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How to Spot a Pathological Liar

Nancy Patterson - September 13, 2019

How to Spot a Pathological Liar

“Here we go again, I doubt this story Jim is telling is actually true”

Have you ever had that thought about a friend, coworker, or acquaintance? Surely at least once in your life, you have met someone who tells a lot of lies. Does your friend enjoy embellishing stories? Do you often feel like they are dishonest? They might be a pathological liar.

The opening few paragraphs of this post will be about spotting a liar in general, which is always a good characteristic to possess. We will inform you of what to look for, and how to spot exactly what a liar will do while they are telling a fib. The second part of this post will be about a pathological liar. It will explain how to spot one, what they are thinking, and ways you can help.

What does their body say?

Body language can tell you more truth about a person than their mouth ever will. Have you ever heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words?” That’s because you can say whatever you want, but people react to what you do, and not necessarily what you say.

First off, liars hate eye contact. Eye contact is one of the keys to communication. Keeping eye contact almost makes the conversation more personal and caring. Someone telling a lie almost always avoids eye contact or looks away. If it is difficult for someone to look you in the eyes and converse, it might be a good idea to pay attention to the rest of their body language and exactly what they are saying, because it might not be true.

They might also just glance away at a key time in the conversation. When it culminates to the actual lie, they might break eye contact right at that key time.

Next, watch their hands. There are a couple of things that liars will often do when telling a fib. Someone being deceiving will often gesture after they make a statement. Their gestures will seem a bit late because their mind is calculating so much information with the statement they make. Liars also normally have their palms facing away from the person they are talking to when they gesture. According to Traci Brown, a financial fraud detector, says that this unconscious movement is because they are holding something back.

Thirdly, pay attention to random body movements. Sometimes a liar will cock their head to the side or constantly fidget because they are uncomfortable. Body movements don’t just happen randomly unless the person has some sort of disease. Odds are they are completely fine, but they aren’t being honest with you. Posture can also be evidence of a liar. If someone is slouching or looks completely uninterested in the conversation, they could be lying. This isn’t guaranteed though. Some people just have bad posture!

Also, be sure to watch their face. Sweating is a common problem for many of us, however, what do they do when they are sweating? If they are constantly moving to wipe sweat, it shows that they are anxious. It might be that they are lying, or it could just mean it’s a very warm afternoon.

Tone of Voice

Someone that is lying will often fluctuate their voice. Remember, they want you to believe what they are saying. Often, they will get defensive if you don’t seem to buy into what they are saying. Normally when we as humans get defensive, we raise the volume or the pitch of our voice. It shows that we really care about what we are saying.

But How Do We Know?

The question here isn’t whether you can spot a liar, it’s how to spot a pathological liar. This is a much more difficult task, and we have to start with the definition of the term.

The term “pathological liar” is best defined as “a person who lies compulsively usually for no external gain or benefit and often with detrimental consequences.” Under this definition, we are looking for people that lie because it is in their nature, and they don’t really know how to stop. We can meet pathological liars in all walks of life, but when we’ve caught someone in a lie, how do we know that they are pathologically a liar?

Refusal to Come Clean

Often pathological liars will not come clean from their lies. They have woven very intricate webs around them that could be intentional or accidental. When confronted with these lies, the liar will almost always deny them to the accusers face. It is slightly comical that when confronted with lies, the pathological liar will turn around and lie about them. But, people that are pathological liars need help, and it definitely isn’t a laughing matter.

When you catch someone in a lie, and they refuse to come clean even if all of the evidence is against them, they are probably a pathological liar. It is important to try to help this person see the hurt and problems that they have caused through lying, and help them see how truth can amend situations. They have to deal with the consequences, but it can be helpful to have a friend to talk to and walk them through the healing process.

Are They Manipulative?

A pathological liar almost always tries to control the situation through their lies. Deceit is just one way that they try to manipulate people, situations, and anything they find themselves involved in. If you notice someone who lies, and they are also extremely manipulative, they are probably a pathological liar.

Manipulative people can be tough to do anything with because they always have the desire to be in control. If you couple that with the “willingness to say anything” mindset that a pathological liar possesses, you can be confronted with a dangerous person. This person probably needs help, so be willing to encourage and direct where they will allow.

Do They Dodge Questions?

If you doubt what someone is saying, just ask a question. It’s as simple as that. If you accuse them of something, you might never know if they are telling the truth. An ancient proverb states “an accusation hardens the heart but a question stirs the conscience.” If you just ask a simple question about their story, the response will probably tell you everything you need to know about the person’s honesty.

Do they get defensive? Do they dodge the question entirely? These are probably signs that part of the story isn’t true if not all of it. If they give you a bland answer, keep questioning. Be kind in your questions. If someone feels like you genuinely want to know about what they are saying, they are going to be more honest with you. Dodging questions can be a big sign of a pathological liar.

How are Their Relationships?

Pathological liars will greatly struggle in relationships. This is because they have woven so many various lies around them, that they forget where and when they have lied. They don’t remember what they said to anyone specific individual which causes them to be cautious with everyone. Often, their relationships with people seem fragile and extremely unstable. These people need friendships and help. If you think someone in your life might be a pathological liar, you can read over a short “test” at this link here https://www.promises.com/blog/pathological-liar-test/

Lying greatly affects relationships. So it is a great way to test someone’s validity if they are a pathological liar or not. If everyone they love struggles to believe them, you almost definitely have a pathological liar on your hands.

They Have Self-Esteem Issues

It is important to remember and note that a pathological liar doesn’t really lie because there is gain in the situation. They just do it because they are used to it, or it is a spur of the moment thing. One of the biggest struggles a liar has are self-esteem issues.

A liar will often lie to make themselves look better, or to gain favor with the individual with which they are conversing. Sometimes pathological liars even struggle with believing their own lies.

Maybe they have told themselves and others lie about the past so many times that it becomes ingrained in their brains as a factual truth about their previous endeavors. It is always telling how people present themselves, and liars tend to present themselves in a very positive light. This is because they have such low self-esteem. They don’t think of their character in a good way, and because of these thoughts, they end up believing that they are bad.

With the self-esteem issues come the desire to make themselves seem better than they actually are, hence the lying. This can happen non-stop in order to make them feel good about themselves. It is one of the easiest ways to spot a pathological liar.

Are They Easily Afraid?

A person with low self-esteem issues is probably pretty fearful as well. These “worrier” types can have the view that everyone is out to get them. Because of this “fear” that overwhelms them, they often tell lies because they are afraid of what the truth actually holds for them.

The pathological liar will live with one specific fear on a daily basis: the fear of being found out. As we already mentioned, there are so many deceits and webs of deception that they have woven, it is extremely difficult for them to keep up the act. They recognize that any given day, someone could figure out the truth of their falsehoods. Most pathological liars have defined large parts of their lives in a false context. Going back and fixing those mistakes seems almost impossible, and because of that, it breeds fear.

How to Help a Pathological Liar

Someone who struggles with being a pathological liar can really hurt those around them, and any relationships that they build in the process. So what can you do to help? Maybe you have a parent, coworker, or loved one that you have recognized is a pathological liar. What steps can you take to helping them live a better life?

  • Push them towards treatment for lying. This treatment is called CBT (cognitive brain treatment) and can help them be honest in the future.
  • Before treatment, you are really going to have to convince them that it will help. If they go into it with the idea that they can never change, it won’t work as it should.
  • Keep them accountable. It might be helpful to just ask every once in a while “hey how are you doing with honesty and telling the truth.”
  • Go to therapy sessions with them. View yourself as their support group, and challenge them to better themselves on a regular basis.

To Wrap Things Up

You might feel like you already know how to spot a liar, or you learned how to spot one from the different signs that we discussed. The little tips and tricks can be quite fun to try out on your friends and are even kind of just simple common sense ideas. Spotting a liar isn’t all that difficult.

However, spotting a pathological liar is even more difficult, and helping them overcome this problem is the toughest part of the whole situation.

If you are trying to “prove a liar wrong” it probably won’t be in their best interest. Be helpful and kind while promoting honesty and truth when you talk to someone that you believe is lying.

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