Is he lying?

How to tell before April Fool's Day

How to tell before April Fool's Day

March 26, 2006|By Julie E. Greene

The first clue that someone might be trying to pull one over on you this Saturday is to keep in mind it's April Fool's Day.

With some people, it's soooo obvious when they try to pull a prank or tell a lie. They just can't keep a straight face.

But there are people who are just good liars.

The best way to figure out if someone is lying is to know how that person normally behaves, experts say.

It's the changes in habit that will tip you off that something is afoot, say Maryann Karinch, co-author of "How to Spot a Liar," and Larry Stouter, director of Catoctin Counseling Center in Hagerstown.

Sophisticated liars are good at not exhibiting behavioral tips, but the typical person pulling a prank might give away clues, Stouter says.


To notice the differences, you need to know a person's normal conversational habits - the voice, eye movements and body language, Karinch says.

The simplest change to look for is a change in vocal rhythm, says Greg Hartley, Karinch's co-author. Hartley is a former Army interrogator who teaches body language, interrogation and deception techniques.

"People are often fishing to see if you believe something. They change tempo to see how far they can go with the details," Hartley says.

For instance, someone might start off speaking slowly. As they are talking, they are gauging how well you are accepting what they are saying, Hartley says. Some people might talk faster, but it's more likely they would slow their speech.

Generally, people talk more timidly when they are bluffing as opposed to telling an outright lie, Hartley says.

Asking the person questions about the topic can give further clues as to whether they are talking about a real situation or setting you up for a prank.

If you ask a question and the person answers slowly, that's a sign the person is creating details for a fake answer, Hartley says.

If the answer comes quickly, it could be a sign of a practiced response, Hartley says.

A person answering honestly should speak in their normal voice pattern, he says.

Other changes to look for include:

A break in the faade. The person starts smirking or tries to suppress a smile or laugh, says Stouter, a professional counselor.

Voice pitch. This could get higher or lower from the stress of lying, Karinch says. Some voices become strident, as if the person speaks with a clenched throat due to nervousness.

Lack of eye contact.

During a normal conversation, people make eye contact 50 percent to 75 percent of the time and often their eyes are moving around a lot, Hartley says. Staring intently is a tip-off for a potential lie.

Lack of quiet time during a conversation. A normal conversation includes some quiet time, Hartley says.

Eye movement. People's eyes tend to drift up when they are remembering something or lying, Karinch says. If a person's eyes drift up and toward the right when recalling a memory but this time drift up and to the left - that's a clue they could be lying.

Body language. Is the person's approach different from normal? For example, a person who normally stands in the doorway to say hello or chat instead walks up to the desk and sets a coffee mug down, Karinch says.

Or at home, your spouse deviates from everyday habits such as coming home, putting the keys down and pouring a glass of water.

What if someone knows they can't lie face-to-face or they aren't nearby, so they try to pull a prank via e-mail?

There could still be tell-tale signs, Karinch says. Again, look for deviations from normal behavior.

If the person normally writes in fragments and this e-mail is written in complete sentences, the message might be a lie.

The bad news is, in general, people are good liars, Stouter says.

Hartley thinks most people just aren't good at catching others in a lie.

Almost everyone, if not everyone, has told a white lie effectively, Stouter says.

Whether there's any harm in those white lies is a value judgment, Stouter says. Many people can't tolerate honesty. A woman doesn't want to hear that she doesn't look good in a dress, and a man doesn't want to hear that he isn't strong or capable.

There are pathological liars who lie when it's better to be honest; those who have an antisocial personality disorder and enjoy lying; ad people who don't realize they are lying, which is associated with a number of personality disorders, Stouter says.

But on April Fool's Day, anyone is capable of orchestrating a practical joke, though it tends to be the younger set, Stouter says.

Older, more mature people, tend to avoid pranks because they are more aware of the hazards involved, such as making someone feel bad, Stouter says.

Just remember your first clue: Saturday is April Fool's Day.

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