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How To Tell If Someone Is Lying

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, I check out top tips for how to tell if someone is lying so I can spot a poker face in both my professional and my personal life.

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Spotting Liars

We’ve all been there: that sinking feeling when you realize someone you trust isn’t being entirely truthful. Maybe it’s a white lie, a harmless fib to avoid an awkward conversation, which I have definitely done and personally believe is excusable. Or maybe it’s something bigger, a web of deceit that leaves you questioning everything you thought you knew… something I’ve been affected by but am not guilty of.

Whatever the reason, the ability to spot a lie can be a valuable asset in any relationship, personal or professional. Nobody wants to live with a liar, and working with liars can be incredibly damaging to your business. But how do you do it? How do you sift through the carefully crafted words and nervous laughter to uncover the truth that lies beneath?

The answer, in part, lies in the realm of microexpressions – fleeting, involuntary facial movements that can betray a person’s true emotions, even when they’re trying their best to hide them.

Think of it like this: when you tell a lie, your brain has to work overtime to concoct a believable story. This cognitive strain can manifest in subtle physical cues, like a twitch of the eye, a flicker of the nostrils, or a barely-there tightening of the jaw. By learning to recognize these microexpressions, you can gain a powerful edge in detecting deception, so you can live an honest life around people you trust.

So, whether you’re trying to navigate a tricky negotiation, suss out a potential date, or simply improve your communication skills, this blog post is for you.

How To Tell If Someone Is Lying

To help decipher what’s going on beneath the surface, experts at Casino.co.uk have sent over their guide on how to read a poker face.

Poker faces are something we see very often, but might not have any idea. In situations like job interviews, business meetings or at any casino table there are poker faces everywhere, its knowing how to suss them out that is the challenge.

There is however one way to see straight through a poker face and that is to look out for microexpressions, which happen subconsciously. Microexpressions cannot be deliberately hidden or suppressed and are difficult to spot, as they don’t last for long. However with some practice, you can learn how to spot them.

-A spokesperson from Casino.co.uk

It’s important to focus as quick-fire facial movements like microexpressions will last only half a second, this is why its important to concentrate and try to focus on every little change in expression.


If someone is surprised, their eyebrows are likely to be raised and curved, and you may notice horizontal wrinkles across the forehead. Without staring, notice if their eyelids are open, with the white of the eye showing above and below the pupil. Their jaw may slightly open, too, but there will be no tension or stretching of the mouth. 

Reasons To Fake Surprise

1. To appear credible: Surprise is a genuine emotion that often accompanies unexpected information. By feigning surprise, a liar can create the impression that they are hearing something for the first time, adding a layer of believability to their fabricated story.

2. To shift attention: A well-timed expression of surprise can draw your attention away from the content of the lie and towards the liar’s reaction. This can give them precious seconds to regroup and re-calibrate their story, especially if you’re caught off guard by their feigned shock.

3. To buy time: Sometimes, even the most skilled liars need a moment to think on their feet when confronted with unexpected questions or accusations. Faking surprise can provide them with a brief pause to formulate a response that further bolsters their deception.

4. To manipulate your emotions: Seeing someone genuinely surprised can trigger empathy and understanding in the listener. A liar can exploit this by faking surprise to deflect negative reactions or garner sympathy, hoping to make you less skeptical of their story.

5. To establish control: In some cases, feigning surprise can be a power play by the liar. By seeming genuinely shocked at your accusations or questions, they attempt to shift the dynamic of the conversation, implying that you are the one being unreasonable or outlandish.


When a person is trying to hide fear or anxiety, their eyebrows will be raised and drawn together, usually in a straight line. They many also show wrinkles in the centre of the forehead just between the eyebrows – but not across. Their eyes may have the upper white showing, but not the lower white. 

Reasons To Hide Fear

1. To maintain an appearance of confidence: Fear can manifest in subtle physical cues like trembling, sweating, or stammering. By suppressing these involuntary reactions, a liar can project an air of confidence and assurance, hoping to make their story more believable.

2. To avoid suspicion: Fear is often associated with guilt and deceit. If a liar lets their fear show, it might raise red flags and make you question their honesty. By masking their fear, they aim to avoid scrutiny and maintain the facade of innocence.

3. To protect themselves: The fear of being caught in a lie can be intensely unpleasant, triggering anxiety and stress. By holding back their fear, a liar attempts to protect themselves from these negative emotions and avoid the potential consequences of their deception.

4. To maintain control of the situation: Fear can make someone appear vulnerable and open to attack. By hiding their fear, a liar hopes to retain control of the conversation and the situation, deflecting any potential accusations or confrontations.

5. To manipulate your own fear: A skilled liar might even attempt to turn the tables on you by subtly projecting their own fear onto you. They might feigned shock, anger, or even victimhood, hoping to trigger your own fear or defensiveness and divert attention away from their own deception.


Hiding disgust is difficult, however there are some subconscious facial movements to look out for. The eyes may be narrow, and the nose may be slightly wrinkled. Look out for a quick flash of the upper teeth, too. 

Reasons To Hide Disgust

1. To maintain a positive image: Disgust is a powerful emotion that can be interpreted as a sign of disapproval or judgment. By suppressing their disgust, a liar attempts to maintain a positive and likable image, hoping to avoid negativity or rejection from you.

2. To avoid revealing their true feelings: The object or topic of the lie might actually inspire genuine disgust in the liar. However, they might choose to hide this reaction because it could expose their true feelings and motives, potentially jeopardizing their deception.

3. To deflect suspicion: Disgust can sometimes be misinterpreted as anger or disapproval. By masking their disgust, a liar can subtly shift the focus of the conversation and avoid giving you the impression that they are judging you or the situation negatively.

4. To maintain cognitive coherence: Sometimes, lying can create internal dissonance, a conflict between the fabricated story and the liar’s actual feelings. Hiding disgust can be a way for them to maintain a sense of cognitive coherence, convincing themselves and you that their words and actions align with their true beliefs.

5. To manipulate your emotions: A skilled liar might even weaponize disgust by subtly expressing it towards something unrelated to the lie. This can be a way to manipulate your own emotions, potentially triggering feelings of empathy or defensiveness that distract you from their deception.


If you’re having a heated conversation, or perhaps said something out of line in the workplace, these are easy ways to spot if someone is angry at you. Look at the person’s eyebrows, and notice if they are lowered and drawn together, with vertical lines between them. Their lips may also become tense, with corners down, or in a square shape. Another good way to know for sure, is if their nostrils dilate. 

Reasons To Hide Anger

1. Maintain Control: Anger can be perceived as a loss of control, both externally and internally. By suppressing their anger, the liar aims to appear calm and collected, hoping to maintain control of the situation and the conversation. This prevents you from potentially using their anger against them to probe deeper or press for the truth.

2. Avoid Confrontation: Openly expressing anger can escalate the situation and lead to a confrontation. The liar might want to avoid conflict, especially if the truth behind the lie is sensitive or could trigger a strong negative reaction from you.

3. Project Positive Image: Anger can come across as aggressive or unpleasant, potentially damaging the liar’s image or reputation. By hiding their anger, they project a more positive and amiable persona, hoping to maintain your trust and good will.

4. Protect Themselves: Anger can be a vulnerability, making the liar open to criticism or attack. Suppressing their anger can be a way of self-preservation, shielding themselves from potential emotional backlash or consequences of the lie being exposed.

5. Manipulate Your Emotions: A cunning liar might even use their suppressed anger to manipulate your emotions. Subtle hints of frustration or annoyance can trigger your guilt or defensiveness, diverting your attention from the lie and potentially making you more susceptible to their deception.


Happiness is the most difficult emotion to fake, and it’s easy to spot a fake smile if you know the trick. Notice if they have crow’s feet near the outside of the eyes, if they don’t, and their lips are open in a smile, chances are they aren’t conveying genuine happiness. 

1. Maintain Plausibility: Happiness is often associated with honesty and openness. By feigning joy, a liar attempts to bolster their story’s believability, making it appear more genuine and in line with their supposed emotional state.

2. Disarm Suspicion: Genuine happiness can be contagious, putting the receiver at ease and lowering their guard. A calculated display of happiness can be a disarming tactic, making you less likely to question their words or scrutinize their behavior.

3. Shift the Focus: A forced smile can be a subtle way to direct your attention away from their deception and towards their seemingly positive emotional state. This can distract you from digging deeper or analyzing inconsistencies in their story.

4. Manipulate Your Emotions: Happiness is often considered a desirable emotion, and mirroring it can trigger a sense of empathy or validation in you. By projecting happiness, the liar subtly attempts to influence your emotional response, making you more receptive to their fabricated tale.

5. Mask Internal Dissonance: Lying can create internal conflict, especially when the deception contradicts the liar’s genuine feelings. Faking happiness can be a way to maintain a sense of cognitive coherence, convincing themselves and you that their words align with their desired emotional state.


Sad microexpressions are not very large or noticeable and can be difficult to detect. However, they usually last slightly longer than the other microexpressions. However, look to see if the inner corners of the eyebrows are drawn in and then up, and the corners of the lips are drawn down. The lower lip may also very slightly pout out. 

Reasons To Hide Sadness

1. Maintain Credibility: Sadness can be associated with guilt and dishonesty. By suppressing emotional cues of sadness, a liar aims to project an image of confidence and sincerity, making their fabricated story more believable.

2. Avoid Vulnerability: Expressing sadness can make someone appear weak or open to attack. A liar might choose to hide their sadness to avoid exposing this vulnerability and potentially jeopardizing their deception.

3. Deflect Suspicion: Tears or a downcast demeanor can raise red flags and trigger suspicion. By masking their sadness, a liar can deflect attention away from their emotional state and towards the content of their story, hoping to avoid scrutiny.

4. Protect Themselves: Sadness can be a painful emotion, especially when tied to the act of lying. Hiding it can be a way of self-preservation, shielding themselves from the emotional discomfort or potential consequences of the deception.

5. Manipulate Your Empathy: A skilled liar might even weaponize their suppressed sadness by subtly hinting at it through indirect means. This can trigger your own empathy and understanding, potentially making you more susceptible to their deception and less likely to question their sincerity.


If you think someone dislikes you, or disagrees with your opinion, there is one thing to look out for. If one side of their mouth slightly raises, chances are you’re right. This is the only asymmetrical microexpression and it’s one of the easiest to spot. 

Reasons To Hide Contempt

1. Maintain Plausibility: Contempt often betrays underlying negativity and disbelief. By suppressing it, a liar attempts to project an image of acceptance and understanding, making their fabricated story appear more believable and aligned with their supposed positive attitude.

2. Avoid Escalation: Openly expressing contempt can be inflammatory and lead to conflict. A liar might choose to hide their disdain to avoid escalating the situation, especially if the truth behind the lie is sensitive or could trigger a strong negative reaction from you.

3. Project Power and Control: Masking contempt can be a power play, showcasing the liar’s ability to maintain composure and control the conversation despite their underlying disdain. This can make you less likely to question their authority or challenge their story.

4. Disarm Suspicion: A hint of subtle disdain can raise suspicion, indicating underlying disapproval or skepticism. By hiding it completely, a liar can disarm your guard and make you less likely to scrutinize their words or behavior.

5. Manipulate Your Emotions: A manipulative liar might even weaponize their hidden contempt by subtly directing it towards something unrelated to the lie. This can trigger feelings of defensiveness or guilt in you, distracting you from the deception and potentially making you more agreeable to their fabricated story.


Remember, the key lies not in spotting a single telltale sign, but in observing the symphony of microexpressions, speech patterns, and subtle shifts in behavior that paint a portrait of genuine emotions hiding beneath fabricated words.

Most importantly; trust your gut instinct. It’s often your early warning system, picking up on discrepancies before your conscious mind can fully articulate them. Don’t hesitate to ask clarifying questions, delve deeper into inconsistencies, and observe how the person responds to your inquiries.

Ultimately, understanding the motivations behind deception empowers you to make informed decisions and build stronger relationships based on trust and sincerity. Remember, communication is a two-way street, and open conversations where honest expression is valued are the strongest defense against the shadows of deceit.

So, the next time you encounter someone whose words seem to shimmer with doubt, equip yourself with the knowledge you’ve gained from this exploration. Embrace the power of observation, listen to your intuition, and untangle the web of deception with confidence. In doing so, you’ll foster authenticity in your interactions and pave the way for relationships built on a foundation of genuine connection.

And above all, remember, the quest for truth is not about becoming a human lie detector, but about nurturing open communication and cultivating relationships where trust reigns supreme.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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