You would be lying to say that you’ve never lied before … right? Or been lied to. Is it possible to spot a lie? YES, says Human Lie Detector Lizette Volkwyn. But it is not as easy as you think.
Initially qualifying as a Master Life Coach, Lizette Volkwyn’s competitive nature pushed her to take her career up a notch. She wanted a unique skill that would help her to better understand her clients and help them to feel comfortable enough to open up their pandora’s box.
“When I started coaching, I realised a lot of clients withhold info – or lie – about certain aspects of their lives – whether it is because of shame, anger or depression. But this hindered my ability to get them to be the very best they can be. The thought crossed my mind that if I could ‘read’ them better and detect these lies then I could help them quickly and in ways that would otherwise be impossible.”
So Lizette took on the rigorous training involved in becoming a human lie detector. She was one of 29 candidates from 27 countries, 24 of whom were from intelligence agencies around the world. Obviously, she nailed it! And now she’s one of only two certified PEI human lie detectors in the country.
“Let me tell you, it has been such a game-changer. Did you know that most people lie within an average ten minute conversation? Withholding information, a little white lie, a blatant lie, the urge to not offend, to be liked, to be polite or even just to be accepted, far outweighs the truth. Think about it – you had a lousy day and someone asks you how you are – your first reaction is to say, okay thanks and you?
“When we focus on the actual reality and the interaction between humans, we will find it is much more difficult to distinguish between the truth and the lie. We are programmed to accept familiarity and choose to apply intentional blindness to those close to us or when we hope for a particular outcome.”
So is it possible that we can pick up on lies? Is Human Lie Detection a science? Does our subconscious overwrite our mannerisms?
“Yes, yes and yes! No-one has control over their subconscious mind. The biggest mistake people make is to try and spot the lie instead of following the trail of the truth. Only then can we start picking up on the lies as the baseline of the truth will amplify any deviations of the truth. I focus on the deviations that no one can control. Our subconscious mind will reveal what they believe to be true, while our conscious mind will try to convince others differently.”
There are seven universal micro expressions – fear, anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, contempt and sadness. Lizette added that these micro-expressions are only one of the many ‘tells’ that help reveal the truth.
“These expressions happen in a 25th of a second before our conscious minds cover up the lie. A great example is when you receive a gift you don’t like. Within a 25th of a second, you will show disgust. Immediately after that, your face will deliver a smile. Thus, your conscious mind will convince the giver that you are happy with the gift.”
But not every ‘tell’ or deviation is necessarily a lie, according to Lizette. It could be a sensitive topic and the person prefers to avoid such conversation. That’s why she believes to rather search for the truth, not the lie. “Because the truth will reveal the lie.”
When not spotting lies, she’s a Jill of all trades … a keynote speaker, into sales, leadership and communication training, and also offers self-discovery workshops, group coaching and online marketing training. Apart from all of this, she is also the author of Finding Me, a book about self-discovery and exploration, and is in the process of establishing an NGO called Cinderella’s dream.
“I have seen too many teenage girls growing up in a home, neglected or abused and have zero confidence or self-belief. They normally end up with an abusive boyfriend, narcissist or an unwanted pregnancy just to be validated and accepted. I aim to create a platform to coach these girls to accept who they are, showcase their authenticity to the world and realise their worth of self-validation.”
It is clear Lizette thrives to help people and make a difference in someone’s life. Yes, her status as a human lie detector can be quite intimidating, but she admits she is not always on ‘duty’ and will seldom call out on a lie when she interacts with people socially.
At home, she is just Lizette, mom of three children and five grandchildren. Someone who doesn’t like to be told what to do, seldom wears similar earrings, and paints her nails in different colours. Living authentically.
How to spot a liar?
“With an open mind and putting all emotions aside, there are extensive ways to spot a lie. Here are a few you can practise focusing on:”
• Mannerisms change when we tell a lie. For example, a person speaking with their hands typically stops their gestures when they are not convinced of what they are saying.
• Itching and fidgeting, rocking the body back and forth, cocking the head to the side or shuffling the feet can also be signs of lying.
• Excessive touching … if the person consistently touches their face, hair, or an object near them, it may reveal inner discomfort which is manifesting in their movements. The touching of the face may also indicate the person attempting to hide revealing facial cues.
• The tonality of your voice … I talk fast, so the moment my speech slows down, that should be questionable. When people are nervous, the muscles in the vocal cords might tighten up (an instinctive stress response), leading the voice to sound very high-pitched. You might also notice a creak in someone’s voice. Clearing the throat, a means of coping with the discomfort of the tightened muscles, can also at times signal dishonesty.
• Focus on their feet and see where they are directed. When uncomfortable, a person’s feet will point to a door, as to say, get me out of here. A closed body gesture is not necessarily a sign of a lie. It could just be that they are very private or even cold, or do not trust the other person. So body language needs to be read in context and also with the environment they are in.
• Shoulder shrugging subconsciously signifies that someone doesn’t believe what they’re telling you.
• They may stare at you without blinking much. When people lie, it’s common that they break eye contact, but the liar could go the extra mile to maintain eye contact in an attempt to control and manipulate you.
• Liars always deflect. When people lie, they try to put distance between themselves and the truth. Think of Bill Clinton’s famous statement and the use of his finger-wagging gesture – “I have never had a sexual relationship with THAT woman”. By using the word that, he pushes her as far as possible away, so she is not close to him. So typically he didn’t say I never had a sexual relationship with Monica, that is too close for comfort.
• While lying, the body releases chemicals called catecholamines, which cause the tissues inside the nose to swell. The increased blood pressure makes the nose swell and causes the nerve endings inside the nose to tingle, thus making it itchy or even sometimes runny.
It is important to know that you cannot identify that someone is lying only through these tells – it has to be put in context and you have to have the background story and be familiar with the environment.
Can you beat a polygraph test?
A polygraph test can only be up to 64 per cent accurate and can be manipulated. It works on three physical reactions: sweat, using electrodes attached to the fingers; heart rate and blood pressure through an arm cuff; and breathing through chest straps. If trained you can calm your breathing, keep your heart neutral, or just answer without elaboration. And a self-inflicted pain pulse can also create a false negative or positive. For example, using a thumbnail to create a pain pulse can throw the evaluation.
Compiled by: RIALIEN FURSTENBERG. • Image: SANTIE KORF PHOTOGRAPHY.