Are you able to tell when someone is being honest with you?Are you able to tell when someone is being honest with you?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What an interesting question.

Some people will tell you that there are telltale signs when someone is lying. Allegedly, people shift their eyes in one direction or another, rather that using eye contact. I think this may be the case in some situations, but really good liars know all the tricks.

Sometimes instinct plays a role in measuring someone's honesty, but for people like me, I don't know that my "gut" feelings are accurate because "I want to believe" the best of everyone.

I don't believe there are ways to be certain all the time, but I think there are some good practices we can adopt to try to protect ourselves from those who are less than forthcoming.

First, I always try to exercise caution. If you become someone's friend, be careful what you share. The idea of "best friends" is nice, until there is a falling out: if you have spilled your guts to that person, he/she knows all that is necessary to hurt you if that is his/her intent.

My mother always says that if you are lucky, you can could your true and close friends in your life, on one hand. This won't apply to everyone, but I keep this in mind before I open my mouth. I have had someone lie to my face about something extremely important; the intent seemed genuine, but I also wanted to believe: biggest betrayal I ever experienced, but a great life lesson too.

Lastly, look at a person's track record. Look at how he/she treats other friends, former friend, parents, siblings and spouse. You cannot, certainly, believe everything you hear, especially from someone with a grudge from the past, or someone eaten away by jealousy who won't give you accurate feedback. However, I think that people tend to act the same way with everyone, and sometimes watching is a good idea. "What you do speaks so loud I can't hear what you're saying." And if people, several, are warning you, at least listen.

And if you're looking for a casual friendship and don't need to share your secrets, being friends with someone not completely honest may not hurt you (though it will get complicated), but I would never enter into a romantic or business relationship with someone you cannot fully trust; trust is the most important element in a positive, functional relationship of any kind.

This is one of life's toughest challenges.  A lot of us do what to believe what others tell us, especially the good stuff. I cannot always tell if someone is being honest with me, so I tend to keep my mouth closed, don't share other people's secrets, and wait and see.

Great question!

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm usually pretty keen at detecting lies.  Proving it, however, is often another story.  I would credit my lie-detecting ability to two things.  The first is the way I build relationships and the kind of relationships I have with people.  It is always easier (and usually more immediate) to detect lies with people I'm close to.  This is obvious.  I do not tend to create surface relationships with people, even people I've only met a few times.  I feel like I have a pretty good sense of when people are being "fake" with me.  Detecting lies in my students comes often from the relationships I have with other students and previous experiences.  Knowing who the kids in my classroom are, what they like, what they do, the things they talk about and how they talk, are all indicators of when they are (or aren't) being honest.

The second thing I credit my lie-detection to is my own ability to lie.  I almost hate admitting this, but I am a really good liar.  I always have been.  Most of the time I lie in the name of entertainment--story telling--as it is part of my sense of humor.  Because of how often I've done this (and kept a straight face), I can usually tell when other people are doing it.  It is almost like a connection I have to other similarly-minded people.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to your question is "yes".

Military intelligence agencies, police officers, social workers, psychologists, and even teachers have received some form of training that would alert them of dishonest practices from their clients, or from specific groups.

Since the most natural and easiest way out of a conundrum is to trust it wholly, we have a tendency to always believe what is told to us. However, in some professions this is not an option because, just as there are experts in the field of lie-detection, there are also MASTERS of manipulation and deception.

The way we use our eyes is one way of knowing. They say that two sides of our brains operate differently when it comes to cognition and memory. Hence, the way we turn our eyes to retrieve information is different than the way we turn it to make it up.

Also, during interrogation techniques police officers tend to ask the same question from a diversity of angles. If you are telling the truth, all angles are covered, When you aren't you will miss the beat and rhythm of the question and answer process.

In the field of psychology there are a myriad of different sub-branches in counter-intelligence that operate for this very purpose. Check them out online, they are very interesting.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question sounds more like it belongs in the psychology group because many theories have been advanced regarding such human behavior. There are documented physiological changes that occur when people are lying - they fidget, they don't look you in the eye, they sometimes sweat, their heart rates increase. Such things, and others, show up on lie detector tests, but in normal human contact, it is often easy to discern when people are not being honest. Some psychologists claim that the younger the person, the less experience he or she has at lying, and the easier it is to discern. As we grow older, we become more experienced at  lying and we get better at it, sadly. Sometimes this rises to the level of pathology. Pathological liars believe their lies on some level, so it is really hard to tell that they are lying unless one is well-acquainted with the person and recognizes the patterns. This is a very complicated area, but you can read the information at the link below for a good start. There are some good references listed here as well.

As a teacher, I think it is usually pretty easy to tell when teens are lying, although I have run across a few pathological liars in my day. Most of the excuses we listen to are ones we have heard zillions of times before.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think that it is possible to know for sure if someone is being honest.  Sure, if you're highly trained, as in Post #3's examples, you probably have a much better chance of telling if someone is lying.  On the other hand, even those people surely run up against people who are skilled in lying.  They may run up against people who have been trained in how to not show they're lying.

As for me personally, no, I can't tell for sure if someone is lying to me.  Students do come up with excuses that seem like lies, but I have had experiences when I thought for sure a student was lying and they weren't.  So I don't rate my abilities that highly in this area.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I honestly can't tell unless it is something that is extremely unlikely, bizarre, and off the wall. But in everyday situations and everyday teaching situations, I cannot always tell when someone, even a young student is lying.

If I could my job would be a million times easier. I do believe that even the most experienced teachers, psychologists, police officers, detectives etc still cannot tell unless they already have some type of history or evidence to refer to.

Even parents have a hard time telling when their own kids are lying, so do spouses.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing that is good practice is to try not to blink after you ask a question because in that first split second you may see the truth in the eyes of the person before he or she has completed the idea of  how to dissemble to you.  And listen to how this person talks to others.  However, as others have mentioned, some people are very, very glib; consequently, they are difficult, if not impossible, to identity in their lack of veracity.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, there are cues you can use.  When a person is lying, the person often either seems to be making an extra effort to look you in the eye or avoids looking at you.  However, there are many habitually dishonest people who have gotten so good at it that you cannot tell.  For example, many people can even beat a lie detector tests.  So the long answer is that yes, you can sometimes tell, but not always.

elfgirl | Student

"There is no art to tell the mind's construction in the face" - W. Shakespeare

kathy09 | Student

You dont know if someones being honest,you just have to believe that they are and have faith that they are not lieng.Sometimes,occuring to other people,they have little habits that they do.Their eyes might twitch or they may blink a certain amount of times or maybe stumble over their words.But you might just have to catch on and see if the story is matching with the liar,or the truthful one.