Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

6 Ways to Spot a Liar

Posted on: March 9, 2011

Liars Bluff

If you’ve ever had a hunch that someone was lying to you, or withholding information, you were probably right. Even white lies – those little untruths or omissions that are meant to protect your feelings – can leave you feeling hurt, suspicious, and offended. When people lie they send out signs and signals that something’s not quite right. Even an expert liar can get caught out.  See below for Kuhnke Communication’s six indicators that someone’s telling you a porky.

Eye Contact – In Western Cultures people tend to make eye contact between 45-65 % of the time while they’re talking and between 65-85% of the time while they’re listening.   Too little eye contact indicates that the person is avoiding telling you something while too much indicates that they’re  trying to convince you that what they’re saying is true. 

 Change in voice – When someone is withholding information or telling an out-and-out lie their voice sound different than normal.  Changes in pitch, pace, tone, and rhythm are signs that something’s amiss.  In addition, a lack of clear articulation indicates that what they’re saying isn’t worth hearing.  When the speaker’s pitch is higher than usual you can bet they’re feeling uncomfortable about what they’re telling you.

 Contradiction – If someone’s statements don’t tally, you can bet that they’re struggling to keep pace with their ever-changing tale. Statements that don’t ring true happen when someone forgets what they’ve said before or contradicts themselves.  Giving more information than was asked for is also a sign of lying. If the story is confused and details don’t match up, the person is most likely lying

Subject Change – If someone touches on a subject that requires a lie, observe to what happens.  The person who’s withholding information   will look away and switch to a different topic.  If the person were telling the truth, they’d stay with the topic until it reached its natural conclusion.

Ultra-Defensive – Liars often display a high level of defensiveness, for fear of being caught. Anger could be masking nervousness, or hesitation to talk about a subject they’d rather avoid.  Ask what they’re defending.  If they’re telling you the truth they’ll speak in a calm and rational manner.

Fidgeting – Fidgeting is a displacement activity that indicates nervous energy. If they’re chewing their lips, fiddling with their fingers, and putting a hand over their mouth, they’re sending out signs that they just might be holding something back.

Be warned, these signs alone are not concrete evidence that a person is lying. To get a clearer picture, think about their “normal” behaviour and compare it to what you’re observing.  Trust your instincts.  If the behaviour is out of character, and Red Alert bells start ringing in your head and heart, there is a good chance you are being lied to.   

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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9 Responses to "6 Ways to Spot a Liar"

This really resonated, Elizabeth. It’s amazing how many people say they are honest yet don’t follow that through in their behaviour. I’d like to think it’s most often about lacking courage to speak the truth rather than deliberately wanting to mislead others. Yet with so many people under huge pressures at work just now, we’re seeing less honesty in high places. Fear takes over.

Thank you, Kate. Any feedback from you is always highly appreciated. I agree that a lack of courage can, at times, lead people to make the wrong choices.

Great blog post Elizabeth. Have you seen http://www.paulekman.com – Dr Paul Ekman has discovered 3000 micro-facial expressions that very momentarily flit across someone’s face when they are concealing or have repressed feeling. Strongly recommended.

Thank you for the response, Sarah. Is there anything you would particularly like us to blog about? I am familiar with Paul Ekman’s work and very much appreciated your direction to the site.

Another one gesture that someone might do is distancing themselves, where they take a step back while folding their arms at the same time.

There are however many hundreds of these tells and as quite rightly pointed out you cannot say one thing or another is true or false if you do not know how someone will react in a relaxed state, I do not keep someones eye contact much because of natural shyness…by all older accounts I would’ve been put to the noose :p


Hi Phil. Thanks for your great addition. You’re so right. Let us know if you have any other tips to watch out for. Sure am glad you avoided the noose!

Hi Elizabeth

You will be amused to know that Radio 4 is following your example. Their Book Of The Week is “Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit” by Ian Leslie http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0122vzn/Book_of_the_Week_Born_Liars_Why_We_Cant_Live_Without_Deceit_Episode_3/

Hi Sarah – how kind of you to point out this opportunity to learn about liars! many thanks for the link. Am listening as I write. REALLY good information. For those of you who don’t know Sarah, she’s a wonderful coach and voice expert.

Many thanks, Elizabeth.

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