7 Body Language Signs That Mean Someone Is Lying, According to Therapists and Lawyers
Experts advise looking out for these suspicious non-verbal cues.
People lie to us more often than we'd like to believe, and we mostly don't realize it. But just because lying is a common occurrence, that doesn't mean it's an easy thing to pull off. Most people have tells, says Liam Barnett, a relationship expert with Dating Zest. In particular, they're so focused on what their mouth is saying that they're less in control of what their body is doing. If you're trying to decipher whether or not a friend or partner is telling the truth, you'll want to pay attention to their non-verbal cues. Talking to different experts, we've gathered some of the most common bodily behaviors that can help you call someone's bluff. Read on to discover the five body language signs that mean that someone is lying to you.
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Their feet are positioned in a particular way.
The connection between the feet and lying is something most people don't know about, James Miller, a licensed psychotherapist with more than 25 years of experience, tells Best Life. "Most people are good at monitoring their facial expressions, but most people don't realize that the farther away the extremity is from one's brain, the less we are mindful of what it does," he explains.
According to Miller, excessive foot movement or tapping is a good sign that someone might be distracted by their own lies. But the ultimate tell is actually the placement of one's feet. "If their foot or feet point away suddenly, then it's often a tell that the person wants to flee or are about to dissemble with their words. But their feet are incongruous with their words," he says.
They can't seem to stand still.
But if someone is moving too much for you to assess their foot placement, that could also be cause for concern. According to Rachel Eddins, LPC, a licensed therapist and the executive director at Eddins Counseling Group in Texas, people often struggle to stand still when they're lying. She says you should look out for troubling body language signs like restless legs and feet or swaying if you're worried that someone is being dishonest.
"They might be constantly moving their feet, or trying to leave the conversation as quickly as possible," Eddins says. "Swaying is also a result of feeling uneasy, which happens when telling a lie."
They are fidgeting with their appearance.
Many of us are aware that someone will become more fidgety when they're lying. But David Clark, an attorney of over 35 years and a partner at The Clark Law Office, says you should be watching out for fidgeting in relation to their appearance. "What I see in court all the time is when a person adjusts a part of their clothing," he explains. "It can be their tie or eyeglasses."
According to Clark, there are two more common appearance adjustments that people might make when they're lying. One is that they may use a handkerchief to constantly wipe off sweat from their head. And another is that if they have long hair, they tend to fuss with it and brush it to the side. "People do this because they distract themselves from their lies," he says.
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They can't make eye contact.
The eyes are the windows to the soul, and thus a pretty good way to tell if someone is being deceitful. Clark says that a "simple way" to see if a person is lying is by observing their eye movement. "If they stop making eye contact, it's a sign that the person knows that they're lying and they're reducing the guilt in their mind by looking away," he explains.
The seasoned lawyer also advises people to pay attention to the direction someone looks because this might also be a crucial tell when it comes to untruthfulness. "For example, if the person I ask is right-handed, and they look up to their left, it's a sign that they're trying to access their memory. However, if the same right-handed person looks up to their right, they're tapping into their brain's imaginary portion and are probably in the process of creating a lie," Clark explains. "Left-handed people have the opposite reactions."
Their body appears more tense.
The stress of lying often causes our body to tense up and become closed off. Joni Ogle, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker and CEO of The Heights Treatment, says this typically causes someone to cross their arms or legs—making them appear smaller and more uncomfortable. "Conversely, someone who is confident and telling the truth is more likely to have an open body posture," she explains.
The experts at Touch Casino also tell Best Life that you should look at someone's shoulders to see if they are telling the truth or not. "When we feel tense or uneasy, our shoulders naturally roll upwards and forwards, and the distance between shoulder and ear shortens," they say. "This sends a warning sign of a possible lie."
They are hiding their mouth.
Crossed arms or legs is not the only way someone could appear closed off when they're lying, however. Their body might also "display increased tension" through pursed lips, according to Andrew Taylor, a legal expert and the director of Net Lawman. Through this body language, "the lips seem to disappear," Taylor explains.
But you might not even be able to see that much, says Joe Gutheinz, a criminal lawyer and former college instructor who taught over 200 criminal justice and law classes. According to Gutheinz, someone who is being dishonest will often try "physically hiding himself or herself" from the other person by covering their mouth.
"When people use their hands to cover their mouth, even partially, they are unconsciously trying to prevent you from being able to tell that they are lying," adds Eli Bliliuos, a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner working with the Hypnosis Center in New York City.
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Their body language is different than it usually is.
Sometimes the biggest body language sign that someone is lying is not universal, but instead, unique to each individual person. Cassandra LeClair, PhD, a relationship expert and a professor of communication studies at Texas State University, says one of the most important aspects to consider is if someone's body language differs from what you've observed in other interactions.
According to LeClair, you should consider things like, "How is this person responding to you now? " and "Are their mannerisms and non-verbals the same, or does something seem off?" This can help you determine if there has been a "pattern break," Rodney Simmons, a relationship expert working with Tiny Changes, explains.
"The one thing you should be able to notice when someone is lying is a change in their typical behavior," Simmons says.