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Telltale Signs Someone is Lying to You in Text or Email

Last updated on Tuesday, August 4, 2020

There are a lot of methods for how to tell if someone is lying. We’ll typically notice someone’s body language being off, or perhaps there are some dead giveaways in their voice. But how many other lies are we encountering on a daily basis?

Much of our communications have moved to a “remote” platform; that is, we’re typically having more conversations via text, email, chat, and other forms of electronic correspondence. While these are convenient, they also put up a wall that makes it difficult to spot the usual signs someone is lying.

But is there a method for how to tell if someone is lying, even if we’re not confronting them face-to-face?

I’m here to answer that question. But first, let me tell you why that question matters.

One reason – lying is disruptive. To life, plans, trust, and relationships.

Interacting with someone who consistently lies creates: 

  • An ongoing lack of trust. 
  • Anger and resentment if a person feels duped. 
  • An unsteady environment, leading to people making the wrong decisions because they were uniformed decisions/   

Spotting the moment a person lying to you helps you establish a more honest relationships and prevent a disaster or downfall from happening due to being falsely informed — which is a nice way of saying lied to. 

Read on to get a deeper look into how to tell if someone is lying to you over a text, email, or other written correspondence.

The Prevalence of Lying

Before I get into how to tell if someone is lying in an email or text, let’s take a look at some general statistics about the prevalence of lying. How many lies are occurring on a typical day, and where are they coming from?

One study found a positive correlation between a person’s confidence in their lying ability and the number of lies they told on a daily basis. That same study also noted that a mere 5% of respondents were responsible for over 50% of the total number of reported lies.

Clearly, the majority of lies are coming from repeat offenders, but that doesn’t mean that we’re all not (at least a little) guilty of telling a lie from time to time. In fact, most people tell an average of 2 lies per day, with higher figures occurring in teens and adolescents.

The majority of people consider themselves honest, or at least say that they dislike telling lies. That doesn’t mean, though, that we’re not all encountering at least a couple of lies every day.

How to Tell if Someone is Lying Through Text

The typical signs someone is lying are physical: shifting eyes, stumbling over words, telltale facial expressions, and the like. However, if you want to know how to tell if someone is lying through text, you’ll need to know how to read between the lines.

Being Purposefully Vague

If the person you’re corresponding with seems to have trouble committing to a solid story, then this could be a sign that they’re not being truthful.

“Lying by omission” refers to telling a half-truth that leaves out specific incriminating details. For example, they might say “I went home after work last night” when really they meant “I went home after work last night, THEN went back out to the bar.” No lie here, but still dishonest all the same.

Spotting a Lie in Text

Often, when we tell a lie, we’re feeling apprehensive about what we’re going to say. After all, we’ve got to get our story straight, right? This can translate to longer response times when you’re trying to have a conversation.

When someone isn’t being truthful, they could be taking a lot longer than normal to answer your message. This is actually a big determining factor that lets us know how to tell if someone is lying in a text, chat, or other type of instant message. I won’t say it applies to e-mail as much, but make your own judgments there.

If your messaging platform features the ellipses (…) that lets you know when the other person is typing, then this rules out that they just got busy or forgot to respond. Instead, it shows that they are having trouble crafting the right response. It could be a dead giveaway when it comes to how to tell if someone is lying.

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That’s not to say that longer response times are always one of the signs someone is lying, but they can definitely be a tip-off. There are other reasons why a person could take longer to answer you. For example, they could just really like you and be searching for the right words to say. 

Overly Complicating Things

Another strategy for how to tell if someone is lying is by examining the volume and details of their response. Are they giving you an overly complex answer to a relatively simple question? If so, that could be a red flag.

For example, let’s say you ask the person why they weren’t able to make it to an event, or why they didn’t respond when you had plans that were already agreed upon. If they give you an overly complex answer filled with insignificant details, this could be a sign that they’re spinning a web.

We’ve also seen this pattern in pathological liars, who compose grandiose storylines to fit their narrative for seemingly no reason at all.

If the other person seems to be crafting an entire story to answer a simple question, then this could mean that they’re trying to use these specific details to convince you to believe a lie. You might even see them backtracking here and there to correct details.

Avoiding Certain Questions

When you’re asking someone a question and they’re acting as if you didn’t ask it, this could be a good indicator for how to tell if someone is lying.

For example, you could go in multiple directions in the same correspondence, saying something like: “I missed my bus this morning. Why didn’t you answer my text last night?” If they only respond to the former, then this could mean that they’re avoiding the latter.

Another thing they could be doing is using a “red herring” to divert the topic of conversation. They might give a quick non-answer to your question and shift the topic to something unrelated. They might also turn the question around to you in an attempt to avoid answering it themselves (“oh, I don’t know, what did you do last night?”).

Going Out of Their Way to Proclaim Honesty

Ironically, you might know how to tell if someone is lying by their overuse of the buzzword “honest.” They might say “I’m being totally honest with you” or “honestly, I just went home after work and went to sleep.”

Were you accusing them of lying? If not, then why did they have to go out of their way to claim they were telling the truth?

A person who lies a lot might also overuse this claim in general, saying that “they never lie” or that “they were raised to always tell the truth, no matter what.” Who was calling you a liar in the first place? It sounds like that is coming from a place of inner guilt if you ask me.

Their Wording is “Off”

If you’ve talked to someone via text or email often, then you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of their typical communication skills. If they sound a little different in a particular conversation, then this could mean that they’re carefully crafting a false narrative. 

For example, are they using “bigger” words than they usually do? They might say “utilize” instead of “use” or something similar. Overall, if their wording sounds suspiciously scripted, it could be one of the signs someone is lying in text.

They Hit You With a “G2G” or a “BBL”

Want to know how to tell if someone is lying through text? Take a look at how quickly they’re trying to remove themselves from the conversation.

Lying isn’t fun or comfortable. Oftentimes, we just want to drop the bomb, have the other person accept it, then move on to something less…excruciating.

You might spot this in your text or chat conversations: a person will emerge when you’ve got something to confront them with, only to then say “g2g” soon after. They might say “oh, I didn’t really do anything after work yesterday. Anway, I g2g so I’ll talk to you later.”

After this type of answer, it’s assumed that the next time the person talks to you will be under normal circumstances. That “g2g” is like pressing a reset button that removes them from liability. They might also be counting on you to drop the subject or forget about it in the meantime.

Trust Your Intuition

When you’re trying to determine how to tell if someone is lying, you might have nothing to go off of aside from your gut feeling. I’m here to tell you that, if this is the case, you should trust it.

You’ve heard this time and time again, because it’s the truth: always go with your gut. Human beings are incredibly complex, and we have innate instincts that tell us more than words ever could. If you’ve got a funny feeling that someone isn’t being honest with you, then that feeling is usually right.

Is Spotting a Lie Fool-proof?

While it’s not often as easy to tell, there are many ways you can read into a person’s text and email responses to determine whether they’re lying to you. None of these are fool-proof, of course, but they can still help you distinguish truth from deception.

If you suspect someone is being less than truthful with you – don’t let it go. 

The lie could be a harbinger or worse things to come. 

It doesn’t mean you have to call the person out for the lie, but use it to your advantage. 

When you sense something is afoot, keep asking questions. Not the pointed questions that raise suspicion, but open-ended ones – the sort of questions that keep the conversation going. 

The more back and forth, the more tells that indicate you may be onto something. The lie may still be buried in the written content, but you have enough data points to piece together the truth. 

The goal at all times is to stay informed. Lies can only damage you if you let them. 

Getting to the Truth of the Matter

Trust is foundational is all healthy relationships. Therefore, it may be more beneficial in the long run to achieve the goal of getting to the truth than to expose the lie.

Encourage them to be honest. Don’t accuse them of lying, but write words like: 

  • Honestly, you said that on my behalf? 
  • Honestly, you wrote that entire proposal yourself.
  • Honestly, that happened?

These queries are a gentle method of pinning a person to answer. If they dodge on these questions, you may have spotted you liar.

You may find more peace if you solve a problem rather than accuse a person of causing one.

Paul McCartney was onto something when you whisper these words of wisdom of letting it be.

If someone lies to you – okay – let them. It’s on them – the power is in knowing they are lying.

The damage from mistrust is when it leads you down a path to reach a decision you wouldn’t make otherwise. 

The takeaway: Knowledge is power. 

Any response, whether it’s to a crisis in your business or a crisis of a personal nature, should be rooted in truth. 

Listen to the podcast.

Tell-Tale Signs Someone is Lying to You in Text or Email

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