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7 Ways to Spot a Lie

Fire number "7"Whether you are talking to your child, a spouse, co-worker or friend, you may find yourself questioning their genuineness and wondering from time-to-time if they are telling the truth.

Whether it’s debunking a little white fib or uncovering a large-scale lie, it is important to be able to tell when people are not telling the truth.

Here are seven ways to spot a lie:

  1. Examine body language
    When someone is lying, his or her body language can often give you a clue. They may have fidgety hands or hide their hands completely. They could shrug their shoulders and not stand tall, or they may make their bodies appear smaller so they feel less noticeable. Watch for these physical signs to gauge if someone is being honest with you.
  2. Watch facial expressions 
    When people are in the middle of a lie their facial expressions may show you. Look for flared nostrils, lip biting, rapid blinking or sweating. These changes in facial activity signify an increase in brain activity as a lie begins. Some people will get a slight flush to their face when they are lying, so look for blushed cheeks as anxiety may set in.
  3. Pay attention to tone and sentence structure
    When people lie their speech tone and cadence may change. They could start speaking with a higher or lower tone than normal, and either speak more slowly or rapidly. Their sentence structure may become more detailed than usual, including very specific information. This again is their brain working in overdrive.
  4. Look at mouth and eyes 
    Someone who is lying may cover their mouth or eyes with their hands, or close them altogether. Both of these come from a natural tendency to want to cover a lie.
  5. Listen to how they refer to themselves 
    People who are lying tend to avoid using the words “I” or “me” when they are in the midst of a lie. Sometimes they will speak about themselves in the third person by saying things like, “this girl.” This is how they mentally distance themselves from the lie.
  6. Have all the answers
    Usually when you ask someone a question, such as “what did you do this weekend?”, they have to pause for a moment and think about it. When an individual is lying, they often rehearse their answers, so they are prepared in their responses and don’t have any hesitation. It can be a dead giveaway if they have immediate answers to everything without pausing to think.
  7. Trying to prove their honesty 
    When people are honest, they usually expect that you will believe them. If someone says phrases such as “to be perfectly honest” or “I swear I’m telling the truth” that could clue you in that they are lying. Honest people don’t feel the need to convince you of their honesty.

If you pay attention to people’s body language, facial expressions, how and what they are communicating, you can become pretty good at spotting lies. Whether you are dealing with someone who is a pathological liar, or your teenage son who is trying to weasel out of a punishment, it can be helpful to know when someone is likely lying to you.

7 Ways to Spot a Lie

Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC

Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching and writes a blog about the issues facing men (and the women who love them). As an expert in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today, he regularly appears on The Huffington Post, NerdWallet and PsychCentral. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their lives and relationships better. Check out his weekly tips on Facebook or Twitter.

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APA Reference
Smith, K. (2018). 7 Ways to Spot a Lie. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 27 Apr 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.