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What are some verbal signs of lying?

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Quick Answer

Although only one or two signs may be evident at any time, some verbal indicators that a person is lying include selective wording, quasi-denials, qualifiers, softeners and excessive formality. Avoiding a direct answer is another common tactic, as is overcompensation in speech, depersonalization and avoidance.

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Full Answer

Often, a person who is lying avoids answering the actual question being asked or asks a question intended to delay having to respond, such as questioning why something is asked in the first place. Alternately, she may provide too much information, demonstrating through excessive facts and details that the response is rehearsed. When the conversation comes to a lull, a liar may add extraneous details that are not necessary as a means to overcompensate for a fib.

Qualifying phrases, such as, "As far as I know..." are an indication of deception, as is an unusual formality of speech, particularly through the avoidance of contractions or the use of titles. Such language is an attempt to create distance between the speaker and the lie. Another sign of deception is when a person back pedals on a statement before actually making the statement. An example of this is, "I could be wrong, but..."

When accused of a wrongdoing, innocent people typically demonstrate offense at the accusation and use harsh words, such as "steal" or "forge." On the other hand, a dishonest person often worries more about her response than the actual charge itself, and softens the language by using words like "borrow" and "mistake."

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