But so are a whole bunch of lies. Look out for these giveaways to catch the teller of tall tales

There are many small things that tell you the person is not telling the truth. Let’s break it down.

Body language

Ever got that frustrating feeling that someone’s telling you a big, fat lie but you can’t say for sure? First of all, check out the person’s posture to get a rough idea of their state of mind. A person’s body language indicates very clearly whether they are being open or not. Hands hidden in pockets, covering the mouth with a hand or running one or more fingers over the lips are all ‘concealing’ gestures. “When young children tell a lie, they usually cover their mouth with one or both hands - as if trying to hold back an action they know to be wrong,” writes Carol Kinsey Gorman in her book The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work. “Older children figure out that this gesture is a dead giveaway that they’re being deceitful, so they try to stop it. The problem is that this action has already become habitual and instead of stopping, it merely transforms into a more subdued and subtle gesture. Deception signals seen in adults include fingers casually covering or touching the mouth or a hand headed for the mouth, hesitating at the last moment and then barely grazing a lip or rubbing the nose instead.” “Biting the lip and puckering of the mouth also suggest some kind of tension as though the individual is trying to intercept an inadvertent spilling of the truth they are trying to withhold,” says Glenn Wilson in his book Introducing Body Language: A Practical Guide.

Changing stories

As authors Adrian Furnham and Evgenia Petrova point out in their book Body Language in Business: Decoding the Signals, “A good lie requires preparation, rehearsal and memorisation. A good liar should be able to anticipate when it is appropriate or necessary to lie, when to be inventive; that they must remain internally consistent; and that the story must fit the known/revealed facts.” When people tell lies, they usually get mixed up. Pathological or habitual tellers of tall tales often make up stories about things, relying on the fact that most people don’t listen very closely, and don’t remember what they’ve heard. If you’re really listening, though, you can easily spot the discrepancies. Names, times, dates and figures often change in the re-telling of a falsehood as well. If you remember details, you won’t need to work at catching out a tall tale - the inconsistencies will jump out at you.

Need to know the truth? While catching out a liar, arm yourself with the facts beforehand. A little checking-up is all it takes to find out what really happened. Do this before you talk to someone likely to try and pull the wool over your eyes (a blind date, a naughty child, a light-fingered maid). You’ll know at once if something they say doesn’t tally with the facts.

Beating retreat

Sometimes people lie to cover their tracks. Such people give themselves away when they think they’ve got away with it. Watch people as they retreat. As they’re about to hit the door or as they turn away, that hyper-sincere, serious expression will give way to a sly, sideways look and a smug, triumphant smile. Even practiced liars get caught out doing this, so it’s good to be paying attention long after the other person thinks you’ve switched off.

“In the field, when lives are often at stake, it’s important to separate the lies from the facts,” reveals a senior-ranking ex-armed forces officer. “The satisfied grin that says, ‘yes, now I’ve fooled him’ is one of the ways in which you make out immediately that a man is lying,”

Unravelling a tangled web of deceit woven by a liar is a skill well worth cultivating. Just keep your eyes and ears open for those tell-tale signs - you’ll be surprised at how difficult it will become to deceive you!