In order to appreciate mind reading (and telling if someone is lying) we need a clear cut definition of what it means. I am not going to give a thorough run down of existential philosophy here but the old notion of mind reading, where you tap into someone elses subconscious and ”hear” their thoughts will have to go. That is their experience and for them to have. So don’t expect anybody to be able to know what you really think when you say one thing but mean another. Also, it is not taking your own values and putting them inside someone else like thinking that you know how they will act when you do something and therefore you don’t do it.
What we have to do instead is to acknowledge one of the biggest scientific realizations over the last few hundred years. The body-mind. Scientists have now proven how our body and our mind are connected. What our body is put through, our mind subjectively experiences. What our mind subjectively experiences, our body shows. A thought is always represented by the firing of neurons in your brain. It always has a physical representation. That is a powerful statement and has far-reaching consequences. Our Nervous System is spread out over our whole body and is connected to our brain. Our brain and the NS are both made up of neurons. As a neuron fires, it sends out chemicals that reach other neurons that might or might not fire their electric impulses. This has the representation as a dry mouth when we are nervous or afraid. Feeling all tingly as we see a certain person. These are all thoughts, that have an effect on our body. The reverse is also true, we have mental experiences when our NS interacts with the world, getting input from our surrounding.
In conclusion, what you see and hear on the outside, also takes place on the inside. You just have to know what to look for. When you can internalize these concepts and understand their implications and effects fully, then you have come a long way.
In the beginning things may seem like a clutter and you can’t make any sense of things. You read one thing and another happens in reality. My advice is, learn the basics. People have a real need to show off and want to learn all the advanced techniques. They love to treat their ego with thoughts of them becoming this lurking shadowman who can get anything he wants by shear manipulation. Master the basics! I have a friend who plays in the NFL, he told me that they practice on fundamentals all the time... fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Master the basics before you move on! First you need to learn the rules. See when they apply. How they apply. When you can use them to your advantage and when not to. Break them on purpose a few times. An interesting thing happens once you have mastered the basics. You begin to see how you can bend the rules to your advantage. That’s when things start to get real interesting. But do not hasten!
There are different attitudes and approaches you can have to this. In general, try not to analyze people too much. That would leave you highly frustrated as you can find whatever you want in anyone if you look hard enough. Faults included. Just learn these things, memorize them, so when someone does something that catches your attention, recognize the action and make a mental note of it. There is no need for overreacting here as you don’t always know what a single signal means. It could just be a habit. But, once you find that you need to confront someone, to question their honesty, I really recommend a thorough analysis first. More on this later.
Reading your victim
This is only a brief summary. There are enough books written on this subject alone that you could fill a whole library. My intentions are not to fill this report with fluff but to get straight to the point.
When we suspect that someone is lying, we usually put more emphasis on what is being said rather than the other way around. If we really want to know what a person is telling us, we must put less effort on hearing what the actual words are, and more onto what the whole body is telling us in combination with the words.
In general what we are looking for here are contradicting signals. We want to find clusters of actions that contradict what is being said. At first this might sound like an obvious thing. But when you have the capability to analyze this in detail you will have gained a tremendous advantage. Not all things are obvious to the untrained mind.
We have unconscious signals that we send out only under very specific situations. One is when we are attracted to a person. The other is when we lie.
Here are some general guidelines to be aware of: We are best at lying with our words. Somewhat good at lying with our faces, but horrible at lying with our bodies. Look for twitches that occur when a certain topic is brought up again and again. That means that there is something going on.
You have to take into account the present situation. Is it an emotional situation? Is the person aware of your intentions of figuring out whether or not he/she is lying? Are they under a lot of stress? Perhaps economical stress? Can others hear what you are saying? Then we have instant environmental factors like, is it cold or warm. Noisy or calm. Then you must start to take into account long term factors like, where are they in life? What are their long term goals? What values do they have? What are their goals? What have they shown you in previous occasions? Then we have more complex factors like homrones.
As you can see, there is an endless supply of information that can affect or change the behaviour of the person you want to inquire. And we haven’t even touched upon personality types or any psychology yet. The better you are the more factors you can account for. The biggest mistake you can do is to jump to conclusions, basing your judgement on incomplete information. Be aware of these factors and try to set the situation to your favor. If you can, isolate them so that it is only you two in the room. Give them a sense of comfort, no one is natural when feeling that they under the suspicion of being a liar. Listen first, then talk.
The big question is of course, can you really see if a person is telling a lie or not? Well, sort of. We can detect signals that are sent during specific types of lies, those that are done under emotional stress. So what we see is that a person is under emotional stress or is nervous, rather than actually lying. But sometimes, those signals are all that we need in order to be able to come to a conclusion. There are also signals that arise only when lies are told.
But be aware of this, just as you can get used to skydiving, bungy-jumping, or even listening to country music, you can get used to lying. Once this takes place, the emotional signals will be far more difficult to notice.
Do note that there are many different kinds of people. Some are absolutely incapable of lying, and others make a living off of it (read poker players). No matter which one you encounter, they are always showing it, you just have to train yourself to find what makes them tick and to be able to register even the most subtle signals.
What is a lie?
We usually lie in our everyday experiences, like when we are asked how we are doing, we usually reply with ”good, how are you?” No matter if we really are feeling good or not. It is a lie, but it has no value. It is socially accepted and therefore we don’t perceive it to be a lie. To withhold parts of the truth or to not show how you feel are also lies in a sense. You are simply not completely honest.
But we are not concerned with these sorts of lies, but rather when we are lied to in a context where we can sense an agenda. Where we sense that someone is saying something in order to gain on our expense. That means that the lie must be conscious, that what is said does not describe what has happened.
The signs of a lie that are detachable appear when the reward or punishment is non-trivial, that is, when it actually means something to the individual. That is when the liar becomes emotionally committed to the outcome, and it is that engagement in emotions that the person trying to detect the lie is looking for.
A lie always consists of two signals. A true and a false one. You need both in order to be able to distinguish them from each other. Since everything that we do is a communication, in one way or the other, lying is simply a way to try to control that which we communicate.
The art of detecting lies can be summarized to paying attention to the ways we are bad at controlling our communication. For instance a truthful person will be congruent in both conscious and subconscious actions, where body language, tone of voice, and actual words spoken match. A deceitful person might say one thing, and have his or her body language tell you something else.
We are simply looking for contradictory signals. Changes in behavioral patterns. It is also not bound to a specific action. If a person is lying when doing something, another person might do the exact same thing and still be telling the truth. Remember, the signals that we have a real problem with controlling are the ones that mean the most to us.
[If you are the liar, there is a really easy way to solve this. Just do everything in your power to convince yourself that what happened really didn’t take place. When you are absolutely sure that what happened is in fact a lie, and that which was a lie did happen... then you can lie as much as you want, believing you are telling the truth. Easy. This is a very hot area of research, concerning witness testimonials and their validity.]
The best way to see when someone is lying, is to know them ahead of time and noticing when their pattern changes. What kind of person they are and what they are likely to do. Here is where a thorough understanding of personality psychology can come in handy. Knowing what type a person is, what their tendencies are and how strongly biased they are toward a certain trait, can be of great advantage in determining whether or not what they did was in fact a lie.
But remember, do not jump to conclusions. You are looking for more than one slip up. Noticing one thing and drawing the conclusion that they’re lying is a high risk gamble. Notice, create a mental note about it and leave it. Let more information come to the surface before you confront.
In my experience the absolute best thing to do, when being suspicious of being lied to by a loved one or a friend, is writing. Before you do something stupid, write. Be honest and write down all your observations. Point by point. Separate your thoughts from your emotions. To let your emotions cloud your judgement in a situation like this is very unwise. Let it sink in, let it cool down.
Like I already mentioned, you must look at the person, their situation, where they are in life, the context of the situation, any alcohol involved, and keep having an eye open for more reasons as to why those false signals might have arised.
Signs of deceit
There is a whole spectrum of things we need to be aware of like body language, tonality, repetitive actions, changes in speech and a hole lot more. At first, this may be a bit daunting as you understand that you will never be able to remember it all in one sitting. Especially in the heat of the moment. But as you have read this a couple of times, perhaps had the use for it once or twice, you will begin to see it all come together.
As always, we’re looking for the unnatural, the diverting-from-the-norm behavior, things that just seem out of place. People have different ways of approaching this.
In general, the farther away from the face we get, the easier it will be to detect whether or not a lie is taking place.
The most used part of our body for communication is of course our face. We have a great variety of facial expressions and combinations of them that reveal either congruence or deception.
Smile: The biggest and probably most common one is the smile. A congruent smile will be symmetric, both cheeks move upward, the eyes are becoming thinner and wrinkles in the corners of the eyes appear. The eyebrows are also moving down a little. People trying to give you a false smile might do it quickly, without the upper part of the face involved. Three things to look for are delay, symmetry, and intensity. For how long are you receiving the expression. A sincerely happy person will seldom smile only half a second, it is usually prolonged. But note, a false one might overstay its welcome so to speak and linger way past what is acceptable. Always look for a symmetric smile (it don’t always mean it’s sincere, but an asymmetric is definitely false). If only one half of the mouth is turned up in a smile it is not a sincere smile, but often a sign of contempt. If the nose is wrinkled they probably smelled something bad rather than having appreciated anything you did. With what level of intensity is the expression done? Someone who is sincere has no need to hold back.
But the most common one is when people smile (symmetrically) with their mouth, but not with their eyes, leaving the upper part of the face without expression, making a sort or grimace that is easy to detect.
Other things we might do when we lie is,
- smile in compensation to the otherwise saddened face.
- to change the intensity of a facial expression, making it either stronger or weaker.
- show an emotion when we really don’t feel anything, or the reverse where we hide an emotion that we actually feel. The last one is called masking and is when we hide an emotion by expressing a totally different feeling.
If you have a chance ot look for dilated pupils, that is a sign of them liking what they see. The reverse is also true. But one of the most common ways people act when lying is by looking too much at you, staring you down, or not at all, trying to avoid any eye contact. In ordinary textbooks on the subject of lying you will find conflicting information here. Some say that people who lie divert their gaze all the time. But I believe it to depend on theinterpersonal relationship. If they are the aggressive type, then they might try to ”escape” the situation by being dominant, making you self conscious and putting pressure on you. But if you take charge from there, then they will more likely than not, divert their eyes. But nevertheless, it is always a matter of compensation. Whichever way it manifests is just a reflection of their way of handling that particular situation. If they are staring you down, the intensity will be out of place and you should be able to make yourself aware of this.
Other things to look for are prolonged blinking, excess of blinking, and flickering eyes.
There are also more advanced models for spotting when someone is lying, or at least constructing a memory, called EAC (Eye Accessing Cues). This method can be useful, but has proven inconsistent at times. Some scientists even go so far as to say the model is incorrect. But for our purposes it is quite sufficient. Be aware of its shortcomings and you’ll be fine. If you see that it doesn’t work, just do something else. It works like this, depending on what type of thought process is active in our brain, our eyes move to different locations. For instance, if you were to construct an image, you would use the visual part of the brain and your eyes would focus up and to the right. If you were recalling an event visually, your eyes would go up and to the left. Auditory construction is done when the eyes are in the middle height wise and to the right. Auditory recollection is middle left. Physical sensations are experienced down and to the right while an internal dialogue is taken place when the eyes are down and to the left. The problem arises when we add the fact that this scheme is sometimes mirrored around the vertical axis. So visual is still up, but construction is to the left. You can use control questions if you want to be really sure. But generally, it is a matter of right- vs, left-handed people, where I described the right-handed scenario.
That which is of course relevant is when you ask someone and their eyes divert to the construction side, since that could imply that they’re creating a story...
Hands have a life of their own and is one of my favourite things to look out for. One major factor you have to consider here is how the person is using his or her hands on a regular basis. Are they very animated, arms and hands flying around all the time, or are they more the mellow type? Everybody is using their arms and hands to some extent thou. In our every day life, we have many signals we use our hands for and they are automatic. Like raising your hand to greet a friend whom you spot on the other side of the street. Showing the inside of your palm toward a person on the streets trying to sell you bad deodorant, or signaling to your buddy that ”She’s crazy.” In every culture there are a few socially accepted ”rules” by which we use our hands. The interesting part is that when we are tired, uninterested, or very sad, our use of arms and hands goes to a minimum. Or when we have to think about every single word we are about to say. Like when lying. When we are extremely self conscious. This comes from having to construct new thoughts which is a very demanding task. Since we only focus on one thing at a time, our body language will be left unattended so to speak, giving away very clear signals.
[An interesting thing here is that we either extravert feelings, that is showing feelings, or we extravert thinking. Never both at the same time. This means that whenever we are thinking, we suppress our emotional part and vice verse. There’s tons of more information on this in the book ”The Art of Speedreading people.” And if you really want to take it to the next level, this has to do with different parts of your brain being used, the cortex for logic and reason vs. the limbic system that is more involved with emotions.]
There is one spinoff to this rule. In general the hand movement goes to a minimum, but hands have a tendency to move up to the head more often while lying. The most common one to watch out for is people who hold their hands in front of their mouths. Other very common occurrences are scratching of the nose, correction of glasses, scratching ears etc.
As always, look for repetitive actions.
The rest of the body: Here we’re talking about posture, legs, and feet. Whatever movement that takes place will seem stiff. The person takes up less space in general. Unless they are the attacking type who are trying to escape the situation by making you self conscious. But in general, if you conduct the situation to your favour, the movement will be limited.
When we demonstrate that we don’t care about a certain topic, or we have no idea what it is about, we usually shrug our shoulders and raise our hands above our elbow and turning the palms of our hands forward. When lying, it often takes the shape of minimal shrugging of shoulders, the arms are down alongside the body, and the palms of the hands are shown around the hips.
Legs cramped around each other when sitting.
A person who has nothing to hide, will have an open position, will show more interest in the conversation, but a liar has a feeling of wanting to escape the situation and assume a retractive position. Usually, if they can, they have their legs and arms between themselves and the questioner.
Secondary Actions: Often as a person is committing a lie, or about to, they will be nervous and an excess amount of energy will start to build up. This energy has to go somewhere and usually takes the form of shaking hands if they try to act cool. This shaking of hands can also be seen with the release of tension as can be seen with poker players when they make a big hand. That is, they made the hand but they are still in the pot so they don’t want to show it.
An advanced technique here is to induce that security after having built up that tension. If you can observe abnormal shaking and other behaviors due to the release, then you know that whatever thing that built up the tension had value to the other person.
More visible actions that you can notice are the tearing of paper, playing with a pen, snapping of fingers, excess smoking, and other twitches. These act as vents for the energy and are generally pointless, repetitive actions. These are not uncommon even in daily situations, so look for changes in patters. Do they usually do what they are doing now? If so, it might not mean anything. Once a person has found a way to ventilate their energy, they can be relaxed and normal as ever.
Changes in voice patterns and how things are said
Tonality: If you were to notice changes in tonality in the other persons voice it might mean that what they are talking about has an emotional value to them. When a person is feeling ashamed for their lie, they will talk slower with a darker voice, just like when feeling sad. On the other hand if they feel guilt for their lie, their voice tends to become lighter with a higher pitch while talking faster, just like when angry.
Speech patterns: If someone suddenly starts talking in strange ways, using odd words or clichés, it is usually a sign of them not knowing what to say. Unless of course that is how they usually talk.
Look for differences in prolonged or the absence of pauses between words and sentences. This is either a sign of them thinking while talking, wanting to get all the ”facts” straight, or they are just talking constantly due to nervousness, having problems with silence. This can take shape in stackato sentences. That. Appear. To. Be. Broken. Up. Between. Each. Word. Or like a one long sentence that just never ends and has a tendency for several repetitions in one sentence like when they repeat that which is said several times and just will not allow you to talk since they keep on talking and they just repeat themselves.
Mumbling and making sounds like ”Eeeehhhhhh...” in between words and sentences, trying to delay as they are thinking for better answers.
One of the most powerful ways to notice a lie is the liars tendency for repeating the exact same words over and over again when describing a situation. When you are honest or have no intentions for deceiving someone, you seldom describe an event twice with the exact same set of words. You want the recipient to understand, so you describe the event from another viewpoint. The liar repeats the exact words in order to minimize the possibility of a freudian slip or believing that if they say something new, they might be inconsistent. That’s why the cops on tv always ask the suspect several times about the same thing. To see if they repeat the exact same words or are able to illustrate a more vivid picture.
What liars say is also more often than not quite vague, leaving out many details but may compensate that with using overly formal language.
Other classic answers are ”I am not a bad person.” Using ”I am not...” instead of the more regular thing to say ”I am... .” This comes from understanding that you are under pressure and you formulate your thoughts accordingly. In normal situations you focus on what you are, rather than what you are not.
The liar takes personal distance from the question by giving general beliefs rather than specific and related answers. Abstract assurances are offered as evidence of innocence.For example if you ask a specific question like “Have you lied to me?” and the person replies with, “You know I have strong opinions about that sort of thing. I don’t like it and I find it to be amoral.”
Whenever the person starts questioning the definitions of the words, or begins to talk in high level abstractions that don’t make sense are good indicators of deceit. Examples are ”I am not a thief, I just didn’t pay for it” or ”That depends on how you would define what a lie is.” They are meaningless, empty rethorics.
Liars very seldom use words like ”I” or ”mine” thereby distancing themselves from the lie. This also leads to generalizations like ”that sort of thing never occurs around here...” trying to give false assurance instead of answering the real question.
Another very powerful thing to look out for, if you catch someone in the act so to speak, is their time frame. When you ask ”what are you doing?” a liar might answer ”I wasn’t doing anything” rather han ”nothing special.”
In general, what all this means is that they are just avoiding the subject. The underlying principle to look for is: are they diverting from their usual behavior, being incongruenct, and are doing everything in their power to stear the conversation away from the subject or are they trying to see your point and making you understand theirs. Simply put, if their speech patterns are unnatural, they are most likely compensating for something. The question is what.
Finding out the truth
If you want to test people, not being sure yet if they are lying to you or not, then you might want to utilize some stealth tactics. In general, what you are doing is insinuating and circling around the specific topic without being direct. Without going for an accusation. You are saying things on purpose to see what reactions you are receiving. Whenever you find a reaction that does not match you make a mental note about it. From there you can either keep the conversation circling around that point or continue the conversation like nothing happened. However, if they change topic, it is a strong indicator of them not wanting to go further into that subject. If so you can take a detour, coming back later to see if the reaction arises again. There are many tactics to be used here, far more than what I will go through, but I will give you an example.
To begin with, do not go direct. If you ask me, that is the last option as you reveal your thoughts. You are interested in their thinking! Talk in generalities, waiting for a response.
For instance, You suspect your girl- or boyfriend to having cheated on you.
”Isn’t it funny how some people just accept relationships where they lie to each other?” From there, if you get a response that you believe to be a sign of them being guilty you can continue with:
”I have a friend who had this girl who... ” then go on and describe a very similar situation (not the exact one) you’re in.
This should, if they care about you, induce a strong sense of guilt in them and you already know what to look for! Generally, you will see a lot of resistance early on, as they are trying to avoid the conversation all together. Probably as they don’t want to take an objective look at themselves. Once you force them thou, they will most probably begin to retract, eyes going down, if they hold you they’ll let go.
This is where you have realized that you really are being lied to by a friend or a loved one. You either have the proof, a collection of highly suspicious actions you’ve noticed, or you have been told contradicting stories.
I am one of those who actually believe in trying to give people a second chance for a right action. Even if I am angry at them at the current moment.
This algorithm is designed for confronting loved ones, or a close friends. You want to be open and honest with these people, and if for some reson they have been dishonest with you, you probably want to give them a second chance. If you are certain of being lied to, and you want to confront them, I recommend the following:
- Begin by questioning yourself an extra time. Could you be wrong? Have you taken all factors into account? Are you absolutely sure that they are lying?
- If you have a vague feeling that something is wrong, out of place or just plain shady, write! If you can’t put you thoughts onto paper and clear them out, then you shouldn’t confront someone. Chances are you are confusing emotions with logic.
- Set the desired outcome. Know ahead of time what you would like to reach with this confrontation. Like all the self help gurus tell us, if you don’t know what you are aiming for, what are the chances you’ll get there? Set the desired outcome to remain friends. Where they have come to insight and asked for forgiveness by themselves.
- If you have done a thorough analysis of the situation, have a clear mind about what it is that you don’t like, and know what you want to confront them on, then you need to prepare the situation.
- Have them come to you, this is very important as you want to be able to control the situation. Make them come to your home, or your room, or whatever setting you might choose. But make sure you are setting the environment.
- Have the room or place you will be in free from distractions. Turn off cell phones and ask them to do the same.
Set the rules, state them clearly. Say things like, ”When you speak, I will listen and try to understand, and when it is my turn to speak, you have to do the same thing for me.”
- Do NOT be upset or emotional. You are trying to solve something here. It could be a misunderstanding. There is no need for rush actions or exaggerated emotional outbursts. You want to be level-headed as that helps you think and analyze.
- Do not accuse! The idea here is to get the person to insight and asking for forgiveness by themselves. That is far more powerful than being able to shove facts down their throat and yelling ”Told you so...” and then never calling them again.
- Instead, ask them if they have anything to say. Use Stephen Covey’s ”understand first and then be understood.”
- Keep asking questions about their view on the matter, until you have clear picture in your head how they see things. Listen without interruption. Take notes if you have to.
- Repeat anything that was unclear in your own words so you haven’t just misunderstood each other.
- Be prepared to revise your information as you go along.
- Explain your side of the situation, how you see things and when you are done, have them comment on it.
By this time you should be closing in on the fact at hand, and you should be able narrow it down to what was going on what exactly it was that you did not like.
- Always keep an eye up for further signs of lies, but hopefully, if the person you are talking to has any decency, they should of course be honest at this moment.
- Do not accuse!! Even if they are cornered, even if you have logically broken down all their arguments and there is no place for them to run, do not accuse. Ask. Reformulate whatever it is you want them to internalize. Do not let your need to satisfying your ego allow you to act in a way that could hurt the relationship. If they are dishonest, they will have done that, not you.
- In case they are extremely stubborn, I found one technique to be highly efficient here. Find a situation or something you did where you acted in a way that was not optimal and induce an asking for forgiveness by asking it first yourself. I did this one by accident once, and it turned out to be highly effective.
If you have followed the steps outlined here, and you have been humble, understanding, and given them room, but without any success, then you must let the situation be for now. Maybe they need a little time. Maybe they are in denial.
End the meeting there, pick up the situation at a later time and have them be able to confront you on their own.
If after you have practically proven them liars, without any success in having them admitting it, and after a week or two they don’t call you to say they’re sorry. Maybe they’re not at the level of maturity that you are and they need time alone for now.
Whoa.. that was it for this report. Short and sweet!