How to spot a liar

Who better than an ex Secret Service interrogator to teach you the tell-tale signs of a fibber?

How to spot a liar

Interrogators know that most communication doesn’t come from our words but rather from the subtleties of our body language. Former US Secret Service special agent and interrogator, Evy Poumpouras explains to Cosmo how you should listen with more than your ears…

Eye contact

Normal: Happy, engaged people maintain good eye contact throughout the majority of the conversation although the occasional break is perfectly normal.

Not: A lack of eye contact implies everything else is more interesting than you. Deceptive people may avoid looking at you… or overdo it so much they end up staring.


Normal: When people really want to talk to you, very few things will distract them from you. They might be momentarily torn away, but 99 per cent of their focus is on you.

Not: Uncomfortable or nervous people find distractions to occupy their mind or ease stress. They may pick lint off their clothes, play with their hair, fidget, or check their phone.

Facial Expressions

Normal: When people tell a story, their features should match their emotions they are describing, collectively giving off the signal of a genuine laugh, smile or gasp.

Not: People who aren’t interested in you may seem overly polite or fake: Their smile won’t engage their eyes. Liars may be dramatic by smiling or laughing at odd times.


Normal: When people are truly engaged in conversation with you, they will sit upright, face you directly, and lean in from time to time to close the gap between you.

Not: People who slouch, lean back or turn to one side may be bored or trying to avoid the topic. Crossing of arms or legs sends a similar signal. It’s a way of closing oneself off or creating a barrier.


Normal: When people want to pull you into what they are saying, they will be animated, using their hands and body as illustrators as though they were reliving the event they are describing.

Not: Not using any gestures may mean that someone is not interested in sharing their story with you. Or it might be a lie – it’s tough for people to use the hands and body as illustrators when they aren’t reliving events.

What he’s really telling you

He says: “Before I forget to tell you…”

He actually means: He’s trying to soften the impact of what he’s about to tell you, as he knows you may get upset. So he makes it seem unimportant by implying it just popped into his head.

He says: “To be totally honest…”

He actually means: He’s not been completely honest with you until this point in the conversation, but what he’s about to say will be the truth.

He says: “I don’t want to hurt you, but…”

He actually means: He knows what he’s about to say will hurt you, so he’s trying to lessen the guilt he’s going to feel in telling you. It’s more about him than you.

He says: “Do you know what I mean?”

He actually means: He’s not 100 per cent confident in what he’s saying and is looking for your approval.

He says: “I only had two beers.”

He actually means: He’s using the word only to downplay the fact that he drank a lot more than he’s willing to admit.