Have you ever found yourself wondering if you had just been lied to? Has there been a time when your significant other answered a question with a shaky voice or vague description? What about when an employee or teammate said they completed a task when they really didn’t?

While people can lie with their words, their body language can tell us the truth.

We’ve all felt bamboozled by a liar at some point in our lives. However, feeling like you may have been swindled doesn’t have to be an everyday occurrence. Rather than finding out the truth days, weeks, or years later you can figure out who the fiendish fable-fibbers are by becoming aware of certain personal ticks. These tells will help you suss out potential lies and half-truths while also helping you open the door to honest communication.

Watch for Changes in Base Body Language

What do we mean?

Well, every person on earth has a way of carrying themselves that is uniquely their own. They may feel most comfortable sitting and standing with their arms cross. Maybe they are the type of person who is constantly fidgeting with their hair. Or maybe this person’s resting stance is sitting down with their arms at their sides. Whatever their normal or base body language is, you should learn it. If they sit down with their arms resting on the table, note that. If your partner or speaker is animated with their hands or has eyes that dart from side to side, note that.

One great way to understand someone’s common body language is by asking them questions that you already know the answers to. If you and the potential teller of lies both know the truth behind the questions then you can be sure their body language will not diverge from a resting state. The reason why we want to know one’s resting body language is because we are looking for slight changes in our conversation partner’s bodily behavior.

These tiny changes, or tells, are like a whiff of smoke - where there is fire, there might be lies. When we deviate from our norm it is usually because we are trying to offset or pacify an uncomfortable feeling within. These feelings can stem from mental distress due to the emotions that surround being dishonest. To bring ourselves back to a calm state both mentally and physically we use a handful of techniques.

Here are some common techniques that people use when they feel uncomfortable or stressed, and could be potentially lying.


Neck Cleansing is a pacifying behavior that is meant to calm someone down when they experience mental or emotional distress.

Touching of the Neck Dimple (suprasternal notch) or covering it with the hand is also an automatic reflex that is used to mitigate and remove stress.

Arm and Leg Cleansing are similar techniques that help someone who is uncomfortable feel a sense of warmth and security.

Covering of the eyes or mouth can signal that someone is attempting to cover up a lie or shield themselves from the response.

All of the calming techniques listed are ones often used by people who are feeling stressed and potentially uncomfortable. As most people do not like to lie, a change in base body language can potentially alert you something may be wrong.  This can help identify situations where you should ask more questions and dig deeper. Although body language is helpful, remember not everyone uses these techniques the same and understanding someone’s base body language is paramount before you start to dig with a line of questioning.