Your clients are liars. Yes, all of them.

Of course, so are your listing agents, your managing broker, buyers agents, lawyers, lenders, administrative assistants, your coworkers and well, you and your entire family. Liars, all of them.

While we may lie for good reasons (Yes honey, Santa Claus is real!), that doesn’t change the fact that there is often a disconnect between what we say and what we want.

While this may not be a huge deal when it comes to santa claus or the tooth fairy, when you’re trying to land a listing or close a deal, figuring out who’s lying can be crucial information.

Today, we’re going to walk you through what former FBI hostage negotiators, interrogators and psychologists have to say about spotting liars.

1. People Are More Likely to Give Signs They Are Lying if They’re Comfortable

Joe Navarro, Former FBI Counterintelligence Agent

It may seem counterintuitive, but when people let their guards down they very often make it easier to spot when they’re lying.

“The more comfortable a person is when speaking with us, the easier it will be to detect the critical nonverbals of discomfort associated with deception. Your goal is to establish high comfort during the early part of any interaction or during “rapport building.” This helps you to establish a baseline of behaviors during that period when the person, hopefully, does not feel threatened.”

Joe Navarro

Joe Navarro, Former FBI Counterintelligence Agent

The idea is to see what someone is like when they’re relaxed to get a “benchmark” of their body language, verbal style, and tone of voice when they are at ease. This makes it much, much easier to see what questions produce behavior that is not normal for them.

2. Body Language & Tone of Voice Matter More Than What Someone Says

Former FBI hostage Negotiator Chris Voss (via CNBC)

Working as a hostage negotiator for the FBI forced Chris Voss to figure out who was lying rather quickly. After all, lives literally depended on his assessment and negotiation skills.

One of his key methods to spot liars was to look for differences between what someone was saying, and how they actually said it.

Here’s Chris:

“Only 7 percent of a message is based on the words, while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face…Body language and tone of voice — not words — are our most powerful assessment tools.”

headshot of negotiation expert Chris Voss

Chris Voss, Former FBI hostage Negotiator

Reading body language is pretty straightforward. Crossed arms, clenched fists, and lack of eye contact can all give away what someone is thinking.

Here’s a quick list from Voss on what body language cues might indicate your client isn’t telling you the truth:

  1. Lip compression
  2. Ventilating behaviors
  3. Neck touching
  4. Turning their body away
  5. Eye touching
  6. Lowering or hiding the thumbs

Via Forbes

3. Look for Long Delays in Answering Questions

Here’s another tip from Dr Julie Gurner who is a licensed psychologist:

“Lying usually takes more effort than telling the truth, so sometimes you’ll see signs like a long delay after what seems to be an easy-to-answer question, or too much thinking for what should be an easy response.”

julie gurner

Dr. Julie Gurner

It’s important to remember that complex questions or questions that put people on the spot might get you the same delayed response. That said, waffling or long pauses for simple questions can be a red flag that someone is not telling the truth.

4. Liars Use Language to Obscure the Truth

Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting

Pamela Meyer-7 Tricks to Tell When Your Clients are Lying to You

While body language and tone can tell you a lot about someone’s candor, studies have shown that liars use language to obscure the truth as well.

Here are ten easy to spot red flags from Pamela Meyer, Author Liespotting:

  1. Liars will repeat a question verbatim
  2. Liars will take a guarded tone
  3. Liars won’t use contractions in their denials
  4. Liars tell stories in strict chronology
  5. Liars love euphemisms
  6. Liars overemphasize their truthfulness
  7. Liars avoid or confuse pronouns
  8. Liars use long introductions but skip over main events
  9. Liars give very specific denials
  10. Liars hedge their statements

To learn more about about these ten language tells, check out this post on Pamela’s blog liespotting.

Or, if you have a few minutes to spare, her TED talk is another excellent primer on becoming an expert liespotter:

5. Extroverts Lie More Than Introverts

Studies show that extroverts lie more than introverts. This may seem like common sense, to some people. After all, extroverts generally talk to more people so they have more opportunities to lie.

However, the study found that even when you disregard the number of people extroverts and introverts talk to, extroverts still lie more.

Bella DePaulo Ph.D.

Bella DePaulo Ph.D.

In order to address this issue, scientists looked at the rates of lying. In other words, the number of lies they told relative to the number of opportunities they had to lie.

Though the difference wasn’t huge, extroverts lied at a higher rate than introverts.

Of course that doesn’t mean introverts are honest and extroverts are liars, but taken with the other red flags in this article, it might give you another piece of the puzzle.

Want to learn more about personality types, and the different types of lies men and women tell? Check out Bella’s fascinating article on Psychology Today.

6. Liars Are Often More Eager to Convince People They Are Telling the Truth

Former FBI hostage Negotiator Chris Voss (via CNBC)

One of the more common bits of advice people give to find a liar is to look out for long winded defenses, or repetition of details.

Here’s Voss again:

“Also, liars want to convince rather than just convey as most honest people do. So sometimes they will repeat things multiple times to make sure they are believed. Their spoken words become weak in the beginning of a statement or at the end.”

headshot of negotiation expert Chris Voss

Chris Voss, Former FBI hostage Negotiator

When someone is telling you the truth, they are often empathic at the beginning, middle and end of their statement.

Here’s two examples of what a FSBO lead might say when you ask them if they’ve had a lot of interest in their listing:

“NO. We only had a handful of people view our listing.”


“Well, yup, we’ve been really, really, really busy. We’ve have had more than 50 calls and our open houses were always packed. I have so many emails here in my inbox that it’s hard to keep up with them. Most people say that the price isn’t the issue you see, but sure, there are a ton of people coming by, we think it might be the season…”

7. Understand That Lie Detection is NOT Easy

7 Tricks to Tell When Your Clients are Lying to You

If there’s one thing that every lie detection expert agrees on, it’s that figuring out if someone is lying is hard. Even though they offer tips for sussing out liars, they all caution that even in a best case scenario, you will see mixed results at best.

However, the more people you talk to and the more negotiation skills you build, the easier time you will have discovering lies.

Like any skill worth having, detecting lies effectively will take time. There’s no quick shortcut to success.

Over to You

What tells have you noticed in your career to spot a liar? Let us know in the comments.

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