How Lying Works

How to Lie

Being surly is not going to help your case.
Being surly is not going to help your case.
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Whether you are complimenting a friend on his unpalatable Thanksgiving dinner or telling the authorities you don't know how the drugs got in your car, all of us at some point tell lies. These lies can range from little white lies meant to lubricate social situations and relationships to hide-saving whoppers that will go down in infamy.

Here's how you do it.

  • Stay calm. The person you're lying to will be closely monitoring your speech and behavior. The act of lying may quicken your heartbeat or increase your blood pressure. Behave as if you have nothing to hide. Beware of your own anger at being put on the spot -- this might create microexpressions of contempt or rage.
  • Keep it simple. Lying takes great imagination and effort. While we're conjuring up alternate scenarios and realities, our minds fill in all the extra details that come in handy. Liars tend to tell far too many irrelevant details, and they do this to further "prove" the lie is the truth. More often than not, this extra information stands out because it has little or nothing to do with the question. Keeping the lie simple makes it easier to keep the "facts" straight. Adding extra details will only trip you up when the questioning focuses on the details, because these extra bits of information may not add up to a coherent and plausible lie.
  • Remain steady. It's important that you keep an evenness to your mannerisms and mood before, during and after the lie. If you're feeling nervous before your lie, keep acting nervous. If you're relaxed before someone hits you with an unexpected question, stay relaxed. It's the shift in tone and body language that will clue someone in to your fabricating ways. Once the questioning is over, don't suddenly relax or appear relieved. If you were agitated while lying, stay agitated after the lying is finished. A person standing watch in a guard tower looks for motion or a change in the environment, and so too does a person looking for a lie. Give him or her as little as possible to work with.
  • Make the listener like you. You're trying to tell a lie, and the listener wants to hear the truth. You must make him or her believe your lie is the truth. Think of it this­ way: We're less likely to suspect those we feel close to, partly because it would be too disruptive to the relationship to believe there is deception.

Also, we're offended by lies because they are signs of disrespect. So when we lie, we must give the listener no reason to doubt our worth or our perception of their worth. Think: We're both adults. We both like each other. You have a question? Here's the answer, and let's move on. Don't grovel for the listener's approval or try to be too ingratiating. That's what liars do. Don't include statements like, "Are you mad at me?" Why would the person be mad at you unless you're being deceitful? He or she wants the truth, but running a close second is the need to believe that you wouldn't lie.

Now that you know how to lie, the next section will teach the rest of us how to catch you in the act.