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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Lies: 6 Tips to Detect Deception


We all have told a lie at some point in our lives, whether directly or by omission. Unfortunately, it is safe to say everyone has been a victim of a lie, some known or unknown. Every relationship we have during and throughout our lifetime can fall victim to lies. Whether we are told a lie by a spouse/romantic partner, we feign illness to get out of work, provided misleading information to serve our own purpose, a lie is still a lie. Telling a lie can be damaging to both the individual that tells the lie as well as the person being lied to.

If you’ve ever been lied to, you know how difficult it can be to trust that person again, trust your own instincts, or your decision-making ability. Many people that are lied to struggle with understanding “how they had missed the signs”, how they could have been so “naïve”, etc. Persons that lie often struggle with maintaining the lie/deception as they typically have to tell another lie to cover up the previous lie.

It is not uncommon for some people to place a value on the type of lie being told, i.e., a little white lie, harmless lie, a “fib”, etc. Unfortunately, some people believe white lies are harmless, concocted to protect the feelings of another person, or “not a big deal”. This type of thinking can be destabilizing as it makes it “ok” to lie or mislead another person. Individuals that exhibit a pattern of lying or feel compelled to lie about both the small and large stuff has a problem. Person’s that lie consistently are often referred to as pathological liars (which is a description, not a diagnosis).  They lie to protect themselves their own image, gain financially or socially and avoid punishment.  

A much more unsettling group of people are those that lie a lot — consciously — for personal gain. Person’s that lie often may have a personality disorder, specifically, antisocial personality disorder, making it much more likely for them to have issues with the law.  Unfortunately, like all negative behaviors that are allowed to continue without modification, they become reinforced over time, most becoming more pronounced. When you get away with a lie it often impels you to continue your deceptions. Also, liars often find themselves perpetrating more untruths to cover themselves.

Lying interferes with our ability to trust, and maintain a relationship. When a person lies, they have broken a bond – an unspoken agreement to treat others as we would like to be treated. The issues most people have with lies are really not about the lie itself, but the deception and the breakdown of trust. Because the issue of trust is on the line, coming clean about the lie as soon as possible is the best way to mend fences.  If the truth only comes out once it is forced, repair of trust is far less likely.

Although, there is no foolproof way to tell if someone is being dishonest there are a few clues that can be used to detect deception.

Tips That Can be used To Detect Deception Include:

·         Repeated changes in story

·         Failure to maintain or avoidance of eye contact

·         Changes in pitch and tone of voice

·         Discrepancy between spoken language and body language

·         Unusual reactions to questioning

·         Providing explanations that are not plausible

If you lie all the time, even about unimportant things, you are likely to have a problem that will eventually — if it hasn’t already — cause you real relationship, financial or legal troubles. Figuring out what is motivating you to lie can help you both address and stop this self-destructive behavior. Unfortunately, when the other person finds out about your lying, and they usually do, it’s nearly impossible to regain trust. Lying creates a vicious cycle that requires reinforcement, additional lies to cover up the first lie, making it nearly impossible to free yourself from the deception. Lies can cause emotional and psychological distress to the person being lied to as well as the liar. If you find you have difficulty expressing yourself without embellishing or lying you may need to discuss these issues with a professional. This may mean going into treatment with a therapist to discover why you feel the need to engage in deceptive language and behaviors.

Lies: 6 Tips to Detect Deception

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2017). Lies: 6 Tips to Detect Deception. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jan 2017
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