Did you know that, on any given day, you are lied to anywhere from 10 to 200 times?
Lying is hard, which is why truth-telling instruments such as polygraphs, eye-scanning lie detectors and voice stress analysis machines look out for signs of increased stress and cognitive load in subjects. But spotting a liar is harder for everyday people like you and me, especially for those who don’t know what deception signs to watch out for.
We’re always told that body language speaks the truth. The way that liars move their eyes, tilt their heads, gesture with their hands, shuffle their feet — these and other non-verbal communication cues can give them away.
But don’t forget the importance of monitoring verbal cues in determining whether or not a person is lying!
Sometimes, it’s not what a less-than-honest individual says that should alert you but how he or she says it — liars tend to deploy an arsenal of deceptive verbal tactics and tricks to defend their pride, reputation and honor.
Fortunately for you, provided that you know what to look for, it’s possible to catch a liar by the mouth.
And that’s exactly what this post is all about: the various verbal signs of lying that can help you distinguish deception, thus saving you from feeling discredited, unimportant, insecure and others that being lied to can bring.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that observing what comes out of a person’s mouth is sometimes not enough to show that he or she is in fact lying. But when used together with body language and other clues, you may be able to identify deception as it unfolds before your very eyes, whether in person or through text messaging or email.
1. Repeating or Rephrasing the Question
Lying causes an increase in the cognitive load of deceptive people — it takes a lot of mental resources for them not only to formulate a lie but also to come up with ways to state a lie convincingly.
And if liars need some time to think of a good lie, they usually resort to using stalling tactics.
Restating the question is a common way for dishonest persons to buy themselves some time to cook up a lie. They may find it necessary to repeat the entire question nearly or fully verbatim.
However, they may sometimes simply rephrase the question, and adding a phrase like “so, what you are asking me is…” or “let me be perfectly clear: you want to know if…” allows them to have even more opportunity to manufacture the most convincing lie they can manage to come up with.
2. Not Using Contractions
Contracting words is usually not encouraged in academic writing because it can make the work sound informal.
On the other hand, everyone uses contractions in everyday conversations because it allows words to be said easier and faster. And this is why it’s considered a red flag if someone suddenly stops using contractions even though he or she is not standing behind a lectern delivering a formal speech.
Liars will say “I was not at the party” instead of “I wasn’t at the party.” Or they will go “I did not send the text message” instead of “I didn’t send the text message.”
Skipping contractions makes deceptive people think that they sound more credible and trustworthy. It’s also not uncommon for them to emphasize non-contracted words to convince the people they are lying to.
3. Using Absolute Language
It’s safe to assume that what you are hearing or reading is absolute garbage if the individual whom you are suspecting of not telling you everything you need to know is resorting to the use of absolute language.
Simply put, absolute language leaves no room for any doubt. It includes words such as:
The use of absolute language is like the deceptive individual saying that there are no conditions or exceptions — what’s being said is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Especially if what the person claims isn’t or cannot be substantiated by any facts, it can be very easy for his or her claim to sound dishonest and exaggerated. On the other hand, someone who is being honest doesn’t have to attempt to be as convincing because, after all, there is nothing else in what’s being said other than the truth.
4. Overstressing Honesty
Deceivers will do anything and everything necessary to make themselves sound convincing. It isn’t surprising because, after all, no deceitful person in his or her right mind will make getting caught a part of the plan.
It’s because of this why most liars will not fall short of telling you that you can put your trust in them.
Phrases such as “to be honest” and “to tell you the truth” are staples in the statements of many tellers of lies. You may also hear “believe me” or “the fact is that” quite often. And if they’re saying such phrases while gesturing with both hands or deliberately making eye contact, both of which are tools used by liars, you could have a deceiver in your midst.
Most truth-tellers, on the other hand, find it unnecessary to tell others that they’re telling the truth because they know for themselves that they’re being honest, and what they speak of is enough to establish that.
5. Using Qualifying Language
Qualifying language, simply put, is the use of words that can increase or decrease a statement’s certainty — “the brand logo is very attractive” vs. “the brand logo is somewhat attractive.”
Liars are some of its fondest users, with the aim of saving themselves from being on the hot seat in case their untruths get uncovered. Using phrases such as “as far as I can remember” or “if you ask me” is like cleaning their hands even before someone points out that their hands are dirty.
Deceitful people are well-aware of the fact they might get caught sooner or later.
And in order to do damage control even before the damage is done, many liars use qualifying language so that they cannot be fully held accountable, or at all, the minute the lie is exposed.
6. Sticking to a Third-Person Point of View
It’s no secret among liars that getting caught can get them in trouble. This is why they tend to steer clear of using any first-person pronouns even if it means them giving odd-sounding statements.
A truth-teller may say something like “I dented the car by hitting a tree.” A deceptive person, on the other hand, may instead say “the car hit a tree, which is why it got dented.” By not using a first-person pronoun, the liar can make it appear like he or she has zero accountability and responsibility.
According to experts at detecting deceptions, this is more common in written lies than in spoken ones.
So, if you receive an email or text message that sounds like the sender is telling someone else’s story, the individual might be trying to give the impression that he or she has nothing to do with it.
7. Giving a Non-Direct Answer
Liars will attempt to dodge getting caught by avoiding giving a direct answer. The general consensus among deceitful people is that the murkier the answer they give, the cleaner their names will appear.
An indirect answer is oftentimes deliberately given by a liar in order to make the truth obscure. Needless to say, the less obvious the facts, the less likely they will appear lying. Saying “I didn’t do it” is trouble-free for an honest person. For someone who is dishonest, “I wouldn’t do something like that” is easier to say.
But then there are instances, too, when a dishonest person has no choice but to provide an indistinct answer simply because he or she has yet to come up with a solid lie.
In either case, it’s likely for you to end up having more questions than answers when talking to a liar.
8. Using Generalization Statements
In some instances, liars will attempt to give non-direct answers and generalize them, too.
For example, they may say things such as “typically, I do not bother reading someone else’s emails” or “I usually go straight home to sleep after work” in order for them to have an excuse to not fully come clean, which they absolutely hate, when the need to arrives. “I said generally, not certainly!”
When searching for clues on deception, be on the lookout for words or phrases that generalize like:
- “By and large”
- “More often than not”
- “Now and again”
9. Switching to Defensive Mode
Anger is a common reaction by someone when being accused of something. And if you think that someone who becomes infuriated all of a sudden is 100% guilty, better think again!
According to a report that appeared on the website of the British Psychological Society (BPS), researchers at the University of Toronto found out that anger in response to a false accusation is a sign of innocence. They added that most people considered anger as an indicator of guilt.
But it doesn’t mean, however, that guilty people do not get angry when questioned.
Individuals who are hiding something, as a matter of fact, often react defensively to questions that they feel are attacking their veracity, behavior or character.
Sometimes, liars will not only become angry and defensive when asked but also attack the other party, often in the form of a question. Saying stuff like “are you insinuating that I was the one responsible for it?” or “don’t you have better things to do than bug me with such a ridiculous accusation?” is quite common among liars.
10. Dwelling on Insignificant Details
In their quest to make their fibs as believable as possible, liars have the tendency to provide detail after detail. So much so that they often wind up talking more about insignificant matters than important ones, which makes the stories they tell sound more far-fetched than convincing as initially intended.
Certain phrases may be repeated, too, as they make more time for even more lies.
The problem with this tactic is that liars become too engrossed with keeping the truth out of the picture that they forget to keep track of all the fabrications they build around it for protection, which is why they usually provide a different answer whenever you ask about a particular detail repeatedly.
So, if someone gives you a minute-long litany after being asked a simple question answerable with either a yes or no, then you may be in the presence of a certified liar.
11. Giving a Referral to a Previous Question or Questioner
There are instances when a liar will attempt to avoid directly answering a question by referring the inquisitor to a previous incident when he or she already shed light on the same matter.
In a way, it allows them to maintain the lie without actually stating a lie.
Saying something like “as I told the private investigator, I have nothing to do with the incident” is like denying the individual he or she is currently talking with a much-needed direct answer by bringing up an indirect answer previously given to another question by another questioner.
Telling a lie can be stressful, which is what makes a polygraph an effective truth-telling procedure. And referring to a previous answer or inquisitor lets the deceitful person avoid any more unnecessary stress.
Read Also: When You Can Trust a Polygraph
12. Speaking Under Oath
Individuals who are telling the truth don’t find it necessary to state that what they are stating is in fact the truth. They just speak of the truth with confidence and authenticity.
On the other hand, liars often have the urge to proclaim that what they say is true — no one can blame them for they are aware that there’s always the possibility that they will get caught sooner or later and one way or the other. And a sworn testimony, they believe, can stop the other party from trying to pry further.
Phrases such as “I swear on my mother’s grave” and “God as my witness” are sometimes used when people who engage in deception feel that their statements are not convincing enough.
They believe that no further questions will be asked since they are under oath.
13. Blaming (Probably Faulty) Memory
No liar wants to be accountable for the lies they state. And it’s exactly because of this why they will look for all sorts of ways to appear less blameworthy when their deception is discovered.
Some dishonest individuals will try to dissociate themselves from the lies they make by making something else than their deceitful ways blameworthy, such as their memory that cannot be trusted. Having a poor memory is no one’s fault — besides, the Social Security Administration (SSA) acknowledges memory impairment as a form of disability.
A liar may attempt to play the victim card by using phrases such as the following:
- “As far as my memory goes”
- “If my memory serves me right”
- “To the best of my recollection”
Trying to put the blame on their memory can keep liars from getting all the blame the minute they get caught. It’s like them saying that they didn’t lie — they just failed to remember things very well.
14. Giving Unnecessary Compliments
Some deceitful people are good at combining telling lies and flattering people — and, in most instances, they shower others with compliments that they don’t mean, which makes them even more dishonest.
As a matter of fact, according to a report by Forbes, liars can influence people to buy their lies in a handful of ways, such as by buttering them up with praising remarks that can boost not only their confidence in themselves but their confidence in those who are telling them fibs, too.
“My lips speak only of the truth. Speaking of which, what plump and beautiful lips you have!”
When a compliment suddenly appears out of nowhere, the person could be wanting to put the spotlight on something about you that’s praiseworthy, thus leaving you blushing instead of pushing for the truth.
15. Ending With Closing Statements
One way for liars to keep the truth from being exposed is by keeping anyone who is on the hunt for it to stop asking further questions. Besides lowering the risk of them getting caught, it also saves them from having to come up with even more deceptions, thus keeping the price to pay to a bare minimum should they get busted.
This is why it’s not uncommon for some liars to end their answers to investigative or accusatory questions with statements pointing out they will entertain no more queries.
A perfect example is “and that’s all I have to say for now” or “besides that, I have nothing else to add.”
Dissuading someone from asking any more questions with the use of closing statements is just like the liar saying “it’s now time for you to shut up” politely.
It’s from the mouth of a liar where a lie comes out. It’s from the very same bodily orifice where clues to deception usually emerge. If you know what to look for and are observant enough, then you can determine better whether what’s being said to you is the whole truth or nothing but an absolute fabrication.
Refrain from assuming, however, that verbal signs are enough to give a liar away.
Pair everything you have learned in this post with other clues on deception, such as non-verbal communication cues and body language, and you can have a much better idea if you should believe or doubt someone.