1. He Sounds a Little Funny
Liars are sometimes called “fast talkers,” but the speed of their speech varies as much as an honest person’s within a conversation. Yet liars will alter their speech rates within a single sentence. Typically a liar might begin to speak slowly because he’s trying to figure out his lie—but once it comes into his head, he tries to spit it out as fast as possible.
The pace isn’t the only speech pattern that can trip up a deceiver. Research has shown that a person’s vocal tone will waiver from baseline in up to 95 percent of all deceptive statements. If your partner’s baritone is on the rise, you may be facing a fib.
2. He Slips a Verbal Clue
Remembering the truth about what happened Saturday and the story he wants you to believe is a significant mental burden. Many liars will buckle under the strain and make a verbal faux pas, like start-stop sentences (“There are many that I didn’t—I hardly had any contact with her.”), using past and present tenses in the same story or repeating your question rather than answering it.
Even if he doesn’t stumble, his sentences could signal deception: Studies have shown that liars tend to drop pronouns from their speech, as a way to verbally distance themselves from the lie. “I got up this morning. I called my mother, went to work, grabbed a bite with Jim.” The person used two pronouns up front and then dropped them afterward—why? There may be more to his story than he’s letting on.
3. His Face Flashes Contempt
Nearly 50 years ago, a researcher discovered that all humans share seven microexpressions—universal ways that emotions are hard-wired to flash across our faces. Whether you’re male or female, black or white, young or old, if you’re surprised, you make the same fleeting expression. These microexpressions are impossible to fake—which makes spotting one the closest thing we have to mindreading.
Contempt—a feeling of moral superiority and disrespect—is one of the most dangerous microexpressions for a relationship: Contempt shows up as a half-smile smirk, with only one side of the mouth raised. It signals, “I’ve justified my lie. I’m getting away with it. You’re a fool.” Researchers can see contempt on chronic cheaters who think they’re too smart to get caught.