Top Navigation

Three steps to spot the liars who want to do business with you

Three steps to spot the liars who want to do business with you

By Mihaela Stroe Ph.D., nonverbal intelligence specialist and business coach

Regional Director of Romania


Lying is a strategy often used in business communication. We all lie. In business, the reasons are numerous: to save our image or our company’s image, to maintain or break a business relationship, to influence a business partner, to avoid a conflict etc. In 2003, Aldert Vrij, one of the most fervent researchers in this field, discovered that we tell about three lies per hour. My intention for this article is to illustrate at least three ways that you can spot a liar who is trying do business with you, from over 40 years of research.

Deception and Lie

Deception and Lie

1. Ask unexpected or irrelevant questions. One of the golden rules when detecting lies is to ask questions, especially the unexpected ones. The questions are a stimulus that cause a certain behaviour, which may or may not be untrue. The role of the unexpected or irrelevant questions is to increase the liar’s cognitive load, putting them in situations they don’t like at all.

For example, ask: “For what reasons do you drink coffee?” Watch that person carefully and when he or she doesn’t expect it, ask another question that they are not prepared to answer (from another registry, “Do you have anything to say against drinking coffee?”). Usually people will spend more time thinking about how to provide answers that support their reasons, rather than fighting against them.

In both cases, pay attention to the nonverbal responses you trigger in people (such as their gaze, the position of their feet, their hands and shoulders, if they are sweating, signals of nervousness or other signs of internal stress). Usually liars will provide answers with fewer details to unexpected questions than those who tell the truth, due to the high cognitive load generated by their lies.

2. Observe changes in their basic behaviour. Basic behaviour is the way we act normally in any situation and is the “B” I talk about in my method “The ABC of Nonverbal Intelligence” (you can find out what the letters A, B and C mean by registering on the Nonverbal Academy site, When we first meet a person with whom we want to do business, we must establish his or her basic behaviour. We do this by mirroring their body language (adjusting your posture, movements, speech rate, keywords, etc. with those of your interlocutor).

The training for increasing nonverbal intelligence that I organise on my blog,, can successfully help you understand and practice the mirroring technique. This technique is very important because you can more easily see when changes appear in basic behaviour, which can reflect a change in the person’s feelings, actions and intentions. The element that triggers the change could be guilt! In order to observe it, you need real training; reading books or watching movies on TV is not enough!

3. Eye contact. The eyes are the window to the soul. In general, liars avoid eye contact because guilt can be reflected in their eyes. They have learned this and are prepared for these situations, by spending more time looking into your eyes. When you are dealing with a liar who wants to do business with you, pay attention to the following nonverbal cues, in the listed order:

a)    Did you notice narrowing eyes? There is a tendency to narrow the gaze when we see something we don’t like or that reminds us of similar situations in the past. It is the first visual indicator that something is wrong.

b)   Beware of pupil dilation! Liars’ pupils dilate often when they lie because their adrenaline level rises.

c)    Verify the blink rate. According to researchers, liars blink faster than a normal person because they need ventilation (i.e. fine movements of the eyes to reduce the emotional tension accumulated in the limbic brain). It’s an involuntary reaction that cannot be controlled, so we rely on it when we want to detect liars in business.

Apply the three indicators step by step. Detecting lies is hard work because the individuals who lie train intensively to hide their intentions. Therefore, you should join a training program to learn how to detect lies, led by a professional. Or, in important transactions, let yourself be guided by a specialist in lie detection.

Get ready, be one step ahead of them and you will save time, money and relationships!

Mihaela Stroe, PhD., is a sociologist, international trainer, speaker and author (check out her personal blog at

She created Nonverbal Magazine (you can visit and her own method of speed reading body language (called “The ABC of Nonverbal Intelligence”) which is available at

As a speaker, Mihaela delivers workshops and training about nonverbal intelligence applied in business, nonverbal influence and face to face persuasion, nonverbal leadership, productivity and work performance both in Romania and abroad.

One Response to Three steps to spot the liars who want to do business with you

  1. Sachchidanand October 1, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    Really, a nice article!

Leave a Reply