At a time when lies, half-truths and finger pointing are rampant, it’s more important than ever to have a clear head. Our world today seems to be struggling with a crisis of honesty and integrity—starting at the top and trickling down to all levels of humanity. From political leaders to your next-door neighbor, lying seems to be the new defense system for a number of people. Deny, deny, deny—regardless of what the evidence shows—seems to be the battle cry of many.
As you can imagine, this can be crazy-making for those on the receiving end of the denials and lies. So how can you tell if someone is lying?
Below are several tips for reading through the lies:
1. Pay attention to actions far more than words. When people have a lot to lose or don’t want something to be discovered, they often lie—convincingly. Don’t be fooled by a person’s words. Look at the person’s actions—toward you, toward others and toward strangers. If you’re worried about an affair, look at your partner’s behaviors. If they’ve been coming home late, hiding their phone or being more aloof or angry toward you, then something isn’t lining up. Regarding friendships, if someone claims to be your friend, yet leaves you out of gatherings and only calls when s/he needs something, then their actions are showing you otherwise. Trust the actions.
2. Look for the spin. Often, when a person is guilty, they avoid the question, turn the tables on the accuser or get indignant at being questioned. This might sound like, “Have you seen what that woman looks like?!” or “You’re paranoid—you better get that under control.” or “I don’t have time for this; I’m going to work.” Pay attention to the spin—it is often a sure sign of guilt.
3. Look at the facts—not at their twisting of the facts. Stick to the hard facts on people, circumstances and issues. If they say one thing on Monday, another on Tuesday, and on Thursday they twist it a little more, then the fact is their story keeps changing. The thing about lying is that it becomes difficult for them to remember what they said because they’re making it up rather than recounting unchanging reality. There is no reason for changing your story when you’re telling the truth.
4. There is almost always truth in “repeats.” Cheaters cheat, sexual harassers harass, predators hunt, addicts use and on and on. If you have several unconnected people reporting the same thing about one individual, believe them. This is especially true when it comes to crimes. The false-report rate for sexual assault/rape is 2%. It’s rare, as it is with any crime. The likelihood of 5, 10, 20 women lying about the same man harassing or assaulting them in similar ways is slim to none. Repeats are always a great indicator of whom to believe. Trust the numbers, not the deniers.
In our country and in our homes, when it comes to lies, there are often many “tells.” Learn to recognize the signs. Be smart, not gullible. In our world, get skilled at looking past the fame, money and position of a person and hone in on the character underneath the mask. In your home, train yourself to look past your fears, loyalties and insecurities and allow yourself to see your truths. They’re there if you dare to open your eyes.
Challenge: Always zero in on actions above words, no matter what. Learn to cultivate your instincts, recognize your biases and allow yourself to see what’s right in front of you. Remember, the “tells” are almost always there.