usually calm and has a relaxed manner about them. Even if they are being asked difficult questions, their delivery doesn't change a lot from their normal communication style. When a person launches into dishonest communication, they may act differently, pause when they normally wouldn't pause or their speech may become more rapid, heart rate and breathing increases. It used to be thought that if a person looked up and to the right they were calling on memory, but if they looked up and to the left in a conversation it meant they were lying. That is not necessarily so...if you look up and to the left, you are drawing on creative processes of expression and those can be truthful as well as untruthful. Try it for yourself.....sit still for a minute and then move your eyes up and to the right. How does that feel? What kinds of thoughts are you getting? Do the same to the left....there is a difference in feeling isn't there? To me, looking up and to the left feels more like I'm trying to construct something, figure out how to explain myself.

Habitual and professional liars are much more difficult to spot. The most obvious reason for that would be that they lie so often that they may not realize they are doing it or that it becomes natural for them. Pathological liars (professional liars) have perfected dishonesty to an art and it is often very difficult to detect a lie without some corroborating evidence, or detecting some slight flaw in their stories. They have no problem maintaining eye contact and are calm, cool and collected as they spin their stories. When you add a lack of conscience to the mix you are dealing with a very, very dangerous person.

Things to remember are that people can become nervous when confronted. Confrontation is a form of communication which can bring on a level of dishonesty, especially if the person is uncomfortable with conflict. The thing to pay attention to in these situations is the consistency or inconsistency of the nervousness or defensiveness. If an individual is consistently nervous over the course of a difficult conversation, that would weigh on the side of an honest person who is simply nervous.

There are no set of behaviors that can be trusted as being foolproof, but the more you learn about people and the more you observe them, the better you will get at it. Of course, there is intuition and when all else fails, there is always mom! To learn more about this subject, get a copy of the book "Reading People" by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, PhD.

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