Is your partner lying? Let the CIA help you find out


Are you tired of your partner vanishing for hours with no valid excuse upon his or her return? Experts believe people who are lying behave in trackable ways. Here are four tell tale signs of a fibber.

1. Look for nasal engorgement and itching.

When a person lies, specific tissues in the nose usually engorge, says Dr. Alan Hirsch of The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. This nasal engorgement, which Hirsch calls the “Pinocchio Sign,” causes cells to release histamine, which in turn causes the nose to itch.

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2. Notice negation and aversion cues.

 Look for negation cues, such as covering or blocking the mouth and covering or rubbing the eyes, nose or ears, and aversion clues, such as turning the head or body away when making a crucial statement.

3. Beware of religious rhetoric.

Religious phrases like “I swear on my mother’s grave,” “God, no,” or “as God is my witness” are ironic red flags.

4. Call out the denial phrases.

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Denial phrases including “trust me,” “honestly,” and “to be perfectly honest” are evasive. Evasion is about trying to change a perception, and these phrases repeated over and over again are typical clues to lying.

Phil Houston, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer and CEO of QVerity, takes it one step further in his book Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All. In it, he explains how you can persuade people — even a partner with something to hide — to tell you anything. Here are four steps to take to follow his expert love advice:

1. Make a transition statement.

First, let them know that the lie isn’t working. For example, we might say, “Honey, listen, I’ve got to tell you. I’ve got some problems with what you were saying about our credit card statement.” Deliver it in a low-key manner without making it adversarial to help keep them calm.

2. Stop them from talking.

Behaviorists explain to us that, every time you verbalize the lie, you become more psychologically entrenched in it. So step two is to start talking and give them reasons to tell you what’s really going on.

3. Lower their defenses.

Rationalize or minimize the problem so the risks of telling the truth seem smaller. “Hey, listen,” we might say. “Everybody has trouble with their credit card statements.” We can do it by monologuing as well, which means we are basically trying to tell the person lying that they can still win.

4. Switch to a presumptive question.

After we lower their defenses, we should switch into a presumptive question, like, “What did you really do with the credit card?”

If you want to find out even more about Houston’s method, check out the book on Amazon. I’m going to try the technique out on my teenagers and see what really happened to my last pair of work shoes!


A version of this article was originally published by 


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