How to Tell if Someone is Lying to You

In the latest bummer study about gender inequalities, we found out that women are lied to more than men when it comes to business negotiations. Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania created a fake negotiation scenario for MBA students and discovered that the students who participated were way more likely to lie to women than to men. That includes men lying to women and women lying to women (so much for solidarity!).

So aside from a giant WTF and flipping over a few tables in outrage, what can we do about it?

Well, we looked to a few experts to weigh in on tips for avoiding deceit, even beyond the boardroom. From body language to word choice, here are some handy ways to tell if you’re being lied to.

1. They shrug their shoulders at the wrong time.

This is a body movement that indicates uncertainty, according to Janine Driver, a former lie detection expert for the FBI and CIA (not to mention a bestselling author). According to her research, if a shoulder shrug is matched with an uncertain statement, such as, “I don’t know,” it lines up. BUT if it happens when someone is speaking a statement that is meant to be certain (or, true) it can often indicate dishonesty or holding something back, claims Driver.

2. They’re fidgeting.

While Driver makes sure to point out that a key factor in reading someone’s body language is being familiar with their regular movements, a ‘hot spot’ of dishonesty is often when someone moves their body nervously while talking. This happened during her Katie demonstration and she explains that people move their bodies to help move their minds, AKA to help themselves come up with a good answer (cough, or a lie).

3. They finish a sentence with a smirk.

Driver refers to this body language as “contempt,” and says it always only occurs on one side of the face. This smirk at the end of a statement, even if it is slight, denotes that the person believes they have pulled one over on you.

4. They evade your pointed question. 

John R. Schafer, Ph.D a retired FBI Special Agent and a professor at Western Illinois University in the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) Department, suggests a clever technique for when you suspect that someone might be lying to you: confront the person you think is being dishonest with a scenario that isn’t directly accusatory, but rather hints at their possible behavior. Here is Schafer’s example:

Suspicion: Amanda (café owner) suspects that a member of her staff (Rick) has stolen $150 from the Cafe’s safe.

Question: “Rick, I’d like to get your advice on something. A colleague of mine at another café has a problem with one of her staff. She feels that one of them may be stealing from the café safe during their shift. Do you have any suggestions on how she can approach him/her about this problem?”

According to his experience and research, if “Rick” is innocent, he will probably offer up advice and be happy that you wanted his opinion, “The innocent want the truth revealed,” says Shafer. But if “Rick” is guilty, he will appear uncomfortable and talk about how he would never do anything like that. As Schafer puts it, “The guilty want the truth hidden.”

Featured image courtesy of Enza Brunero, gifs via, via, via, via

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