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Liar, Liar: How People Lie - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Liar, Liar: How People Lie

November 4, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Unfortunately, the worlds of politics, media celebrities, and big business are rife with multiple instances of lying. But in your own life, a liar can threaten your career, your love life and even your safety.

Why are liars so difficult to detect?

We all want to believe the liar. Good people with integrity want to believe that the other person is motivated by good intentions. We often fill in the “blanks” of information a liar omits in an effort to see him in a positive light. Tragic outcomes occur as a result. There has been a cultural shift legitimizing lying that is increasingly common in a complex world where the truth is often hidden.

Here are some common types of lies:

Lies of Concealment: Lying by omitting facts is a common type of deceit that has a variety of different motivations. Examples include lying to protect someone’s feelings, to avoid an awkward moment, to manipulate someone to get your way and to intentionally deceive someone by omitting key facts. Unfortunately, these types of lies are easier to conceal if you don’t stretch the truth too much.

Lies of Falsification: This lie misrepresents false information as if it were true. These are used especially when emotions must be concealed.

Mis-Identifying the Cause of an Emotion: This lie acknowledges a feeling or gesture, but it lies about what brought it on. It’s a half-truth in that the felt emotion is accurate, but the person lies about the cause.

Admitting the Truth with Misleading Exaggeration or Humor: This lie greatly exaggerates reality to make the other person think that it is obviously a lie. For instance, your child buys something for a few hundred dollars, but when you ask he mockingly replies, “Oh yeah, I spent a million dollars!” This hyperbole leads you to doubt the reality of your initial question.

You may not realize that lying is a two part process: both the words and the body language. You may be wondering what the most common type of facial cues liars use:

Smiling is the most common facial expression used to conceal deceit. It is the easiest of all of the facial expressions to create without effort.

Is the Smile Sincere?:

Study the Timing: If you think a smile is insincere, study the timing of the smile—it may be too sudden or too slow.

Note the Length of the Smile and If It is Appropriate: The smile may also last too long and may not correlate with the content of the conversation.

Note When He Smiles in the Conversation: Make sure that you study the location of the smile in the conversation. If it occurs too soon or too long after the verbiage, it may be contrived to mislead you.

Here’s why lies fail:

Some people lie flawlessly and are difficult to catch due to their skill. They are able to control both their emotions and thoughts simultaneously.

However, there are several reasons why lies fail.

Focus on Words and Face: Liars conceal and falsify what they think others are going to focus upon most closely. Most liars focus on their words first and their facial expressions second. Despite their best efforts, few liars are very good at monitoring their facial expressions effectively. The face is directly connected to the area of the brain involved in emotion. Muscles in the face begin to fire involuntarily.

Ignores His Voice: Pauses that are too long and frequent speech errors are clues to lying. Liars are often unprepared to lie and their hesitation and stuttering attempts to falsify information are clues. Their voice pitch can be higher.

Ignores the Difference Between Verbal and Non-Verbal: You can often catch a liar if you look for discrepancies between what he is saying (his words) and how he is saying the message with his non-verbal behavior, voice and facial expressions.

Here are tips to tell is someone is lying “in the moment” (drawn from the work of Gavin De Becker and Paul Eckman):

Notice Breathing, Sweating and Swallowing: Changes in breathing or sweating (especially on the hands and upper lip), increased swallowing, and a very dry mouth are signs of strong emotions that can indicate lying.

The Leaning Liar: Liars tend to lean to the side while standing or sitting and often have both of their arms or legs crossed.

Shifty Eyes: Eye gaze that shifts rapidly side-to-side and downward.

Too Many or Too Few Details: When someone is lying, they either provide too many details or they provide too few details. Either an excess or a lack of information is intended to deceive the listener and avoid questions.

Technology Fuels Lies: Liars love to use the phone or email to lie. Directly confronting face to face is more complicated since they have to control both their words and actions to successfully deceive. In one study, 72% of lies were delivered electronically while only 27% were delivered in face-to-face encounters.

Too Many Questions and Reassurances: Liars often ask for questions to be repeated to buy more time and they use phrases like, “you can trust me,” or “to be perfectly honest.” Liars intend to lull their targets into believing the illusion by appearing overly honest and transparent.

The bottom line is that you have to approach other people with an appropriate level of critical thinking. Lying is all too common. Taking someone else’s word without studying their behavior critically and without gaining more information about their history of honesty can be detrimental in the long run.

For information on this and Dr. Sylvia Gearing, please visit!


“Telling Lies” by Paul Ekman

“The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker

“How To Sniff Out A Liar” by Melanie Lindner, on

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