Teach yourself how to spot a liar

Teach yourself how to spot a liar

CultureMay 09, 2016

When it comes to game playing, some people (often of the fairer sex) are right up there with professional poker players, but instead of a dead pan blank expression, you might get a smile or a wide eyed stare with batting eyelashes. Even if she is lying through her pearly whites, it’s easy to get lost in her purposeful body language. Worse yet, if you accuse her of telling a tall tale and you are wrong, it’s time to hit the streets running. How can the average guy ever hope to be able to read a woman?



But science is on our side in our struggle to figure out liars of both genders, in all areas of life. In recent years, the art of reading microexpressions has come to popularity, in business, personal relationships and even in the gaming community.  Since the 1950s, psychologist Paul Ekman has been researching face reading, and has found that while there are over 3000 documented facial expressions, there are really only 7 universal microexpressions.

A microexpression is “a brief, involuntary facial expression that is shown on the face of humans according to the emotion that is being experienced.”  It lasts less than a quarter of a second and while it’s easy to not notice it, it’s also impossible to avoid doing it. Your girl is bound to do them when she swears she was out with the ladies last night, and you do them yourself when you promise to call.



The seven microexpressions are connected to feelings of happiness, disgust, anger, fear, sadness, surprise and contempt.  While trust and lying don’t have a particular expression, contempt and disgust are sure signs of something wrong in the relationship.  Now, what to do with that tidbit of knowledge?

First Become a Master Yourself

How can you ever read another person’s facial expressions until you master expressing and holding in your micro expressions on purpose yourself?  Dr. Ekman has described these seven basic microexpressions in detail so that they are easy to interpret.  Each expression involves a minute altering of eyebrows and shifts in the muscles around the eyelids, forehead and mouth.



Practice each expression in the mirror.  Ekman states if you force your face into one of these expressions, even minutely, you will begin to feel the emotion.  Once the emotion takes over, it becomes harder to control the expression, and it becomes easier to spot.  So, as long as you quit the expression before you feel the emotion, the average eye won’t pick it up.  What a great way to lie, right?

Now Master the Real Masters

The next step to expanding on your newfound talent is to test out your reading skills. Where to do it?  Well, gather the boys and head to Sin City, of course! Playing poker in the pits is far safer than misreading that she-tiger you’ve been dating – and a lot more fun too. Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular variant of poker today, and has a few variations in itself. As, unlike blackjack or the roulette, in poker you’re playing against other players rather than the dealer or croupier, you’ll get a great chance to practice your “poker face” and control your “tells” in your attempt to convince your opponent that you have a winning hand, during the pre-flop, the flop, the turn and the river, as the different rounds of Texas Hold’em are called. Try on your James Bond poker face at the tables making sure you understand the hands and the rules first, of course.  Maintaining a neutral expression can come with practice, but convincing the competition you have the best hand at the table is an art that only poker professionals have mastered to an impressive level.



Poker players are certainly some of the best at concealing their emotions or even better, bluffing you into believing they are feeling something they are not.  It’s a great place to practice your microexpression reading and the pit boss certainly wont “cut you off” if you are caught in a lie…err…bluff. At least it’s not as farfetched as McDonalds telling everyone that kale makes them a healthy restaurant!

Take Your Expressions to Work

Spotting a good poker face at work is the next level in trying to read people.  These people you know already – maybe not as well as the lady you left at home, but probably better than the poker players you high fived on the way out of the casino! Even outside of the game, a “poker face” is an expression that people work on to stay ahead of their adversaries.

Now you can take looking for a lie to the next level, beyond microexpressions and into body language.  Many conversations at work take place on the go, in the hallways or in chance meetings.  It’s harder for others to mask true feelings in an unexpected conversation and when not in a concentrated planned environment.  Try jumping out of your office door at people.  No, we’re just kidding.



But body language can indeed be a dead giveaway.  According to Science of People website, more than 82% of lies go undetected – but become good enough and you can fall into the other 18%. Like animals avoiding detection, people who are lying or stretching the truth may minimize the space they take up by pulling in arms or legs, if they are sitting.  Knuckle cracking, nail biting and other nervous gestures are a dead giveaway for someone who is uncomfortable in their story, as is failure to make eye contact. Other clues that giveaway a liar is blushing while talking, flared nostrils, deep breathing and rapid blinking.

Start practicing reading everyone at work – but don’t become a suspicious lunatic.  Make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your job, because if you lose it, she’ll really get mad!

The Eyes Have It

Now that you are ready to go mentally shake down your lady, we have a few more things to look for.  Lying is stressful, especially in relationships.  While there are levels of white lies that are less important, it’s the deal breakers you don’t want to miss.  Women love looking deep into your eyes, so watch her eyes for closely for more revealing traits.



The direction she looks, the speed of her blinking and whether she’s smiling only with her mouth or also with her eyes can tell you a lot about how she is feeling.  If she starts to sweat excessively while talking and it’s not after any extraordinary exercise, she’s definitely lying and you’d better head for the door.  However, don’t let it hit you on the way out as you have now certainly become a full-blown paranoid dude and she probably deserves better.  Well, you may not get married in your 20s, but there’s always Vegas baby!