5 Signs That a Politician Is Lying

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on September 21, 2012.

“How can you tell when a politician is lying? When his [or her] lips move.” That’s a tired old saying, but the truth is, whether assessing a candidate or a loved one you fear is cheating, human beings are pretty lousy at detecting deception.

Politicians can be especially tricky to catch, since most of them have had so much practice at skating around the truth. Between spin doctors, speech writers, media consultants, PR managers, sycophants and their own often monumental egos, those who would dine at the public trough are trained to stay on message and exude confidence, sincerity and trustworthiness.

Perhaps more importantly, government officials develop a keen sense of what we, the citizenry, want to hear: We warm to positive messages and flinch from painful truths. And because so many of us are woefully ignorant about the details of the issues, we, like sheep, are easily led.

The best defense against a lie is knowledge. If your paramour insists that he was watching the Sunday game with his buds but you happened to catch a glimpse of him in the lobby of the boutique hotel where you’d just had brunch — well, there you go. But apart from firsthand knowledge — or other reliable evidence — are there verbal and nonverbal clues that can give a liar away?

Given President Donald Trump’s tendency to ignore the truth, being able to employ your own personal bullshit detector could be most helpful. After all, we can’t rely on the occurrence of those covetable “misspeaks” or “off-the-cuff remarks” that reveal precisely what a politician is thinking — and trying to conceal.

Lying is stressful and much more difficult than telling the truth. To be an effective liar requires that one rehearse and memorize detail rather than rely on memory. Because of the anxiety associated with lying and the perceived sense of the importance of the lie, liars will often give themselves away. This is especially true of politicians since their lives can be exhaustingly busy, and lies require energy and constant attention.

Experts tend to agree that none of the standard indicators is completely fool — or politician — proof. Some people are simply quite skilled at lying. Many signs, such as the fleeting facial tics known as “micro-expressions,” are extremely difficult for a layperson to distinguish.

When applying the following clues to uncover lies and liars, it’s good policy to temper hubris with modesty: Understand that you might get it wrong. But careful use of them might help you get it right.

1. Notice eye contact.

It’s a myth that liars won’t or can’t make eye contact. However, look for unnatural eye contact: Either the person is unable to maintain contact or s/he fixes you — or the camera — with a strained and aggressive stare.

2. Read body language.

Pay attention to such indicators as crossed arms or legs, slouching or tilting the head away. These subtle movements can give away the discomfort that accompanies lying.

3. Follow the eyes.

Many researchers posit that when the eyes look up and to the right — his or her right, not yours — this suggests that the part of the brain linked to the imagination is being triggered. Conversely, the eyes looking down and to the left might indicate the part of the brain linked to memory.

4. Look at the hands.

Often liars’ hands will speak eloquently of deception. Watch for clenched fists, covering the mouth or part of the face, rubbing the eyes and scratching on or behind the ear.

5. Pay attention to detail.

The person who offers too much detail — especially unasked — might be lying. Because the narrative of the lie is fabricated, the liar can often be tripped up by inconsistencies in the story, particularly if the same questions are repeated after some time has passed.

Politicians’ lips always move, and it’s not always lies that emanate. To truly become a lie detector, you need to arm yourself with information and intuition. You just might notice someone’s pants on fire.

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr


Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Daniel N
Past Member 8 months ago

thanks for this

bob P
bob p9 months ago

Thank you

Georgina M
Georgina Elizab M12 months ago


Leanne K
Leanne K12 months ago

Lying is unnatural to a normal person. Personality disordered, B complex, vertical thinkers lie compulsively. They tell the most outrageous lies and make them believable

Peggy B
Peggy B12 months ago

Their lips are moving.

Chad A
Chad Anderson12 months ago

Thank you.

Latoya B
Latoya Brookins12 months ago

Why can't we have nice things? Tv land has so many good cops, judges, & politicians.

Toni W
Toni W12 months ago


Toni W
Toni W12 months ago