Decoding Body Language: 9 Clear Signs That Someone Is Lying

"The body can't lie," says Traci Brown, a body-language and persuasion expert. To determine if someone’s taking liberties with the truth, "make sure you're paying attention, or you will pay with pain," says Brown, a frequent speaker and body-language trainer represented by Goodman Speakers. The following are clear red flags:

1. Words and body language should match. In our culture, shaking one's head up and down means yes, and side to side means no. If someone is saying, "No, I didn't do it," but their head is shaking yes, they probably did it. "People subconsciously accent things with their heads all the time," says Brown — and the head is more trustworthy than the mouth.

Among examples of high-profile people responding to serious accusations while shaking their heads "yes": President Bill Clinton's denial of having had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky; JonBenét Ramsey's father saying he did not kill his daughter; cyclist Lance Armstrong insisting that he didn't use performance-enhancing drugs, and New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady claiming he didn't deflate a football.

2. Lips don't lie. Folding in one's lips before speaking is a red flag. "When people's lips disappear, they are holding back information. The next thing that comes out of their mouth is either a half-truth or a lie."

3. Be attuned to tone. Tone of voice is one of the best indicators of deception. A strong "convincing" tone often indicates deception, while a softer "conveying" tone can mean someone is telling a partial truth and not the whole story.

4. Big talkers. People who are most effusive in their denials or other untrue statements are among the most likely to be guilty. "The ones who are working really hard at looking like the good guy are the people we have got to be wary of," says Brown, who, as a former professional cyclist, counts Lance Armstrong -- and some current political figures -- among the culprits.

5. Notice the jitters. "If someone becomes fidgety, that can indicate deception.” Our feet give us away with the instinct to flee an uncomfortable situation, and when our brains tell us we can't do that, a little dancing in place might be the result.

6. Look for inconsistencies. People have typical patterns with respect to their baseline body language and manner of speaking. If someone’s body language is unusual for that person, take note.

7. The eyes have it. "When you see the whites of people's eyes, that means fear," says Brown. If someone's eyes dart around when they're asked a question -- shifting up, down and side-to-side -- they're fearful of giving an honest answer.

8. Yes or no isn't maybe. "I think so," "I don't recall" or "to the best of my knowledge" are suspect answers to any yes-or-no question.

9. Distrust a delay. "If someone waits more than five seconds to answer a question, that's a pretty good sign of deception.”
 
With careful observation, we can become adept at reading the nonverbal cues of a liar, according to Brown. "All politics aside, we have so much going on in the reality show that's running in Washington right now, you can practice just by watching the news."