If you suspect your partner is cheating on you, don’t just listen to his words — his body language might just be a lot more honest. From rubbing his eyes to covering his mouth when speaking, “Warning Signs” by Anthony DeLorenzo and Dawn Ricci shows you what signals to look for if you think he’s lying. An excerpt.
Here’s the good news about being lied to by your husband: He’s probably not very good at it. Call him what you will right now, but chances are you’re not married to a pathological liar — a person who suffers from a mental disorder that manifests itself by the compulsive need to lie and whose lies are so well delivered, most of us could not detect them. But the majority of people are simply lousy liars. Their deceitfulness can be made apparent to you — if you know what to look for, listen to, and pay special attention to — because their body language will often tell you when they’re lying.
We’re not saying that it will be easy for you to become a human lie detector. It will demand that you learn the key indicators exhibited by someone who is telling a lie and that you don’t let on that you suspect your smiling husband is lying through his teeth. And it will take patience on your part to accumulate the evidence of his lying: You may need to have a number of conversations with your husband to give him the opportunity to tell a large enough body of substantial lies to prove that he’s having an affair. But we can assure you that with the lie-detection signs we’re about to share with you, you’ll be able to determine — though no one can say with 100 percent assurance — if what he’s telling you is the truth or one more lie.
We’ve seen many technological advances in our pursuit of the truth for clients over the years — from tiny video cameras that fit in a pen to portable listening devices that can pick up a conversation one hundred yards away to computer spyware and global positioning systems (GPS) that pinpoint a person’s location to within a few feet. But in our decades in this field, one highly effective area of investigation hasn’t been improved upon, an area that ironically is not based on technology or requires any technical expertise whatsoever. But when used properly, this investigative device can provide evidence of an affair as thoroughly, accurately, and consistently as the fanciest digital equipment ever could. The device is you — and your ability to read a person’s body language for signs of lying. We call this area of investigation the Body of Truth, because his body language, more than virtually anything else he’s saying, is your window into knowing whether what he’s saying is the honest truth or a flat-out lie.
How to listen to what his body is telling you
If you suspect your partner of cheating, it’s only natural that you’ll be suspicious of what he tells you, especially in those areas and topics that hold the most interest to you, such as his late working hours. Where exactly was he last Saturday afternoon? And why did he call you by another woman’s name? But be careful. If you believe that there’s nothing you can believe, then it will be much harder for you to separate the truth from his deceitful answers. It’s far better to trust what his body language is telling you than to feel that everything he says to you is dishonest. You’re searching for the truth, wherever that might lead you, so give it a chance. This approach will allow you to far more accurately distinguish between fact and fiction.
A body of lies
Of the two areas — the body and speech — the body generally reveals more, mainly because it provides more signals to look for and more ways for a liar to unwittingly betray the fact that he’s not telling the truth.
Let’s start at the top. The face of a person telling a lie often appears less animated than that of someone telling the truth. What movement there is, is limited to the mouth, not the eyes, which normally move in concert with the mouth — for example, when you smile, your eyes smile too, getting wider as your lips form a smile. A person who’s lying is usually tight lipped, with the corners of the mouth turned down. Darting eyes can also serve as a reliable sign of someone’s lying, so much so that many liars make a concerted effort not to move their eyes or blink excessively. So a blank, fixed stare — the opposite of darting, blinking eyes — can indicate a dishonest response as well.
The face has other ways of revealing dishonesty to you. Blushing and sweating remain classic signs of lying, both physical reactions to the emotional strain that lying places on the psyche. But at the other end of the facial spectrum is a face that is actually drained of color, as some liars become so anxious about their deceitfulness that it constrains the blood flow to their skin. So, oddly, bright red and pale white are both signs of lying.
Monkeying around with the truth
There they sit, the three wise monkeys, one with its hands over its ears, another with hands hiding its eyes, and the third monkey covering its mouth. And of course you know the expression that goes with this iconic Japanese image: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Perhaps these three wise monkeys have become universally known because they exhibit precisely the signs we humans make when we’re not telling the truth. Psychologists and students of body language (including groups as diverse as human resources professionals and law enforcement investigators) look for these “hand-to-head” movements as indicators of lying.
For example, a liar will often put his hand near his mouth, as if to cover up the mouth and the lie. He may also touch the face near his eyes or even begin rubbing his eyes when speaking an untruth. The ears too come into play, with liars frequently tugging at an ear lobe or actually scratching the inside of the ear. Finally, even the nose can display subtle telltale signs of lying (remember Pinocchio?), with liars often pulling it or rubbing it as if they’re about to sneeze. Some liars wrinkle their noses ever so slightly and usually very quickly when telling a lie, giving the impression that something smells bad (like what they’re saying, for instance). Flaring the nostrils can also be a sign that you shouldn’t believe what you hear. Each of these hand-to-head gestures and actions can be a result of the stress and anxiety one feels because of telling a lie.
Red flags of a cheating spouse
Feb. 25: Husband-and-wife duo Anthony DeLorenzo and Dawn Ricci, authors of “Warning Signs,” discuss some behaviors to look out for in a cheating spouse.
Here’s how you can use that knowledge of universal eye movements to help you determine if you’re being lied to: At the appropriate moment, ask the suspected cheater a question relating to an event you’re particularly suspicious of. For example, if he told you he was working late last night and you suspect he was really with his lover, ask him a question that would require a specific answer that includes some detail, such as, “So, what exactly were you working on last night?” If he indeed did work on the new marketing plan, his eyes will go up and to his left, the position of recall. But if his eyes go up to his right, he’s thinking of something that hasn’t happened, and he’s forming an answer, not recalling an actual event. In other words, he’s lying. While not a foolproof test of honesty (as you might not ask a question that lends itself to a specific answer), it is an uncannily reliable tool. If you do employ this tactic a few times, and in every instance, instead of his eyes moving to the recall position of up and to his left they move to the “future” position of up and to the right, you can feel confident that he’s lying.
Other body signs to watch for include agitated movement of the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Because a liar feels tense and nervous, his hands and feet tend to move with more frequency and often in rather jerky, awkward ways. Along with these motions, notice if he rhythmically opens and closes his hands or places them in his pockets (to hide how nervous he feels). Placing his palms downward may also indicate that he’s not telling the truth. (The opposite movement, placing your opened palms so they face the other person, is an almost universal sign of innocence saying, “You can believe me.”)
Even if your spouse manages to still his hand movements, you may instead notice that he’s doing the liar’s shuffle, tapping his feet nervously, or that he’s crossing and uncrossing his legs at a fast rate. Both are signs of anxiety brought on by having to conceal the truth. Also watch for the full body movement — usually away from you. If you happen to be sitting next to him while he’s lying, he may shoot up and move across the room, because it’s harder to lie to someone who’s in close proximity — the farther away, the easier it is to lie.
Few of us relish telling a lie. This is why a person who is lying will often turn his head, and sometimes his entire body, away from the person the lie is directed to. To feel additional protection while telling a lie, it’s also common for the liar to place symbolic barriers between himself and the person being fed the untruths, including folding his arms over his chest in a defensive motion or crossing his legs tightly. The barriers don’t have to be part of his body either; he might place a newspaper, coffee cup, eyeglasses, or some other object directly between himself and the victim of his lies.
And there’s a polar opposite to all of this toe-tapping, arm-folding, and leg-crossing activity: A stiff stance or equally rigid sitting position is a sign of intense discomfort with the situation, and himself, because of his lying. The rigidity can also be a function of his not wanting to display any suspicious signs at all. In fact, he performs the wooden soldier look to make himself appear sober and honest. But you’ll know better.
How to sound out a lie
While you’re looking at how he moves his hands, eyes, and even his nostrils, keep your own ears open. It’s not simply the words he’s uttering that matter, but just as important — in fact, probably more important — is the manner in which he’s delivering those words. His words are just that, words; but his manner of speaking when lying is what can tell you if the words are true or not.
For example, if his response to questions takes longer to form than usual, he’s probably using the extra time to fabricate a lie. A truthful response is almost automatically delivered without pause; a lie follows a noticeable pause, because he forms the lie rather than immediately stating the simple truth. Besides taking longer to answer when the answer is a lie, it will often be delivered in a higher-pitched voice. And this is true even if the liar is six foot three and a deep baritone. The very act of lying makes us nervous, and the tension can affect the vocal chords, stretching them more than usual, resulting in a higher-pitched voice.
Going from a baritone to a tenor isn’t the only difference in his delivery. Liars often garble their answers and not as a ploy to disorient or confound you. Lies confuse the liar’s own brain, so the first letters of consecutive words or entire words might be switched. Other speech errors occur, from leaving out words to mispronouncing simple words. The liar sounds flustered and nervous because that’s precisely what he is.
Also, because lying is such a difficult act for us to perform with any semblance of adroitness, the answers liars give are frequently in the form of abbreviated expressions, not the usual kind of fluid sentences we expect. Even if your partner happens to be the taciturn type, a man of few words, you should be able to discern a difference between his usual way of speaking and the short, one- or two-word responses that he’s now prone to give.
The echo effect
Most liars share the interesting trait of answering a question using the identical words of the question. So if you ask him, “Were you at the bar again with those friends of yours?” he might respond, “No, I was not at the bar again with those friends of mine.” It’s simply easier for a liar to repeat a question verbatim rather than forming an honest response.
Another clue that you’re hearing a lie is the use of full words rather than the more conversational contraction. For example, rather than say “I wasn’t out to lunch for two and a half hours,” he’ll say, “I was not out to lunch for two and a half hours.” By forgoing the contraction he’s attempting to make the lie sound more truthful. Along the same line, liars attempt to enhance the believability of their lies by layering them with an overabundance of information, supplying far more details than are needed or that they normally use. Moreover, many liars speak in a monotone when lying in an effort to appear unemotional or calm. One way to confirm in your own mind that his tone is indeed flatter than usual (and therefore evidence of his lying) is to notice if the pronouns he uses — I, you, she, me, and so on — have more emphasis or not over the rest of the words in a sentence. Generally, pronouns are given more emphasis when we speak, so if they sound as flat as the rest of the sentence, he might be telling you flat-out lies about her.
A quick lie detector
To increase your arsenal of ways to sense if he’s lying or telling the truth, use this quick test: Let’s say during one of your more intense conversations in which you’re dead certain he’s giving you one lie after another, suddenly change to a completely benign, innocuous topic, and notice where he goes with it. If he’s been lying during this conversation, he’ll immediately feel less stressed, more relieved, and eager to pursue this far less-intimidating, troubling topic. But if he wasn’t lying, he’ll likely not want to change topics so readily. Just be prepared: Odds are, he’s going to be very happy to switch to topics that seem to get him off the hook (which will only prove just how much of a liar he really is).
Excerpted from “Warning Signs” by Anthony DeLorenzo and Dawn Ricci. Copyright (c) 2009. Reprinted with permission from The Globe Pequot Press.