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20 BIG-but-Subtle Signs & Gestures to Tell If Someone Is Lying to Your Face

Think you can spot a liar? Here are all the secret ways to know if somebody is lying to your face or telling the truth!

how to tell if someone is lying

One of the most annoying, frustrating, and even insulting things someone can do is lie straight to your face. Even if it’s just a little white lie, it’s still irritating enough for you to get angry with them. But how do you know if they’re really lying?

How do you know if you’ve got a right to be angry? What if you’re just making a big fuss out of nothing? Nobody wants to blow up at somebody only to find they were telling the truth. 

If somebody’s lying about something serious, it can be enough for you to write them off as a friend. How can you trust somebody if they have the audacity to lie to your face? No matter how negative the reality is, it’s worse that they lied to you. The truth may hurt, but lies hurt much more.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to tell if somebody’s lying. There are tell-tale physical, vocal, and behavioral signs that are dead giveaways – and can’t be covered up. This feature will show you how to spot a liar so that you can tell fake friends from real ones. [Read: All the types of liars and how to confront them]

Lying: the harmful truth

Lying hurts everybody. There is no situation in which lying produces a positive outcome. For the person who is lying, it creates anxiety, which can cause long-term damage. As for the person who is being lied to, their self-esteem can take a hit. Plus, they’ll become much more distrustful of people in the future. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and to everyone you love]

Even white lies can be harmful. No matter how negative the truth is, it’s better to know than be deceived. For most people, the opportunity to handle the truth is much more valuable. Even if the facts are hurtful, they can start to process them without the extra pain of being lied to.

Why is it important to know how to tell if somebody’s lying?

What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? Wrong.

Living a lie is always worse than living with the truth. That’s because lying always hurts more. Also, being able to tell if somebody is lying shows you if they’re a true friend or somebody you should cut ties with immediately.

Let’s see this in action. Imagine you’ve been walking around all day with nasty old toilet paper stuck to your shoe. You’ve had a busy day of meetings and commuting, and hundreds of people have seen you humiliate yourself.

[Read: Why girls lie – how to tell if your girlfriend is being untruthful]

You get home and ask your significant other, roommate, or relative: “why were people laughing at me all day? Is there something wrong with my outfit?” That other person has two options here. They can lie and save your feelings in the short term. Or, they can tell the honest truth.

A false friend is somebody who doesn’t truly want the best for you. So they’ll lie in this situation and say that nothing is wrong. You might feel a little better immediately.

But then, when you go into the bathroom and discover that nasty, icky trail of paper you’ve been dragging around in front of all those people… you’ll feel terrible. You won’t just feel embarrassed that you looked silly; you’ll also feel hurt that your loved one lied.

If they’d just been honest outright, sure, it would’ve made you blush. But at least you could comfort yourself with the knowledge that you have a kind and trustworthy friend.

This is why it’s so important to know how to tell if somebody is lying. It saves you a lot of pain. Plus, if you can recognize when somebody’s a false friend, you can surround yourself with honest, genuine people. Nobody needs liars in their life!

[Read: Lying in a relationship – how to confront the lie and heal your love]

How to tell if someone is lying to your face

As if lying, in general, isn’t hurtful enough, someone lying right to your face is basically a punch in the gut. After all, they lack the respect to tell you the truth. If you really want to be able to spot someone lying to your face so you can call them out on it, here are the physical signs that someone is lying.

1. They avoid eye contact

The first tipoff that someone is lying to you is if they avoid looking you in the eye. Remember when you did something wrong and lied about it as a child? Your parents always demanded: “Look me in the eye!” when they asked for the truth. This is because avoiding eye contact is the first clear sign that somebody is lying.

If you ask someone a question and they immediately avert their gaze before responding, they may be lying. They feel ashamed or nervous about lying, so they are afraid to meet your gaze.

[Read: How to know a guy’s lying to you without asking or confronting him]

2. They look nervous

Sweating is a big sign that someone is lying, as is a flushed complexion. Their pupils might also dilate *become larger*. This is because when someone is lying, their body becomes nervous. Their body responds to this emotion with an increased heart rate and a fight-or-flight response.

An increased heart rate increases blood flow throughout the body, making a liar sweat and their face flush red. If you ask somebody a simple question and you see these signs of nervousness, that person could be lying to your face.

3. Their details are really vague

If somebody’s response doesn’t have enough details to make sense, it’s a dead giveaway that they’re lying. This is because they can’t think on their feet fast enough to maintain their story; they need to make up details but can’t make them complex enough.

So they just go with the bare minimum and hope you buy it. Don’t! [Read: Is he lying? What to ask a guy if you think he’s hiding the truth]

4. They have far too many details

On the flip side, some people often give way too many details that are unwanted and unneeded when they’re lying. They do this because they don’t want you to think it’s a lie, so they throw in as much detail as they can. So, it seems as though it’s the truth because they can recall so much detail.

It must have happened if they remember everything! But it didn’t. Most people don’t remember things in clear detail, at least not to that extent.

5. Their story keeps changing

If you ask them something and they give you an answer, they’ll give you a clear story. But then, when you question them further, their story changes a little. This is a sign they’re probably lying.

Some liars lack the ability to make stories believable and might even forget the details they give you. Don’t fall for their response of, “Oh, I just forgot that part,” either. They didn’t forget because it probably never happened.

[Read: Why do men lie? 29 common lies all guys tell, and how to counter them]

6. They story doesn’t add up with who they are

If your shy, reserved friend starts talking about how they went out and got in some crazy scrape, they’re probably lying. Similarly, if your outgoing friend was too afraid to act wild in front of people, they might be lying too. When their story doesn’t really make sense with who they are as a person, they could be lying right to your face.

7. Their demeanor is defensive

If you feel like they’re arguing or answering your question a little harshly, it could be a giveaway that they’re lying to your face. People who are lying generally activate their “flight or fight” response in their body and can put on more of a defensive attitude due to the “fight” aspect. [Read: How to recognize selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

8. Pay attention to their body language

Twitching, crossed arms, facing away from you—these are all telltale signs that someone is lying to your face. Body language is a huge indicator that people are trying to get away with something other than the truth. So if you see anything abnormal about how they’re acting or anything that causes you to think twice, they could be lying.

9. They use too many hand gestures

Now, this may not matter if the person who is talking to you normally uses a ton of hand gestures. However, if someone is using so many gestures that you’re taken aback and notice that they are, it could be a sign of lying.

They may subconsciously move their hands a lot during a story to deflect your attention from what they’re actually saying. They want to bring the focus to their hands and arms. Don’t let this fool you. [Read: The biggest signs of a pathological liar and how to spot one]

10. They talk too fast or too slow

A change in speech patterns indicates that something is not tripping off their tongue. Whatever this person is saying, they’re having to think about it – and that’s a bad sign.

If they’re talking too fast, they could just be trying to get the lie over and done with so they can move on. But if they’re talking too slowly, they could just be buying time to think of details to add to their lie. Either way, this is a giveaway that someone is lying to your face. [Read: 16 reasons why you’re always being taken for granted by people around you]

11. They repeat the same thing over and over again

As if to convince not only you but themselves of the lie, people who are lying have a tendency to repeat themselves often. If you’re finding that they are repeating things that you easily understood the first time, it could be a solid giveaway.

12. They hesitate when giving information

If they’re stuttering over their words or just hesitating when you ask for details or explanation, it’s a sign they’re lying to your face. The truth flows out naturally without much need to think about it. Lies tend to take time to formulate—hence the hesitation. [Read: How to regain your partner’s trust after you’ve lied]

13. There are changes in their vocal tone

Either it’s too high, or it’s too low… either way, there’s something about their vocal tone that sounds different from normal. If somebody is trying to add some authority to their lie, they’ll lower their voice to sound more serious. But If somebody is nervous, their voice will get higher.

Also, their voice might go up and down over different parts of the lie. The more nervous you get, the less control you have over your voice. So, if somebody’s voice sounds weird, they’re probably lying.

14. Covering their mouth or eyes

We don’t mean like they’re playing hide-and-seek. It won’t be that obvious! If somebody covers their mouth or eyes, they’re trying to obscure some of the other tell-tale signs we’ve discussed in this feature.

They might rub their face to avoid looking into your eyes or even cover their mouth with their hand as if they’re “thinking.” Whichever gesture they go for, anything that covers their mouth or eyes is an indication of lying.

[Read: Is he hiding something? 20 signs he’s feeling guilty]

15. They repeat the question before answering

Before they give you an answer, they’ll repeat the words of your question. This is a tactic to buy them some time to think of a lie. As we’ve said before, it takes much more mental effort to tell a lie than to tell the truth. So, repeating the question is an easy way for them to create space to think of the most convincing story.

16. They play with their hair

This will only be a sign of lying if the person has long enough hair! If a long-haired guy or girl starts curling their tresses around their finger while they talk, this could be a sign they’re lying to your face.

Of course, it could also be a sign that they’re flirting with you. However, both flirting and lying are all about putting the right image across. So, if they aren’t somebody you think might be romantically interested in you, they’re probably still trying to put across an image – a fake image of truthfulness.

[Read: The signs of dishonesty in a relationship that push couples apart]

17. They steer the conversation elsewhere

It seems like they can’t change the subject fast enough! Even if you’ve only just started talking about the issue, they’ll try and move on as soon as possible after they’ve told the lie. This is because the longer they talk about the lie, the more information they’ll have to provide. And that’s more chances they’ll slip up!

18. They start to sweat

Remember what we said about what nervousness does to your body? When somebody’s lying, they’ll suffer from a series of physical symptoms. They’ll start to breathe faster, flush red, and, most importantly – sweat. If sweat patches start to appear under their arms while they’re talking to you, they’re probably telling a lie.

19. They try to justify everything

This will go along with the extra details in their story. They won’t just tell you every little piece of information – more than you wanted or needed – they’ll also try and justify every little part of the tale.

This is because they’re pre-empting the questions they know you’ll have when hearing their unlikely story. So, you’ll be treated to a long justification of every part. If they seem like they need to give you a reason for everything, they’re lying to your face.

20. Something just seems “off”

Things don’t really add up, and even if you trust this person, you’re having a hard time believing what they’re saying. This is the biggest sign that they’re lying to you.

Your body is hardwired to detect things that are abnormal. So, if your gut is telling you something doesn’t seem right, then there’s a good chance someone is lying to your face. [Read: The types of toxic relationships you need to watch out for in your life]

Why is lying sometimes hard to detect?

Sometimes it isn’t so easy to tell when somebody’s lying. Maybe they know the typical tell-tale signs of a liar and are making an extra effort to hide them. Perhaps they know how to spot a liar too, and are wily enough to throw you off the scent.

However, sometimes you’ll meet an individual who doesn’t show all the regular signs of a liar. They’ll be cunning and sly and know how to manipulate your emotions. Also, this person will thrive on misleading and deceiving you, and there will be nothing they’re too ashamed to lie about.

This person is what’s known as a compulsive liar. Compulsive liars can’t help their habit of telling untruths. So, it’s second nature to them to create very convincing falsehoods that mislead others. [Read: How to spot a compulsive liar – the signs it’s time to walk away]

If you think somebody in your life might be a compulsive liar, you’ve likely been deceived by them multiple times. Usually, they’ll hide truths from you about the smallest possible things that you wouldn’t think were even worth lying about. They might also tell elaborate, fantastical stories about their own lives that are never EVER believable.

Maybe they do it because they need attention. Or maybe they just enjoy the power. Whatever their motive, compulsive liars are not people you want in your inner circle. Ditch them as soon as possible, and find yourself some true friends.

Being able to tell if someone is lying to your face can come in handy for a lot of different reasons. If you want to be the master of this, use these 20 giveaways to be able to tell for sure.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...