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How to Tell if Someone's Lying: Tips, Tricks & Myth Busters

As we gear up for Season 2 of Imposters, we tapped a body language pro for tips on sniffing out a con.

By Morgan Ashley Parker
Watch the Official Dirty John Trailer

Season 2 of Imposters is upon us and we're just as curious as you are about what's going to happen with Maddie and all her different personas. As we can barely contain our excitement for the premiere on April 5, Personal Space caught up with body language expert Patti Wood to discuss ways to tell if someone's lying — and we're going to be watching this season through a whole new lens after our chat. 

Imposters: How to Tell if Someone's Lying

Oh, are you Debbie Doubtful? Let's just say we were pretty shocked to learn that some things we had held as truths about lies are actually more like myths or, at the very least, not always what they seem to be on the surface (much like the characters on this show).

One important thing the body language expert noted is, if someone is a professional liar or someone who built a life and career around lying, it's a much different scenario than the average everyday liar. "The typical everyday liar like you or me, we feel guilty when we lie and we fear being exposed," Wood explained. "So when you talk about 'tells,' how can you tell somebody's lying, the tells appear because somebody is guilty or afraid [and what's} showing is their guilt and/or fear."

With that in mind (and with the assumption that most of us out there are not professional liars), here are a few things to look for below, and even more in the video above.

Myth buster: Talking slowly means someone is lying.

It's not what someone says but how they say it.

"In reality, you go to the extreme of what you are," Wood explained. If the person you're investigating (ahem, speaking to) talks in a particular way in regular settings be it even-paced and soft-voiced or fast and animated, that's what you can consider his or her baseline, or the behavior you're looking for a variation off of. So, while someone who speaks slowly may pause longer and more often, someone who is typically animated, will start speaking louder and more quickly. 

Myth buster: Looking up and to the left means someone is lying.

It's not about what direction they look.

It's also important to watch the way the person looks in ordinary situations when asked a question to see what their baseline is for this. "It's called a brain processing cue. If I can watch that enough then I can say when they look to the right, it's when they're recalling and then when they look to left, they're creating," Wood said.

However, "if the person knows ahead of time they're going to be questioned, they can memorize the lie" as their truth, and will be looking in the direction of recall ... when they are actually simply recalling the lie.

Myth buster: Changing the subject is always obvious.

It's not always a dramatic pause or complete topical shift.

If you ask someone a question and they stop talking and get large eyes of shock, yea, you probably are on to something. However, there's a technique called bridging, and it is a sneaky way to redirect a conversation to answer a question you want to answer.

This is a trick many celebrities use in interviews — and you may notice it when you see they're asked one thing ... but they seem to somehow end up on a different topic before you even realized what happened. Think about it like this: Someone asks you what you did over the weekend and you don't want to lie but you also don't want to share. You can then say something like 'hey, you know that new movie that just came out, it's so great' and go into details of what the movie is about, all without ever really saying if you went. And, if you haven't even gone, the person probably won't stop you to ask 'oh so you went to see the movie?' They'll just assume it ... and your problem is solved.

Myth buster: People who frown are unhappy and hate you/their lives/everything in the world.

You know that saying 'resting b*tch face' ... well, there's actually more to it.

Everyone makes a certain face in what they would consider a neutral state ... and many people's faces are actually more scowly or negative than they may even realize.

You could be in a meeting and you think you're just making a regular ol' neutral face when your boss approaches you after the meeting to ask what's wrong. You're shocked that he may either actually be a psychic because you did completely disagree with what was said, or you think he's wise enough to know you'd be bothered by it. How you take it from there is up to you but think about it this way: Next time you are chatting with a friend on the phone and a topic that may be unpleasant comes up, or even a neutral one, stop and look at yourself in the mirror. You may be surprised to see a resting b*tch face staring back at you.

"In reality, a lot of times, it's their underlying real emotion that's showing and they don't think it's showing, "Wood explained about this phenomenon. "They'll say 'no, I'm not doing that' ... it could be that they grit their teeth or they keep their lips tightly shut. Or they had that furrowed brow."

Yup, we're going to be watching for this on Season 2 — and in our everyday lives, too. Friends you've all been warned.

Dirty John Season 1 premieres Sunday, Nov 20 at 10/9c. 

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