7 Useful Tips on How to Spot a Pathological Liar ...

I believe it’s extremely important to learn how to spot a pathological liar. Pathological lying is also known as compulsive, chronic or habitual lying; it is not itself a diagnosable mental illness even though it often correlates with an impressive number of mental disorders. Pathological liars are actually addicted to lying and a lot of studies have shown that most of them do that because they seek attention. Compulsive liars often tell unbelievable stories, they often exaggerate and sometimes they might even paint themselves in the light of victimhood just to gain some attention. A lot of studies also show that people with a low self-esteem are more likely to lie in a compulsive way in order to make themselves feel better about how they look, about what they have in life and about their accomplishments. Being lied to on a regular basis can be pretty frustrating, since you feel disrespected and deceived. Here are a few useful tips on how to spot a pathological liar:

1. Understand What a Pathological Liar is

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If you want to learn how to spot a pathological liar, first understand what a pathological liar is. Dr Bharat Shah, psychiatrist, says that “Like an addiction to anything more tactile, such as drugs or alcohol, gambling or sex — compulsive liars feel pleasure upon the stating and completion of a lie,” and “Telling the truth is not half as much fun and can actually affect them with ‘withdrawal symptoms’.”. Compulsive liars often find the truth almost physically uncomfortable for them and most pathological liars would even tell stories that are self-incriminating just to seek attention.

2. Establish a “Truth Baseline”

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Another thing you should do if you want to spot a pathological liar is to observe them and their behavior under relaxed or stress-free conditions to see if you can detect meaningful deviations. You could try to ask them a series of simple questions and simply observe how they behave when they have no reason to lie. Then just pay attention to the changes in their behavior that may indicate that they are lying.

3. Watch for Stress Signals

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Usually it’s pretty hard to spot a pathological liar, since they act in a very natural way when they are lying, yet, they still feel a little stressed. Pay attention to certain stress signals to see if you notice any pacifying gestures (like rubbing their hands together or fidgeting with jewelry), if they have a forced or a frozen smile and also, see if you can spot any unusual breaks in their gestures (since our first response to stress is to freeze).

4. Look at Their Eyes

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If you suspect someone to be a pathological liar, then pay close attention to their eyes. There is a very popular myth that says that when a person tells a lie, they can’t look you in the eyes. Well, this may be true for some inexperienced liars (small children for example) but studies show that pathological liars actually give too much eye contact, since they are trying extremely hard to convince you.The most accurate eye signals that indicate a person is lying to you is the fact that their pupils dilate when they tell a lie and that their blink rate is slowing down when they construct and tell a lie and then it speeds up.

5. Look for Contradictions

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A compulsive liar tends to lie so much that over time that their lies will begin to clash with the other things that they’ve told you. Compare stories with mutual friends of both you and the person you suspect of being a compulsive liar and see if you notice that certain details have changed. Also, when asked something, most liars will avoid the truth by answering with other questions and by using quasi-denials.

6. Pay Attention to Their Voice

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Experts say that someone’s basic vocal pitch rises under stress conditions because their vocal cords constrict. Carol Kinsey Goman says that “Under stress, people may also experience an increased need to drink water and to lick or moisten lips, as the autonomic nervous system downloads a rush of adrenaline, causing a dry mouth.”

7. The Telltale Four

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A group of actions, gestures or movements can indicate if someone is feeling in a certain way or if they are hiding something from you. A lot of studies have shown that a specific cluster of nonverbal signals “has been proven statistically to accompany dishonesty”. According to David DeSteno, researcher at Northeastern University, there are four signs (hand touching, face touching, crossed arms, and leaning away) called “the Telltale Four” that indicate that a person may be deceitful and when all these four signs are displayed together, you’d better watch out.

It’s not easy to spot a pathological liar, but if you pay enough attention, you will notice certain signs that might indicate you if your instinct is right or wrong. Have you ever dealt with a pathological liar? How did you do it? Do you know any other useful tips on how to spot a pathological liar that you could share with us? Do tell!


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