Lies and Alibies – How To Spot a Fibber

Everywhere from the highest echelons of Westminster to your local café, lies, or ‘mistruths’ as some prefer to call them, are a hot topic of conversation.

Did our PM lie to parliament about his involvement in lock down parties at No 10?

Even after official investigations and police involvement, in the final reckoning the truth may well get lost in legal arguments, technicalities and the twisting of words.

The reality is, you have to be on your guard in the modern world.

There are plenty of outright deceptions to be wary of.

Fake news and political propaganda in the media is commonplace whilst everywhere we turn we are bombarded with questionable advertising claims of everything from free online slots with huge prizes to miracle diets.

Some may be true, others less so. And in our personal lives we can all be the victim of lies, sometimes told by the people we should trust the most.

In psychology, countless studies have been carried out into the art of deception, how it is done and why we fall for it.

\But you won’t have time to read all those. So, to help you sort everyday fact from fiction, here is a short guide to spot when someone is lying.

Obfuscation – The art of lying is often executed though obfuscation, or as we like to call it, being vague!

Waffling around the subject and avoiding committing to specific facts is a key weapon in the arsenal of the liar.

Of course, you can attack this strategy by demanding specifics and burrowing down to the truth. Politicians and

lawyers are particularly adept at talking around a subject and avoiding direct yes or no answers to questions. If you suspect someone of lying, persistent questioning can often reveal the truth.

Sweating or a Dry Mouth – Under real pressure – criminals under interrogation for example – people cannot help some of the physical reactions that occur under the stress of lying.

Two or these are sweat, which may appear on around the mouth or on the forehead, and a dry mouth, which may cause the person to swallow more often than not.

Tone of Voice – People who are telling lies often change the tone of their voice involuntarily.

The vocal chords tighten under stress leading to a higher pitch, and sometimes in a defensive mode, a person’s voice will become louder quite suddenly.

Concentration and Over-Thinking – When people are trying to hide the facts they will often have to concentrate hard to make sure they create a watertight alibi and don’t contradict themselves.

Unless they are sociopaths liars will rarely look relaxed when they are unloading their fibs on you.

What it comes down to is that constructing a lie, particularly on the fly, is much harder than simply telling the truth.

If you wish to challenge a person’s version of events then it is a good idea to attack from different angles and ask the same questions over to seek inconsistencies.

Some even suggest that the best way to uncover a lie is to ask the person to tell the story in reverse-chronological order.

Indifference – On the other hand, someone who is lying to you may try to feign indifference in order to avoid showing an emotion about the thing they are talking about.  

This may be more subtle, but its still a useful signal to watch for.

Visual Cues – Finally, some of the strongest signals given off by someone who is telling a lie are visual ones.

People who are lying often don’t look you in the eye, and as they speak their lies they may fidget nervously, often playing with their hair, or their clothing, or an object to offset their nerves.

There are just a few ways to spot when someone is lying to you.

From these you can see that there are both observational techniques that you can use – spotting visual and audio cues – and more active ones.

You may need to push back on someone’s story by questioning it more vigorously in order to work out if they are really lying.

At the same time, for some of us, it can be about gut feeling too. We can sense lies, and often we know when someone is prone to telling them.

So try to trust your instincts in this respect too.

The vital thing is to be on your guard at all times. Don’t take anyone or anyone’s story for granted.

Photo by Athena from Pexels

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