Have you ever thought to yourself … Hmmm, I think that person is a pathological liar.
Well, you might be right. Hearing a white lie here or there is one thing, but being lied to on a regular basis is extremely frustrating and hurtful. It’s even worse when you had no idea you were being lied to.
That’s why learning how to tell if someone is lying is crucial, particularly if you think the person may be a pathological liar.
What is pathological lying?
Also known as compulsive, chronic or habitual lying, compulsive liars may feel pleasure by lying. Telling the truth is not half as much fun and can actually affect them with “withdrawal” symptoms, like with addictions.
Compulsive liars often find the truth almost physically uncomfortable for them and most pathological liars would even tell stories that are self-incriminating just to seek the attention.
Here are the signs to look for in order to know when someone is lying, and whether or not they might even be a pathological liar.
1. Watch for stress signals
Usually, it is pretty hard to spot a pathological liar, since they act very natural when they’re lying, yet, they still seem a little stressed. Watch for certain stress signals such as rubbing their hands together or fidgeting. Do they have a forced or frozen smile? Do you notice any unusual breaks in their gestures?
Our first response to stress is to freeze. So if you notice an unusual break this is a definite sign of lying.
2. Pay close attention to their eyes
The notion that a person cannot look you in the eyes while lying to you is a myth! This may be true for some inexperienced liars, but studies show that pathological liars may use too much eye contact since they are trying very hard to convince you.
The signal that may give them away, though, is that their pupils dilate when they tell a lie. Also, their blink rate slows down while they construct and tell a lie, and then it speeds back up.
According to Jack Schafer, Ph.D., this happens because “Pupil dilation normally indicates an increase in cognitive demand [and] liars usually experience an increase in cognitive demand.”
3. Keep track of contradictions
A compulsive liar tends to lie so much that over time their lies begin to contradict. Compare stories with mutual friends and the person you are suspecting of being a pathological liar. See if you notice that certain details have changed.
Also, when asked something, most liars will avoid the truth by answering with questions by using quasi-denials.
4. Listen to their vocal pitch
Experts tell us that basic vocal pitch rises under stressful conditions because the vocal cords constrict.
Body language expert Carol Kinsey Gorman also says, “Under stress, people may also experience an increased need to drink water and to lick or moisten their lips, as the autonomic nervous system downloads a rush of adrenaline, causing dry mouth.”
5. Observe any of these actions
David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, discovered four gestures that can indicate someone is lying or hiding something.
This specific cluster of nonverbal signals has been proven statistically to accompany dishonesty:
- Hand touching
- Face touching
- Crossing arms
- Leaning away
In short, it’s not always easy to spot a pathological liar, but it is possible to tell when someone is lying to you if you pay attention to their patterns.
I encourage you to trust your instincts and make note of the signs above.