German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The lie is a condition of life.” Depressing? Sure. But, as any woman who has ever been in any kind of relationship with any other human being on the planet can tell you, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.
Don’t despair, though. Even if lying is a condition of life, even if people lie all the time, forensic psychology tells us that there are some things we can do to protect ourselves—or at least to be able to tell when someone is lying to us.
One of the most reliable experts on this stuff is a guy named R. Edward Geiselman. He’s a professor of psychology at UCLA, and is the go-to guy for the FBI, Marines, Homeland Security, the LAPD and others when it comes to the all-important question: “How do you know when someone’s lying to you?”
Here are some basic things liars have in common, Geiselman has found, after analyzing more than 60 studies and conducting his own studies, as summarized in the American Journal of Forensic Psychology’s April 2011 edition.
Liars don’t say much.
You might think they’d say a lot, trying to weave the lie. But research shows they say as little as possible—at first. “Papi, are you cheating on me?” The papi who is cheating will most likely just say, “No.” While the papi who isn’t might respond with a: “What? Why would you even ask me that? Is it that time of month again, loca?”
Liars make excuses and offer justification, even when they don’t need to.
“No, I wasn’t at a strip club, mami. I was with my boys. I don’t get enough time with them like you get with your girls, you know? A man needs time with his boys. Do I get all up in your sancocho when you need a girls’ night out? No, I don’t. So why you gotta front when alls I be doin’ is hanging with my boys at the b-ball court?”
Liars like to repeat your question before they answer it.
“So why do I have a receipt for a lap-dance then? Is that what you’re asking me? Why I have a receipt from the strip club if I was playing basketball?”
Liars watch you to see if you’re buying what they’re selling.
Lying papi will look up at you with puppy dog eyes that might seem loving, but look a little deeper. That’s worry. He’s analyzing your response. “You know I don’t love no chick but you, mami. You know I’d never pay for no lap dance if I could come home and have you do it for free, nena. Right?”
Liars slow down their talking, then speed it up.
Get your lying papi to talk about something you know he won’t lie about. Monitor the pace of his speech. Then spring the hard questions on him. Does his pace change?
Liars speak in fragments.
“No, really, here’s what—okay. Look. This is the way it was, it was like this mami. Okay? You listening? Hey. Listen. I was, okay. I was with my boy Chango, right? And then, you know how it is. We was just walking down the street, you know? Me and Chango. I love that guy, man. He was all, like—what? You know what I mean? You feel me? And then Babozo showed up, and he’s all, let’s go play ball, man.”
Liars keep backing up to tell their story again.
“Like I said, I was just walking down the street with Chango, right?”
Liars often press their fingers to their lips or engage in grooming.
It’s like their fingers are trying to stop their mouths from lying. Hand to mouth? Not good.
Liars will look you in the eye too much.
Truthful people tend to look away when you press them for more details, because they’re trying to remember. Liars tend to be focused on not looking like they’re lying, so they keep eye contact.
If you’re still not sure whether someone is lying to you or not, ask them to tell their story backwards, says Geiselman. Also, ask open-ended questions instead of yes or no questions, that way they’ll reveal more.. Then, sit back and don’t say a word. Let your silence be the prompt for them to keep talking.