If there is one group of people you can be certain of running into both before and after an SHTF event it is liars. No matter where you go, no matter what culture you are among or what region you are in deception will be an ever-present fact when it comes to interacting with people.
What you really need to watch out for is deception employed maliciously, either to set you up to get taken out or to take something from you.
Chances are you’ve been dealing with lies since you were a child. And to add insult to injury some people seem to be really good at it.
Whether through practice or just being born liars, some people definitely have that silver-tongued devil gene, and use it to their advantage.
But for all the havoc, heartache and pandemonium they cause in kinder times, a liar deploying a convincing lie in the middle of an already life-threatening situation may lead to disaster for you and yours. What can you do about these people?!
You may not be able to get them to shape up, change their ways and act honestly, but there are ways to spot them in their lie,s and you should endeavor to learn how.
Lucky for you, this article will show you the way, actually 15 ways, to tell if someone is lying to you.
Table of Contents
Liars and the Lies They Tell
Unless you were talking about a rare case like a truly compulsive liar, that being someone with a mental defect that seemingly compels them to tell lies even against their own self-interest, there are really only a couple of reasons, basic reasons, why anyone would lie to someone else.
The first is that there are trying to ensure a good outcome for themselves based upon the false answer they provide, and the second is there trying to control perception in pursuit of some overarching goal. After all, perception is most often reality for average people.
Let us think about this in the context of a survival situation. Why, in the midst of so much chaos, death and destruction would someone lie to you now of all times?
For the exact same reasons I listed above: maybe they are trying to lull you into a false sense of security, or lure you into a trap. Maybe there are trying to swindle goods or supplies out of you that they can use themselves.
They may even be lying to you as a form of disinformation in an effort to cover their tracks if they have been committing misdeeds in the wake of the disaster.
If Peter did it but Peter blames Paul and tells you to pass it on that may by them enough time to make a clean getaway and leave Paul to answer questions.
Some other people, otherwise decent people, may lie by omission or by obfuscation in an attempt to keep their business their business.
If no one knows what they’re up to, where they live or what they have the reasoning goes (and it is valid) that they are less likely to be successfully targeted by people who would take from them or hurt them.
Chances are you may be planning to employ these tactics yourself in a SHTF situation.
No matter why someone is lying, and no matter what their motives are for doing so what matters most is that you don’t get rolled by their lies and taken in false confidence.
Spotting a liar is possible and it is not some innate talent; it is a skill that you can learn and refine, and learn it you must if you want to avoid the snakes and weasels out here in the world.
Before you go any further, there is one thing you must understand and take to heart: there is simply no way to be 100% sure if someone is telling you the truth or lying in the absence of evidence to either affirm or disprove what they are saying.
Some people are so skilled at deception they can fool a lie detector and the best interrogators in the world. If you have the misfortune to run into one of these people, you certainly won’t stand a better chance than they will.
There is something else to keep in mind, and that is that all of the tips, tricks, signs and tip-offs you read in this article are not foolproof.
There is no certainty, and they are not guarantees. Someone who is being completely honest with you may exhibit one or even multiple signs of deception.
It may simply be that they are socially awkward and have high anxiety levels even during innocuous and non-threatening conversations.
On the other hand, certain people that seem truly genuine, sincere and helpful may be liar-liars with pants on fire.
This is also not to say that these techniques are not useful, will not work or are junk science.
You should simply keep in mind that detecting liars as a human lie detector is more game than science, and you definitely need to keep track of all the pieces on the board.
Your Guide to Spotting Liars
This article will be broken down into three main sections. In the first section, I’ll give you 10 fast, easy and clever ways to spot a liar quickly.
These are bite-sized detection methods that you can learn quickly and employee anywhere in all kinds of situations. Think of these as your sort of primer for turning yourself into a human lie detector.
The two sections that follow will be more in-depth breakdowns of what you should be looking for as signs and symptoms of lying as well as how to interact with someone if you want to be certain that you were catching them in a lie, or at least as certain as you can be under the circumstances.
With that, let’s get after it!
15 Clever Ways to Spot a Liar
The following items on this list are behavioral tip-offs or nervous reactions that someone might exhibit when they are employing deception or lying.
They may appear singly, in pairs or even in multiples. Generally, the more of these that appear at once, the more stressed out someone is.
Stress level is an important part of detecting a lie since most people become anxious and nervous when they are lying.
Their body will actually have a physical response and their mental state will become altered. The combination of both effects will generate varying responses and reactions that you can pick up on if you are paying attention.
A dead giveaway that someone is lying, and likely a born liar at that, is a hard, cold and unblinking stare.
Most people when they are stressed out or anxious will blink rapidly, and everyone blinks often no matter how calm they are.
This seems to be more a trait of the sociopathic and truly toxic liar than an average person caught in a lie, so if you see this trait exhibited, you need to be alert to the fact that someone is likely lying to you.
Touching or Covering Mouth
This is another obvious symptom of lying. People cover their mouths when they are worried about the words that are coming out of them, or when they internally don’t want to answer the question that has just been asked of them.
Think of this as a symbolic stifling of communication. It may also express itself when someone teases at their lips or plays with the corner of their mouth using their hand or fingers.
Think about how much people move even during casual, calm conversations. A big part of communication is body language, and even subconscious movements help inform the way people react to what we are saying.
Think of a time when someone might stand completely still, and I do mean frozen, like a statue. You got it: when they are very afraid or in danger.
Anyone who tenses up or sits completely still when you are questioning them or when they are telling you something they want you to believe may very well be lying.
They subconsciously know this is the turning point in the conversation and are afraid of being found out, hence freezing like a scared deer.
Someone’s rate of respiration in a conversation fits into a sort of tempo with the speed of the conversation.
They may be breathing a little more regularly or infrequently depending on whether they’re doing more talking or less talking. You should make note of this, and further make note when that tempo changes.
If they start hyperventilating, or almost holding their breath, barely breathing, their nerves are getting the better of them, and this has changed their respiratory rate.
Their nerves are only getting the better of them because they are worried about getting caught in their lies…
This behavior is somewhat similar to covering the mouth above.
When someone feels like they are in danger for being backed into a corner, they may instinctively protect vulnerable points on their body.
Since one of the most vulnerable and chronically exposed parts of the body is the neck, many people, especially women, will protect it with a hand or by dropping their chin.
If you notice someone starts to protect their soft parts, they might be lying.
If you should notice someone’s feet start tapping, bouncing or shuffling in place that is another clue that their internal stress level is rising and quickly.
They are consciously or subconsciously thinking about pulling out of the situation and walking, or even running, away.
If a certain part of the conversation where a line of inquiry is that stressful, they may be lying or have a lie chambered.
Anytime someone is exhibiting jerky movements of the eyes or quick, darting turns of the head you can be assured that they are very anxious.
This is the behavior of someone who is worried about being caught in a trap or backed into a corner. Generally speaking, they are worried about their falsehoods being found out.
A liar who is aggressive or is really being backed into a corner is liable to turn the tables on the person putting them in that precarious situation.
Expect them to accuse you of what they think they’re being accused of, a form of projection.
Ultimately, they may accuse you of some other misdeed in an effort to create confusion and chaos so they can hopefully slip out and wriggle away.
Repeating Words, Stuttering, Trouble Speaking – People who may be lying will exhibit all kinds of curious verbal problems. They might stick on a particular word, repeating it, or using an in conversation too often.
They may develop a sudden stutter due to nervousness. Physiological reactions may lead to a bad case of dry mouth which can cause a cracking voice or a hitch in the throat that is audibly detectable.
If you notice any of these verbal anomalies, you might be dealing with a liar.
TMI – “Too Much Information.”
Be especially wary of anyone who gives you entirely too much information in answer to a question.
It might seem like they’re just being helpful, or especially detailed, but this is a special tell that usually indicates the presence of a liar.
Liars tend to pour it on thick when selling their lies, boiler plating them you might say, and someone who is giving you a lengthy, run-on answer to a relatively simple question should be especially viewed with suspicion.
Avoiding the Topic
Any obvious or conspicuous attempts to duck the question or the topic you’re bringing up in conversation is an obvious red flag someone has something to hide or is very uncomfortable talking about it.
Attempts to bring the conversation back on track would result in rising stress levels, and even more manifestations of signs that someone is using deception.
If someone clams up entirely and completely refuses to talk to you, you can take that as a red flag did they have reason, personal reason, not to talk to you.
Note that you’re far less likely to encounter overt avoidance of a topic the more proficient someone is at lying.
Repeating the Question
If you ask someone a direct question or for some other piece of information and they plainly repeat the question back to you, especially if you are certain that they heard you the first time, they’re probably getting ready to tell you some tall tales.
This is a fairly obvious tell that someone is lying, one that most people develop in childhood and use all the way through their adult lives.
The reason they do this is to buy time for their brain to get in gear and fabricate a more palatable answer that will not betray them.
This symptom may be innocent after all.
Plenty of people cannot remember all kinds of facts, even salient details, especially ones about scary or stressful situations or things from long ago, but you cannot count it out as an indicator of deception.
This is a cousin to the previous one: repeating the question above and is employed when someone needs to buy time to think.
The more likely it is that a person would not have any difficulty recalling what you ask them about the more suspicious this indicator is in context.
If this occurs, don’t lead them or offer them any corroborating advice the may see them go off on a tangent.
That is another way they will buy time for themselves before circling back around to the topic at hand with a speedily constructed but hopefully highly-polished lie.
Blushing is a universal indication of a heightened emotional response of some kind.
Maybe someone just has butterflies in their stomach. Maybe their anxiety level is rising at the thought that their lies will be discovered and their deception found out.
For obvious reasons, this indicator is more easily observed in people with fair skin. Darker complexions will be harder to read, but it is still possible in most cases if you have sharp vision.
Large Arm Movements
Unless someone has a particularly animated or theatrical personality, large movements of the arms, especially when done above waist and around shoulder level, usually indicate that someone’s stress level is rising.
This is a sort of primordial rehearsal for a fight or an attempt to increase their personal space which is more of a comforting behavior.
If you have ascertained that someone typically does not make such movements in the course of normal conversation you might have a liar on your hands.
Spotting These in Conversations
All of the above ways to spot a liar won’t be very helpful if you cannot establish a baseline for their behavior in a conversation or a line of questioning.
Their baseline behavior is normal for them: unstressed, unworried about being caught and generally untroubled.
You have to find out what their normal looks like before you can view the above signs and symptoms in the proper context, and that context is growing levels of stress, stress that made manifest when they are worried about being caught in a lie.
This is a fairly simple puzzle, but that does not mean it is easy to puzzle out.
There are lots of variables at play, including how long you have known the person, how comfortable they are with you, the overall situation that may or may not be contributing to their stress level, how good they are at lying and how good you are at reading them and their tells.
In order to establish a baseline you need to pay attention to which of the above signs they are presenting even in normal, calm conversation.
Do not forget they could just be a part of someone’s personality, or the way they physically express themselves while talking.
Once you had an opportunity to make note of what the “normal” indicators are, you must then be alert to pick up on what the “deception indicators are.
Those will be a different set of tells that manifest as you start to close in on the crucial questions.
How to Level Out the (Potential) Liar
You need to start internalizing the old proverb about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. You don’t want to come at a liar with raging, roaring accusations of their deception, half-truths and outright falsehoods.
The fire and brimstone interrogator shtick works great in the movies and on TV but not so well in real life.
The reason for that is aggressive behavior will stress out almost anybody, and if they are stressed out you’ll never see anything but their stress indicators meaning you’ll get false positives no matter what question you ask him.
No, the solution is instead to build rapport and, as strange as it sounds, a certain amount of trust with the person you are questioning or talk.
You need to get the other person relaxed, calm and otherwise untroubled by the conversation they’re having with you.
If you can see when someone is getting stressed out you can also see when they are calming down and feeling more comfortable.
They should relax visibly, lean across the table or chair towards you when they’re talking to you and generally exhibit open, unthreatened body language.
As soon as you see someone move into this state, start taking a quick mental inventory of what signs and symptoms from the list above that they are exhibiting. That is their “normal.”
Once you have established what normal looks like, it is time to start closing in on the difficult questions, or rather the questions that you suspect they may be lying about when they answer.
When you are trying to determine if someone is lying or not and separate fact from fiction among all the answers they give you, you cannot rush in directly to the “hot button” topic.
Instead, you’ll need to sneak up on it in a way. Not as an ambush, not jumping out and hitting them with it all at once, but instead meandering slowly closing in on the topic, carefully shepherding and bringing up elements of the conversation that may, or may not, stress out the subject.
During your “travels” in the conversation you must have all of your senses tuned and bent to the task of noticing when they start to exhibit those stressed out behaviors we listed above. These are clues.
Think of it like sweeping for mines: when you hear that chirp on the detector, you know you are definitely over a danger area but you shouldn’t put your foot there, at least not yet.
You don’t want to put them in a full-blown stress response at this point. By carefully controlling the conversation and steering it in a circular way around the questions you really need to ask you’ll start to zero in on what really makes your subject anxious.
And if the conversation needs to meander away from it to remain natural, holistic and easy going, you should do that assuming you have time.
Wait until you can bring the conversation back around to it naturally, or if you can’t, at least preface your questioning so you have control of the tempo and the pacing.
Time to Get Serious
Once you think you have a solid bead on the subject’s behavior, what their normal baseline looks like, and what their stress position tells may be, it is time to get down to business.
Now is the time to ask them direct questions that have direct answers. Your first clue that they are not telling the truth is if they duck giving you a straight answer or answers.
Even though you’re closing in on nailing them, you don’t need to act hardcore, aggressive or untrusting. You’re still just talking, just like you have been. This is part of the process.
Once you deliver the question it’s time to pay full attention to their reaction. Your gut will likely inform you if anything is off about them assuming they are presenting any major signs.
Also, remember that you don’t have to “pants” them if you think they are lying. If you think you have gather enough information to make a call whether they are being truthful or not you can keep that information, and your decision, entirely to yourself and act according to whatever you think is best.
Never forget though that some people are very good liars, either through refinement and experience or just being born with a silver-tongue.
Sociopaths are another category of people that seem to have a natural gift for deception and believe me they use it to their advantage.
People in any of these categories can be very hard to detect for the layman, or even an enthusiastic and experienced amateur in human lie detecting.
All you can do is the best you can with what you know, and furthermore do not forget that some may appear to be lying but in actuality are telling the truth.
Ask Questions that Will “Provoke” a Reaction
To be perfectly clear, you don’t want to ask a question in such a way that you come across as hostile or anything except calm, non-threatening and friendly.
What I mean when I say you should ask provoking questions is it you should ask the questions that you have determined are getting close to the “hot button” issue you determined in the previous part of the interview.
If you know that asking questions that make someone nervous when it comes to determining where they were and at what time on a certain date, who they were with or other specific details, the time will come in the conversation need to ask exactly that question in a straightforward and unambiguous way.
Get ready to watch someone squirm, or at least get a little hot under the collar. That is a sure indicator that you are over the target.
Now more than ever is when you must be fully attuned to their reaction, their expression and all bodily movements or lack thereof.
This is the sort of gauge that will indicate the likelihood that they are lying or being deceptive.
The more elements you notice them exhibiting from the list above and the first part of this article, the more uncomfortable they are, the more stressed out they are.
The more stressed out someone is by an innocuous question or the answer they are giving you points to a higher probability that they are not being truthful.
Special Symptoms of Lying
During your observations, you should make sure you are on the lookout for a few special symptoms of lying that are disproportionately likely to indicate deception compared to some of the other items on the list above.
These are something of a mystery even to the most intensive scientific investigation. Perhaps it is a quirk of biology or psychology.
We won’t be delving into that within the confines of this article, all you need to know is you can consider these serious red flags the indicate the speaker is probably lying.
Watch the Eyes
The eyes maybe the windows to the soul but they are also the turn signals on the road to deception. It turns out that most people’s eyes will point upward and in direction that corresponds with their cognitive processes.
Without getting too far into the weeds on the physiology of why this occurs, the short and sweet of it is that someone who looks up and to the right is recalling something from memory, meaning something that likely actually occurred.
As you are probably anticipating, the reverse is also true. If someone looks upward and to their left they aren’t recalling anything at all; they’re engaging their creative process to fabricate something on the fly. This means that what they are telling you is invented and likely false.
As best as scientists can tell, the reason why this occurs has something to do with the creative right hemisphere of the brain versus the logical left hemisphere, and how they are accessed when higher cognitive functions are being engaged.
Chances are it will get over all our heads pretty quickly, but what we do know is this is a fairly reliable indicator of deception in action, and one you should be on the lookout for as an easy shortcut for determining whether or not someone is lying to you.
Also, keep in mind that seasoned liars and comments will doubtlessly have long ago squelched this particular quirk of biology.
You should pay particular attention to someone if their overall attitude does not match what they are saying, what is being talked about or the situation at large.
If someone seems too calm, too composed and generally untroubled by an otherwise emotionally charged topic, that is a clue they’re putting on a false front and are thusly engaged in deception.
Similarly, if someone seems really wrapped around the axle over something innocuous they’re probably doing the same thing. Either extreme is cause for concern about the veracity of their statements.
This is another area where you should pay attention to body language, too. Most people gesture to accompany the words they’re saying and the points they are trying to make an expression on their face will similarly shift with the ebb and flow of the conversation.
If you notice that the movements of the hands or the head don’t quite match the tone and tempo of what is being said that indicates an incongruity and their mental landscape versus what they are saying or affirming.
No matter how this desynchronized attitude and bearing manifests it is almost always a sign of a liar doing what they do best.
Mismatched Nodding/Shake of Head
This tip-off is obvious once you know what to look for but it is easy to miss if you don’t.
Keep an eye out for someone that is making an affirmative or negative statement, then look to see if they are nodding or shaking their head.
If the nod or shake of the head matches what they are saying, chances are they’re telling the truth. If it doesn’t, you very likely have a liar on your hands.
By way of a for instance, consider if someone is saying that, yes, they were where you asked they were (they are agreeing with you) but they are shaking their head back and forth as if to say “no”.
This is an indicator of a major incongruity in what they are thinking and what they’re actually saying or portraying.
The reverse will also be true; someone will be answering in the negative or denying something but actually nodding along as if to say yes.
Once you know what to look for to spot this classic tell of a liar you’ll be somewhat dismayed to see it everywhere. So long as you don’t tip someone off to the fact they are doing it chances are they’ll never know they are, either.
Becoming a human lie detector is not the stuff of fiction, and it is not some cheap magician’s or fortune teller’s trick. It is indeed more art than science, but one can become a master artist with enough practice.
If you make it a point to learn, rehearse, practice and then apply the skills in all of your everyday conversations you might be surprised at just how good you can become at detecting lies coming out of other people.
This is an important skill for most preppers to master, since falling prey to the deception of others can lead the negative outcomes or life-threatening situations before, during and after an SHTF event.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.