9 Red Flags That You May Be Talking to a Liar

Keep an eye out for these cues, but don't jump to conclusions.

Posted Nov 04, 2014

mavo/Shutterstock
Source: mavo/Shutterstock

We often miss some subtle nonverbal cues that indicate someone is trying to deceive us. Those cues include the following. Keep an eye out for them:

1. Throat Clearing.

It's our fight-or-flight stress response which causes the need for throat clearing in liars, as the moisture usually present in the throat reroutes to the skin in the form of sweat.

2. Hard Swallowing.

Similarly, the lack of moisture in the liar’s throat due to the fight-or-flight response causes hard swallows, often referred to as the "Adam's apple jump."

3. Jaw Manipulation.

Some liars open their mouths and slide their jaws back and forth. The back and forth movement of the jaw stimulates the salivary glands in the back of the throat. This movement is an attempt to moisten their throats, which are dry due to the fight-or-flight response.

4. Eye Pointing.

Our eyes point to where the body wants to go. Liars often look toward the nearest exit, telegraphing their desire to physically and psychologically escape the anxiety caused by lying. (People who look at their watches telegraph the same message, signaling a desire to cut a conversation short.)

5. Feet Pointing.

Liars will also often point their feet toward the door, signaling their desire to physically and psychologically escape an uncomfortable situation.

6. Lack of Emphatic Gestures.

Liars typically experience difficulty using emphatic gestures, such as finger pointing, light hand tapping on a table, or forward head movements. Denials combined with emphatic gestures usually indicate truthfulness.

7. Backward Head Movement.

Liars will tend to move their heads slightly backwards when they lie. This subtle gesture is an attempt to distance themselves from the source of their anxiety. People tend to lean toward the people and things they like, and distance themselves from people and things they dislike.

8. Backward Leaning.

Liars often sway their entire bodies slightly backward to distance themselves from their targets. The people we're lying to cause us anxiety, because we're afraid of being caught by them.

9. Suprasternal Notch.

This is the indentation at the base of the neck, and it's one of the most vulnerable parts of the body, because any infiltration of it can interfere with normal breathing. When liars feel threatened, they sometimes cover their suprasternal notch to psychologically protect themselves against the threat of discovery. Women who are lying while wearing necklaces may grab, tug, or pull at their necklaces as a means to protect their suprasternal notch.

Subtle nonverbal cues that indicate deception can provide additional support to determine if a person is lying to you, but remember: No one nonverbal cue determines veracity.

Nonverbal cues are more reliable indicators when they occur in clusters, and in clusters of clusters. The best way to determine veracity remains comparing what a person said to objective facts. Absent such facts, detecting deception will always remain a difficult task: Honest people often say and do things that make themselves look dishonest, and liars often say and do things that make themselves appear truthful. In the end, a preponderance of evidence determines truth from deception.