The Telltale Signs of a Lie

Jerald Jellison, from the University of Southern California, estimated in 1977 that humans are lied to 10 to 200 times per day.  He found that on average, people told about two to three lies within a ten-minute conversation. What would you think if I told you that 75% to 82% of lies are undetected?  I recently came across an interesting TED-Ed video by Noah Zandan and Nadav Gazit on how to detect lies.  

Here are 4 telltale signs that someone is lying to you based on singuistic text analysis.

1.  Minimal self references

Someone telling a lie often references themselves less while speaking to you. They write or talk more about other people. They often use the 3rd person point of view to distance and disassociate themselves from the given topic. For example, "I didn't drop the glass and not pick it up."

  2.  Negative language

People tend to use more negative verbal and nonverbal language when lying.  The person may feel genuinely bad or guilty on a subconscious level, which is why they express negative feelings and language.  An example of a response for not texting a girlfriend back could be, "Sorry! I had so much homework to do, my teachers suck this week."

3. Simple explanations

Someone who is in the act of lying usually explains events in very simple terms.  This is because our brains naturally struggle to create a lie into a contextual, intellectual and believable story. A famous example of this would be Bill Clinton's claim, "I did not have sexual relations with that women."

4.  Convoluted phrasing

When explaining lies in a story, people often try to be too structural, specific and intellectual in their explanations.  They create convoluted sentence structure and use irrelevant and uncommon words. President Richard Nixon once said...

“I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident [the Watergate burglary]. What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up.”  

Have you heard something like that in the last three months? ;)

If I'm being completely honest, I don't lie more than twice per week. When I was younger, I used to tell little white lies to my mom and get away with them...until one time I was feeling sly and told a big lie. I got caught, was given huge consequences, and never told a real lie ever again! 

I just think that it's easier and kinder to tell the truth in all circumstances, unless it is a small white lie to avoid hurting someone else's feelings. However, not telling lies is only half of the ordeal. We need to detect lies by using these four signs to help us differentiate facts in relationships, products and management.  

Now that you're a pro lie detective, try to mentally catch and keep track of how many people lie to you in a week!