Let’s be honest, we all lie. Most of us feel somewhat uncomfortable doing so but we lie anyway, often for the best of reasons. So, whatever happened to “Though shalt not lie?”
In a 1996 survey, Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., found that most adults lie once or twice per day. She had asked 147 aged between 18 and 71 to keep a lie diary for one week. Most of them did indeed record one or two porkies per day, and if we were all to be completely honest, we would probably have to admit lying at the same rate ourselves.
Many lies actually harbor good intention. You tell your friend you love her new dress even though you hate it. You tell your boss the reason you were late as heavy traffic rather than admitting you couldn’t get out of bed. These lies can help you get along better with people and, in some ways, you even get rewarded for telling these lies. What would happen if you were brutally honest with everyone you encountered? You’d probably fall out with lots of people and lose your job within a week. So, let’s not be all high and mighty about lying, we all do it.
Some Lies Are Too Big and Fat
Obviously, there is a difference between “kind lies” or harmless “self-preservation” lies and damaging, hurtful big fat lies. Let’s just deal with the latter and try and see if there are fool-proof ways of catching a liar.
You Can Never Be Sure If It's a Lie until You Have Proof
The best liars know all the tricks of the trade, know not to show signs of discomfort and can only be caught if confronted with a scenario illustrating their lie in an unambiguous fashion. This is often impossible. Marketers are notorious for lying but you wouldn’t expect them to be entirely truthful in their approach to start with.
But let’s take a look at the 5 top ways of catching an everyday liar:
- Unusual Expressions, Fake Smile, and Wide-Open Eyes
Most people feel uncomfortable telling lies, regardless of how callous they may appear. If someone has unusual facial expressions, even for a mere second, she/he may be telling a lie. If someone smiles just with their mouth but not with their eyes, they are likely to be bending the truth. If someone’s eyes are unusually wide open, they may be trying too hard to conceal their lie.
The best way-provided you know the person well - is to keep their “natural behavior” in mind and see if there are any unusual deviations. Most people cannot lie without their face giving them away in some way.
Any signs of insincere emotions are a good indication that someone is lying.
- Inconsistencies and Contradictions
Listen out for inconsistencies in the story. Generally, if someone is lying they get caught up in their web of deceit, and the truth emerges eventually. For the most part, you may have a gut feeling that someone is lying. In such incidents, listen carefully and pay attention to detail. If the person is lying, they will sooner or later make a mistake.
Contradictions are also a sure sign someone is lying. If the story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, the person is probably lying.
- Throw in a Curve-Ball Question
If someone has built a false story, she/he will have put in some practice and effort into the story. It may sound rehearsed and slightly mechanical. If you can, throw in an unusual question and wait for the reaction. If the person was telling the truth, she/he will not show any sign of stress or grapple for words, if she/he is lying, the sense of derailment will quickly become obvious.
The key is to be smart and attentive and try to throw the liar off course.
- Beware of Too Much Detail
If someone’s story bears too much detail, she/he is probably lying. This goes back to liars rehearsing their lies in an attempt to copper-fasten it. The detail is often designed to wrap the lie in a lot of fluff and distract.
The next time you ask someone a question, watch out for story embellishment and beware!
- Your Gut Reaction Is Probably Right
Though not very scientific, our gut reaction is right on most occasions. Somehow, our instinct has a better grasp of the truth, one that goes beyond intellectual understanding. Perhaps our body and mind picks up on inconsistencies on a far deeper level.
I don’t suggest going by gut reaction alone only, but simply to take it seriously and investigate further. In most cases, your gut is onto something, and you will have to examine the yarn you’ve been spun further.
Obviously, you may end up being wrong, so treading carefully is crucial. You don’t want to accuse someone who is telling the truth.
Some people look uncomfortable, fidget, smile oddly or give too much detail because they have a nervous disposition, not because they are lying.
Don’t accuse anyone of lying unless you are absolutely sure she/he is not telling the truth. There is nothing worse than pointing the finger and being wrong. It’s also important to remember that the really good liars will lie confidently and happily, without showing any signs of unease and distress. For the most part, it’s only those who actually feel uncomfortable lying who will give themselves away.
Why Do People Lie
While some are truly deceitful for personal gain, most of us lie to make ourselves look better or to spare someone’s feelings. I’m not suggesting that white lies are therefore entirely acceptable but simply pointing out that most of our lies are relatively harmless.
I would certainly think twice before telling a friend she looks awful or admitting to a stranger that I’m feeling lousy. Culturally, there is a silent consensus that it’s ok to lie in these instances to preserve relationships and save face in front of others.
Still, being truthful without hurting other people’s feelings is the way to go.
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