Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

How to Spot Lies and Get the Truth

Detecting liesBeing able to detect when someone is lying is a handy tool for lawyers.

 Getting them to tell the truth in the first place might be even more valuable – especially for lawyers just starting out.

 The good news is that both skills can be developed with practice.

 A good local resource is attorney and law professor Peter RomaryBorn in the UK, Romary has the sort of resume most of us can only dream about. He’s had his name in lights at New Yorks Times Square – the only Brit other than Winston Churchill to claim that distinction. He’s received a papally-blessed knighthood. He’s won the National Law Journal Pro Bono Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the highest civilian honor conferred on US citizens. He’s won a$525 million wrongful death jury verdict and served as Honorary Consul for the Republic of Namibia.

 But it’s his work with the risk management and security screening firm QVerity, where he is a partner and general counsel, that makes him a human lie detector.

 And just as importantly, a human truth extractor.

 Setting the Stage for Truth

QVerity was founded by three former CIA agents. They were spies. Professional interrogators.Experts in “deception detection.”

 Some of their secrets from decades in the field are shared in pair of books – “Get the Truth” and “Spy the Lie” – to which Romary contributed.

 From the QVerity website: “Imagine how different your life would be if you could tell whether someone was lying or telling you the truth. Be it hiring a new employee, investing in a financial interest, speaking with your child about drugs, confronting your significant other about suspected infidelity, or even dating someone new, having the ability to unmask a lie can have far-reaching and even life-altering consequences.”

 Here are three tricks for getting someone to tell the truth:

 • Offer an empathetic opening statement. Let them know you understand what they’re feeling: anxiety, fear, sadness. Identify with their emotions. Suggest that you are there to alleviate – not aggravate – these unpleasant emotions.

 • Encourage short-term thinking. People lie when they’re afraid of the long-term consequences of divulging the truth. Keep them firmly rooted in the present. Show them how being honest will yield immediate gratification.

• Deal with denials and emotional outbursts. Don’t respond in kind. Don’t berate or chastise. Try to create an environment where it’s okay for the subject to express strong emotions. This is more likely to eventually lead to the truth.


Reading the Language of Lies

Let’s say you’ve properly set the stage for truth-telling. You’ve got the other person talking. How can you look behind the words to see if the truth is being told?

 Here are seven verbal and nonverbal cues from the field of forensic psychology:

 • Physical gestures are stiff, restricted and seem slightly off. The subject may frequently touch their face, wrap their arms around their body or cross their legs tightly. They may place an object – a book or coffee cup, say – between you and them in order to hide behind it.

• Liars avoid direct eye contact. They may also turn their body slightly away from you.
• The subject may frequently touch their face, pull at their ears or scratch their nose. They will avoid touching their chest or heart region.
• Lack of congruence between words and gestures. Example: saying “That’s so funny” while frowning.
• An untruthful person will answer a question with a question. Or they will answer in an abstract, hypothetical manner rather than directly.
• Liars tend to change the subject, sometimes abruptly.
• Liars use humor, sarcasm and figures of speech rather than straightforward language


The bottom line: with a little work you can get better at eliciting accurate information. This will make you a more skillful – and marketable – lawyer. And that’s the truth.




Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

Related Posts