Leaders: 8 Ways To Spot Lying Lips

We Can Spot Liars

Federal agents are trained to read others and uncover what is hidden. They seize on words, language inconsistencies, and other verbal cues. They develop hunches about the people they’re dealing with.

No one has a lock on mind reading, but many have refined their own approach to understand what other people are thinking, and they are surprisingly accurate. As an FBI agent, I learned that detecting deception is actually a slow inquiry into another person’s state of mind.

Build a Baseline

Reading other people is a process that requires time to build rapport because deception can only be identified if a baseline of the other person’s responses is established.

Non-threatening and innocent questions are likely to receive honest answers, and this is how norms are established. They can be used to measure responses to more probing questions later on.

Norms help to distinguish between a personal quirk and a contradiction in behavior. Contradictions are not goalposts when trying to detect whether someone is lying. Rather, they are signposts that suggest there is either deception, or there’s more to the matter. The person’s response is not consistent with how he or she normally responds.


Most of us don’t trust our hunches because we don’t know where they came from. We think they can’t be explained, but what if they can? We collect information about people all of the time. We pick up on inconsistencies in language, tone of voice, and other micro expressions of emotions and feelings. We assemble this information into hunches about the person we’re talking to.

We do all of this without thinking about it. Understanding verbal behavior is not about learning anything new. It’s about noticing the things you hear and say all the time anyway.

How to Catch A Liar

The question is not whether people lie, it’s what are they lying about.

~ Are they stretching their optimism and hoping business will turn around?

~ Or are they creating a fabrication like Bernie Madoff?

~ Is the CEO telling a half-truth or are they merely omitting an important piece of information?

~ Is your child telling you the truth about where he was last night?

FBI agents rely on interviews and interrogations, more than any other investigative tool, to gather evidence.

People tend to give a lot of verbal signs when they are stressed from either giving deceptive answers or incomplete ones.

8 Ways To Spot A Liar

It’s not difficult for the average person to become adept at identifying dishonesty. It’s not as hard as you might think. Based on a person’s responses, here are 8 ways to spot lying lips:

1. Changes in Speech

  • Speech hesitations
  • Stammering or repeating words
  • Increases in the speed of speech

2. Changes in Voice

  • Rise in the pitch of their voice
  • Cracking in the natural tone of the voice often occurs at the point of stress or deception
  • Coughing and clearing of the throat a good signs of tension at the point when they occur

3. Use of the word “No”

The way a person uses the word NO can be a treasure mine:

  • Say no and look in a different direction (upward, downward, etc)
  • Say no and close their eyes
  • Say no and then hesitate
  • Say no and stretch the word out over a long period.
  • Say no in a sing-song way.

4. Memory Lapses

  • Exhibiting lapses in memory at critical times even though they’ve been alert in earlier conversation

5. Incomplete Answers

  • Proving small crumbs of information to questions asked

6. Changes in the Manner of Speech

  • Moving into a more formal way of speaking indicates that the conversation is hitting a point of stress

7. Exaggerated Responses

  • Using extreme superlatives or exaggerated responses, such as saying awesome instead of good.

8. Talking in the Third Person

  • Attempts to depersonalize the conversation.

These 8 tips will help detect deception. To accurately read others you will need to recognize the emotions that people are experiencing. One way this can be accomplished is by noticing the fleeting signals of a person’s verbal behavior.

What tips can you add to this list? When have you detected deceptive answers? What behavior gave the deceptive person away? When have your hunches been spot-on?

LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
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Image Sources: cbsnews.com

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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Colin Millar on June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Fascinating post LaRae, I’m sure people will be setting their natural lie detectors to ‘ultra sensitive’ in future business exchanges!

    I’ve learned to go with my instinct. It’s not always right but I think there are millenia of evolutionary developments contained in my gut and whilst I rarely need to use it to detect potential threats from my environment, I do think it’s highly accurate when it comes to people.

    Today’s business environment requires more and more from people – EI (emotional intelligence) PI (political intelligence) and I think having the ability to pick up on non-verbal queues as you suggest will also be extremely valuable.

    Love the blog.

    • LaRae Quy on June 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      Hi Colin

      I hope I remembered to hit reply on your L2L article because I really did like it.

      And thank you for your words about this blog . . . good for you to go with your instinct. The gut is a treasure trove of good, intuitive information. I’m working on another blog that explores gut reactions – means that I have to put my thinking cap on to recall all the times and situations that it worked for me. That’s why I love writing blogs – it forces me to put value on experiences.

      In the near future, I’m putting out another blog on non-verbal behavior . . . I’ll keep you informed.

      LaRae Quy 415.609.0608 [email protected]

      Visit the website at http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/blog/