To be fair, in my work with couples over many years, there are people who I thought were lying and they actually were not. And there were also people I believed were truthful, who were lying the entire time.
I am almost reluctant to write this blog because I don’t want it used by some as a tool to become a better liar. For that reason, I will only list some of the major determining factors I use to judge a person’s transparency.
When people answer a question honestly, they only have to think about one thing – the truth. But when people are being dishonest, they have to think in parallel ways. They think about the honest answer that they keep to themselves. They think about what they should say even though it’s not the truth. And they think about whether their lie will be found out due to either a previously answered question, or a conflicting timeframe.
Lying takes more time than the truth.
People who are lying often take an unusually long period of time to think before they answer. That said, there are people who think before they answer who are being simply contemplative in their candor.
People who feel like they’re in the hot seat try to change the subject. As the saying goes, “A good defense is a good offense.” So if you ask a straightforward question and are answered with an argument, bring them immediately back to the original question. Make sure you don’t let their strategy work by getting defensive.
Others, when they’re trying to shut down your problematic question, will use volume to challenge or intimidate you. Just ask them to lower their voice, and then repeat the question.
When a person is telling you the truth, they will be able to see how badly you’re struggling and feel empathy for you. A transparent person will lean in and answer your question, over and over again if necessary.
They will want to make sure you get your answers so you will feel comforted and reassured.
Honest people don’t make it about them when you’re upset. They empathize with your anguish and do everything they can to tell you what you need to know.
Empathy is one thing that never occurs to a person who is about to lie right to your face.
When you ask a probative question, it is time to worry if you get a response that indicates you have immediately offended them. They become overly emotional and will often say, holding their chest, “I can’t believe you’re even asking me that.”
They not only have changed the subject, but they have started to train you to not ask the same question twice because they’re so offended.
A person who answers honestly will answer your question, and will likely be curious as to what made you ask the question in the first place. People who lie are not genuinely curious about what it was that made you ask.
Most people don’t like to lie. It makes them uncomfortable because they’re afraid they’re going to get caught. So they choose partial lies. People who use vague language select words like only, just, or a few. The word “once” is usually a red flag for me as well.
When a person is lying, they will often tell you that they don’t know. A truthful person who genuinely doesn’t know will say so but will chase it with an offer to think back or find out, because they want to reassure you with truthfulness.
There are so many ways that I use to tell when people are lying to me or to their spouse. Way too many to write about. But probably the most reliable indicator is that feeling I have in my gut. It’s developed over time, and it’s reliable.
Perhaps your own intuition is as well.