How to catch a liar
When I teach people how to catch liars, it takes me 32 hours. And there are over 30 different things you look for. I’ll tell you a couple of them in a minute, but if you’re going to remember them and use them and spot them you need a lot of practice. I could tell you exactly how to play tennis and win the Olympics, and I could tell you that in ten minutes.
But without a coach and a lot of practice it’s not going to be of any use to you. So I’ll tell you a couple of things that, unless you get a lot of practice, they’re not going to be a lot of help.
Spotting a micro expression is the single most useful thing. This is an expression that lasts about a 25th of a second. I have tested over 300 people in all walks of life and over 99 percent of them don’t see them and yet with an hour’s training on the Internet they can learn to see them. So if you want to catch liars, learn how to see micro expressions.
However, that may only tell you that the person’s concealing an emotion. That’s a lie. It’s not going to tell you how they really feel. It may not tell you that they’re the perpetrator of athis example – it’s a terrible example, but I have to use it: my wife is found dead. I will be the first suspect because, regrettably, the person most likely to kill their wife is the husband.
So I’m the first suspect but I love my wife. I didn’t kill her. The police are wasting their time and they’re insulting me. Time is going by and they’re not looking for the right person. I could be furious at them and concealing my anger. And so if you spot my concealed anger, it doesn’t mean I killed my wife. It only means that I’m concealing my anger.
If I asked you how many gestures are used in Europe today, you’d give me about 12, but there are actually 80. And if I showed you every one of those 80, you’d know what they mean.
The best example I have of distancing language was from a fellow in Brussels who was making a public appearance on television to ask the public for help to find his missing sister. He said: “I really hope you will help me with this matter.” This matter? Your sister is missing and she might be dead. It turned out, of course, that he had killed her.
A much less severe offense – and some people do not think there was any offense – was Bill Clinton saying, “I didn’t have sex with that woman.” And then gave her name. “That woman” is putting her at a distance from himself. Now I never will identify someone as a liar on the basis of one clue. I like to have three or four clues and I like to have them, if possible, repeated if it’s an important situation, like giving the police advice about whether this is the suspect who probably committed a murder and whether they should spend more money and time investigating this person.
If you’re a parent, don’t be a policeman. Don’t try and catch your kid in a lie. Try and teach them about why they shouldn’t lie and try to help them find a way to achieve what they want without needing to lie; that’s your job as a parent, not to become a good lie-catcher.