We all have done it – little fibs here and there to cover our embarrassment or ostensibly protect someone we love or just because we can get away with it. It’s almost impossible to meet someone who hasn’t lied.
To lie is to make an untrue statement with the intention to deceive or mislead. Lying, regardless of intent, often hurts the one being lied to and, eventually, the one lying. Liars exist everywhere – they’re in our midst – among friends, significant others, co-workers, bosses, politicians, and celebrities.
Psychologists classify liars into five different kinds:
This type of liars often hides the truth or tell half-truths. They mistakenly believe they’re protecting someone from hurtful or damaging information. This could mean telling their girlfriend that the dress looks amazing on them when it’s two sizes too small or praising their mother-in-law’s cooking when they don’t like it. If the white lie is about something insignificant, it’s probably OK to just let it go. Remember, constant white lies may cause issues with trust and intimacy.
Careless liars lie all the time and don’t particularly care about hiding their lies or even making sense. They usually don’t have a lot of friends because most people get tired of hearing their twisted stories. Even if a careless liar is confronted, they may not admit their lies or change their behavior. This is the person who makes up stories about being good friends with celebrities or makes up answers to questions they do not know.
Occasional liars are those who seldom tell a lie. When they do, they are usually overcome by guilt and are quick to ask for forgiveness from those they have lied to. Occasional liars are often willing to admit when they are wrong and work on changing their behavior. This could be a person wracked with guilt over cheating on their spouse.
As the name suggests, compulsive liars lie from sheer habit. They are uncomfortable telling the truth and prefer telling lies. Compulsive lying is thought to originate in childhood because of being in certain situations or environments where lying might have been necessary. They may not be manipulative or malicious; however, their constant lying can take a toll on relationships. Compulsive liars are also called habitual liars or pathological liars. Such people are often required to seek the help of a professional therapist.
Sociopathic liars lie with the intention to manipulate a situation to get what they want, without showing any concern or care for others. They tend to be charismatic and charming and will use those skills to manipulate others. Sociopaths find it difficult to understand other people’s emotions because they are incapable of experiencing guilt, shame, or even love. Bernie Madoff, who conducted one of the largest Ponzi schemes is a prime example.
You’ll encounter these different types of liars every day. Here are some ways to spot them:
- Beware of excessive compliments: Liars often use compliments to gain trust. Watch out for people constantly agreeing with all your opinions, offering praise for everything that you do, and laughing at all your jokes;
- Ask follow-up questions: When liars start to gloss over details, call them out by asking questions. People who spin their web of lies can often get caught in them if you push them for details about the what, how, why, when and who;
- Observe facial expressions: You can detect lies by reading someone’s face. While some people can easily hide them, most will show signs of facial coloration, a facial twitch, flaring of the nostrils, shallow breathing, biting their lip or blinking rapidly.
- Watch out for tone and body language: Do they suddenly start shifting uncomfortably? Do they avert your gaze? Ask enough questions to observe a pattern. Liars tend to start speaking faster or slower and/or lower or raise their tone of voice. These are signs you can detect if you observe keenly.
- Trust your gut: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Your gut or sixth sense will, more likely than not, tell you if someone is lying. Follow your instincts more than simply your eyes and ears.
People have varying lying patterns, so there is no guaranteed method to detect a lie. Knowing that different types of liars exist and by the powers of observation and plenty of practice, you can learn to detect a liar.