It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do for a living, once you know how to detect deception it can benefit you in all areas of your life. For instance, a friend of mine owns a martial arts studio in Nevada. A while back, she called me because she thought one of her employees was stealing from her.
I shared with her the tips I’m about to share with you and she was able to quickly determine he was indeed stealing and she fired the guy. In another instance, I was able to quickly figure out that a friend’s husband was cheating on her (more about how I did this in a moment.)
But before I go any further, you’ve got to know that nothing is set in stone when it comes to detecting lies. What I mean is, every human being is different and not everyone gives off the same signs that they’re lying. So use the checklist below as a guide and if a person is showing more than one of the signs below then it’s a good indication they’re not being honest with you.
To begin, let’s go over one of the biggest indicators that someone is trying to deceive you. It’s what I like to call “the freeze.” In short, if someone is lying they tend to move a lot less and want to retract “into their shell” because they feel guilty.
For example, let’s say I was teaching a seminar and accidentally left my wallet on the table when I left the seminar to go use the restroom. And when I came back from the restroom my wallet was missing. If I started to ask the group what happened to my wallet most people would be offering to help me look for it or they would be shaking their head that they didn’t steal it. But the guilty party would most likely be the quietest person of all and wouldn’t have much movement or be offering to help me find it. They would be trying to hide among their fellow attendees and would give themselves away because they wouldn’t be acting natural at all.
Here’s a real life example that happened to me on an airplane-
I was sitting in my seat when all of the sudden there was a horrible smell. Clearly, someone had passed some gas. The smell was so bad that I was looking around to see where in the world it was coming from. I noticed that almost everyone around me was looking around too.
However, there was a fellow across the aisle from me who was frozen still. While most people were looking around, which is natural behavior in this situation, he was the only person sitting awkwardly like a statue. Obviously, he was the one where the smell was coming from.
I shared the above story with a group I was teaching when a member of the group said to me, “holy smokes, I know who stole my headphones.” Apparently, this gentleman was on an airplane when he fell asleep with his very expensive Bose headphones in his lap. When he awoke, the headphones were gone.
He asked the people in his row if they had seen them and he said the guy sitting in the aisle seat was sitting frozen and would barely speak to him or move, while the other person was acting normal and trying to help him find them. The bottom line is, if the person you think is lying all of the sudden has less movement and is less animated, then they’re probably trying to retract into “their shell” because they feel guilty for what they’ve done.
Next on the list of detecting deception is to watch a person’s feet-
You see, most people are trained to lie with their face and many people do it on a daily basis. But people aren’t trained to lie with their feet, which is why a person’s feet will often give them away.
For instance, in airports, Customs agents are trained to watch a person’s feet when they are going through the customs booth. An honest person, like you or me, will have our feet pointing directly at the agent who is questioning us because we don’t feel guilty and we have nothing to hide. But the drug smuggler will most likely have his feet pointed toward the exit because he wants to get the heck out of there because he’s afraid of getting caught.
We’ve all had a co-worker or relative or someone who thinks they’re our friend, but who we really can’t stand. When we run into this person we may say something such as “John, it’s great to see you, how are the wife and kids?” But since we don’t like John our feet will be pointing away from him showing that we are not being genuine in wanting to know how he is doing and we in fact want to get away from him. So the next time you’re having a conversation with someone pay attention to where their feet are pointing.
To detect lies, you also want to pay attention to the eyes, but not for the reason you think. Most people believe that if you ask someone a question and they look down that means they’re lying, which isn’t true. Just imagine if it was your first day of a brand new job and the CEO of the company called you into his office because someone had taken some files off of his desk.
This clearly would be intimidating because you’re a brand new employee and he’s the CEO. There’s a good chance you would look down because of the gap in authority even though you didn’t take the files.
So instead of worrying about if a person looks down, you need to watch if a person stares too long at you. People who are lying tend to “over stare” because they’re guilty and they believe if they stare long and hard at you this will convince you they’re being honest.
One time, while still working for the Agency, I was traveling overseas on a personal vacation. Even though I was traveling for personal reasons you obviously still don’t say you work for the CIA when you go through Customs in a foreign country.
When I got to the Customs counter the agent started to grill me and ask a ton of questions. I told her that I worked at the museums in the Washington, DC area and did security guard work and gave people directions to help them find their way around.
As I was telling the agent this information I remember forcing myself to break the stare and look down so I didn’t stare too long. So the next time you think someone is lying and they’re “creepily” staring at you, remember, that’s not normal behavior and they’re likely trying to deceive you.
Now let’s talk about how I (unfortunately) found out my friend’s husband was having an affair.
I got a call from my friend one day and she told me she was looking for something in her husband’s car when she found a cell phone underneath the seat. When she dialed the last number that had been called a woman answered the phone then immediately hung up.
My friend called and told me this to see what I thought and I told her the obvious thing you are thinking right now: “He’s clearly having an affair” but I said it in a nicer way than that.
My friend told me there was no way he was having an affair and that their marriage was wonderful. So here’s what I told her to do: Since she believed her husband wasn’t having an affair I told her that when he got home that night to tell him the same story she’d told me about finding the cell phone and then to call me back with his reaction.
The next day she called me and said, “Ohh my gosh Jason, I’ve never seen him so mad in his life. I can’t believe I accused him of having an affair, I feel so bad. He was so angry that I thought he had an affair and I didn’t trust him.”
Now, if you’re married and are not having an affair and your wife accuses you of cheating, what are you going to do? Well, if my wife accused me of having an affair I would make some hilarious joke (which she wouldn’t find funny) and that would pretty much be it. I wouldn’t get angry or fly off the handle because I’m not having an affair so there’s no need for me to be angry.
You see, people who are lying tend to have an extreme overreaction. They want to “beat you down” and make you feel so bad for even questioning them that you will never do it again and they’ll get away with their lie. And this is exactly what my friend’s husband did. He was like a wild animal caught in the corner of a room and he fought back fiercely because he knew he was cornered.
Of course, I told my friend all of this but she still didn’t believe me and was in denial that her husband was having an affair. Just a short time later she received definitive proof he was in fact cheating and she’s still amazed how quickly I knew even though from what you know now it’s pretty much common sense.
So the next time you’re questioning someone and they turn into a psychopath (which hopefully isn’t their normal behavior) then you know they’re lying.
Like I mentioned earlier, when it comes to lying nothing is set in stone. But using the tips above will help you determine if a good percentage of people are lying, so pay attention to “the freeze”, keep an eye on their feet, make sure they’re not “over staring” and watch for an extreme overreaction.
So remember to watch for:
- The freeze
- Foot behavior
- The liar’s Stare
- Extreme reaction
About Jason Hanson
Although you may know him best from his recent appearance on Shark Tank, Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer, entrepreneur, author and self-proclaimed survivalist as well as the author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry: Confessions of a Former CIA Officer. This NRA certified instructor, Eagle Scout and expert in self-defense lives in Cedar City, where he owns a 320-acre ranch that is home to Spy Escape and Evasion, a two-day safety and survival course which teaches people how to escape zip ties, handcuffs and duct tape, along with many other important techniques.