Stop Trying to be Happy

Why I’m a Better Liar Than You


I think I’m a pretty slick liar. Admittedly, I learned my techniques from an expert; a close friend of mine—but I’ll refrain from spilling too much detail in order to conceal their identity (just kidding his real name is Scott).

But everybody lies. Just ask my ol’ pal, Dr. House. We even lie to ourselves— “ok, literally after this episode of Ancient Aliens, I’ll finish the dishes.” Right. A week later we’re throwing away that moldy pot, utterly beyond redemption.  

AND we have to listen to it too. Reportedly, we hear up to 200 lies a day. Ever read a dating profile? You can get your daily 200 right there. And crazy enough, we don’t notice half (54%) of them.

Watching my friend lie for years is how I came to understand that the keenest liars are usually really freakin’ smart.  They will outwit you. They will figure you out like someone cheating at cards. They’ll earn your trust by playing to your emotions and mirroring your personality. They’ll become your instant best friend. And once you trust them, they can peddle you anything. But if you have a sharp nose and a wary eye, you can use their methods against them, and have some fun being the slyer devil.

Let’s start with a warm up. Enter Bill Jefferson Clinton.

Using best Bill Clinton Voice: “I    did not    have sexual relations with    that woman   …Ms. Lewinski.”

Using best Bill Clinton Voice: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…Ms. Lewinski.”

The Tells

  1. No contractions. “I DID NOT.” We use less contractions when trying to pass a lie. Experts say this because we are putting a lot of effort into convincing you we really mean what we’re saying.  Bill says, “did not” instead of “didn’t”—sounding very declarative.

  1. Distancing language: “THAT WOMAN.” This one is harder to notice. However, it’s common consensus among phycologists that when people use words of distance to separate themselves from something, it’s usually pretty suspect. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”  Ol’ Bill said “that woman” instead of “Monica Lewinski” thus subtly distancing himself from her. Usually, that indicates some level of guilt or desperation to get out of trouble.

  2. Contradictory head shake (big one) The liar will say one thing but unconsciously shake their head to indicate the opposite. Very subtly, if the liar says “no” while they quickly (like for a literal millisecond) nod their head up and down, then they’re pulling a fast one. Poor Bill lets a little head nod slip at the end.

Aight, let’s break it down.

(It’s important to note these “tells” are not a science, rather an evolving area of study. These are all pulled from different studies, not my own assessment, unless otherwise indicated.)  

It is my own assessment that there are two types of liars: average and elite. Elite liars are members of a small privileged class, typically blessed with unusually high intelligence and outstanding social awareness. And/Or they’re a clinically-diagnosed psychopath. Either way, they can read people faster than you can read a listicle. And with that power follows the temptation (and indulgence) to exercise it. In contrast to, that is, the rest of us—the average liars. We’re the guy telling the cop we thought the speed limit was 110MPH. According to Paul Ekman, a renowned lie detector, the average human lies mostly to avoid punishment for breaking a rule.  And there a few giveaways that phycologists look for when we’re trying to get away with it.

How to spot the average liar:

  1. Change in tenor and body language. Almost no explanation needed. You know what this looks like.  You’re inherently good at reading physical ques and minor changes in demeanor, just because you’ve interacted with humans your whole life. You notice the liar might talk insanely fast or they get that “deer in the headlights” look. Their hand gestures become suddenly fixed and rigid, usually awkward. They stop fully facing you. I had a friend who would turn beet-red. This is the stuff we notice all the time.  

  2. Way too many details. A typical liar unconsciously thinks the more specific information they give you, the more concrete reasons you’ll have to believe them. But no truth-teller needs to pack on the extra info because they know the truth doesn’t need to rely on a ton of supporting evidence. The truth can stand on its own two feet. It’s also a huge red flag of they talk on-and-on but never actually answer the question you asked. A lot of hamburger-bun, but no patty. However, use your head. The person adding a lot of detail may just be innocently nervous, such as if they were on a first date. They could also just be trying to convince you because, although true, what they’re telling you may be hard to believe.  But typically, if someone rants on about their time at the gym this morning, miraculously recalling every conversation they had and how there were exactly 19 people there, and they did their usual work out for 45 mins till they left at 7:01 AM… they’re cheating on you. Just kidding.  But they may not want you to know where they actually were—or why.  

  3. Uncharacteristic eye contact. If you ask your buddy if he drank the last beer and he suddenly locks on to your eyeballs with his eyeballs and through your drunken stare you notice it’s pretty weird that his eye contact skills have massively improved in the last 2 seconds–then, sorry bro, he definitely snuck the last beer. Same goes for the the person averting eye contact when they usually maintain it pretty well, it could be suspicious.

How to spot the elite liar:

Ok, so on to the master-mouths. Elite liars are a dangerous bunch. They are incredible at keeping their story straight, appearing relaxed, no marked changes in eye contact—in other words, they are intensely conscious of themselves. But they aren’t perfect, and like my friend I mentioned (Scott Davis Hastings), they can become drunk with the power their gifts allow them. And they’ll use it to manipulate you—because they can, or just to get what they want without having to do much work. That’s why they prey on the gullible. But you don’t have to be their next victim.

  1. They’re unnaturally earnest. If you find them intensely reactive to each statement you make or overly excited by each story you tell, they’re trying to sell you something. Likely, they’re convincing you to like them, so you’d be more willing to believe a future fib. Be wary of all earnestness. You can find this among men at the bar trying to one-liner their way into some poor girl’s pants. You can see this in an employee trying to convince their boss they’re not on Instagram 60% of the workweek. You can find this in the first time a girl brings a boy home and the parents can see right through that earnest shit and plead their daughter not go out with that “hippie-couch-surfing-future-welfare-check-axe body spray-wearing-free loader.” 

  2. They (subtly but purposely) mirror you. I learned a badass new word when doing research for this: Adroitness—assesses the ability to regulate your own behavior in order to get what you want from others. Cool, right? So, if someone likes you, they’ll  naturally mirror you. Ever notice how best friends who spend a lot of time together tend to dress similarly when they go out? And an elite liar knows you’re going to be way more comfortable with them if you recognize familiar traits. They might say they love dogs, after they notice a pic of your pooch set as your phone background. They might change their mood to come up or down to yours, adjusting the tempo of their words, loosening their eye contact so you don’t notice they’re pressuring you into liking them.  They are taking your temperature and noticing your body language. If you seem turned off by something they just said, they smoothly adjust and move on. This is seen in dudes picking up girls at the bar (I know dudes are awesome). This is seen in the courtroom (watch the prosecutor in the Kavanaugh hearings skip to 13:37—she’s seriously amazing to witness, pun intended).

  3. They’re too consistent. Most people are dynamic in their mood throughout the day. Maybe someone complimented their hair so they’re a little peppier on stage when they perform that night; maybe they had a dope breakfast but then ate bad calamari for lunch so they are grumpy the rest of the day...your mood even fluctuates over the course of an hour. You become suddenly tired during the movie, you might realize the Cowboys are on and you forgot you were supposed to be watching with your mom—GASP.  If someone is literally 100% smiling and telling a joke every goddamn minute, they are trying to get you to like them.

  4. Cognitive Overload. They bombard you with facts, confusing sentences that SOUND intelligent but are really meant to hide the fact that they have no idea what they’re talking about. They will talk in circles, spout off random facts. If you find your self confused, understand that no one is grossly smarter than you. If you have no idea what someone is talking about, they might be purposely bombing you with info to trying and convince you they’re SO SMART you can’t keep up. It’s bullshit. Don’t let it fool you.

But the best way to tell if someone is lying their pants off is to…

Trust your gut. I don’t care who you are. You are biologically prepared to sense an untruth. If it feels like something is off—something is off.  That doesn’t mean you know what they’re lying about. But trust your gut (which is technically your subconscious). Even if it’s wrong here and there, it’s gonna come through for you when it matters. I’ve caught a few cheaters with this ol’ beer gut of mine (more on that another time).

And if you need just a little more advice on lying, be sure to consult someone well-versed in it.

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

—Adolf Hitler

Leave a comment if you think you’re a good liar!