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How to Tell if Someone is Lying Over Text: 5 Red Flags

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If you are texting people you need to know how to tell if someone is lying over text. There are 5 red flags to look for.

These days we are texting more and more and you never know when you might come across a text lie.

These lying red flags are also important to spot in emails and chat.

In an age where technology is rapidly shaping the online world and how we communicate, and for many businesses that work exclusively through the virtual world (sending emails, communicating remotely) it is easy to wonder if the person on the other end of that text message or email is lying.

How many emails do you get every day?

A recent study showed that an office worker receives on average 121 emails a day. That is a staggering amount of emails that could potentially contain a lie. It has also been said that we are lied to as many as 200 times per day, and that we can accurately detect only about 54% of those lies.

The majority of the population genuinely wants to tell the truth, which is why the limbic system in our brain will leak out clues when we tell a lie. Think of it this way: just like in the movie “Liar, Liar”, Jim Carrey’s character (Fletcher Reede) tried to trick himself that the “blue” pen in his office was red, but every time he would utter the word red, the truth would leak out that the pen was blue.

lying to you in email

These clues that leak out are what we call red flags, and I am here to help you increase your detection radar. So, here are 5 Red Flags to help you know how to tell if someone is lying to you in text or email:

Lack of First-person Pronouns

It is known that when a person is being truthful, they will refer to themselves in first-person and subtly proclaim ownership of a statement. So when you are reading an email, look to see if the sender is verbally distancing themselves by using less frequent singular pronouns like “I”, “me”, or “my”. Verbal distancing is the same as nonverbal distancing– “standing back” from the lie that does not represent their true attitude or experience. Examples of these might look like:

 “Leaving the bank’s safe unlocked is not what a responsible person would do.”


 “I left the safe in the bank unlocked”

Past Tensing

A deceptive person may refer to historical events from the past, in the present. The reason for this might be because the deceiver is making up the story from their imagination. Like in the 1994 case of Susan Smith, she used past tense words like “My children wanted me. They needed me. And know I can’t help them.” These keywords suggested to the investigator that Susan already knew that her kids were no longer alive. Many truth-tellers that believe their missing family member is alive, would use their words in the present tense.

Watch our video below on spotting lies – can you guess which is the lie?

Concrete Vs. Abstract

Because a liar is generating a story from their imagination, some of their cognitive resources are being used to create a believable story. This suggests a lower amount of cognitive complexity being used, which allows a liar to easily access concrete descriptions than abstract evaluations or judgements. This might look like:

  • “I walked to the store”


  • “ Usually, I take bus #12 to work, but since it was a beautiful day, I decided to walk to the store”.

The Unanswered Question

Like I mentioned above, people generally don’t like to lie, so before their brain leaks the truth, they will generally ask a question within a question to talk about something unrelated. This is a common go-to method for people who want to dodge the truth. If you go back and watch Anthony Weiner’s first sex scandal, you find him many times deflecting the hard questions with another question or by changing the topic completely.

Swear Oathing

Another sign of deception is known as the “oath”. This is when a person will try to convince they are not guilty by adding in verbal expressions such as: “I swear”, “cross my heart…”, or “To be honest”. Truth-tellers are more confident in their words and feel that the facts will speak for themselves without having to back their statement up with a swearing aaIf the email in question feels a bit off, circle back around and ask questions that can take the topic a bit deeper, this will help with any misunderstandings. Before you leave us, remember:

  1. Take everything that is being said/written into context
  2. And secondly, you must see a cluster of red flags before accusing someone.

Want more Lying Science? Check out:

The Ultimate Guide on How to Tell if Someone is Lying

Why Kids Lie

How to Deal with Difficult People at Work

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