Ben Franklin coined the phrase, “Honesty is the best policy.” Back in Ben’s day, honesty was important in relationships. It’s no different today. Truth-telling is important. You may wonder how to tell if someone is telling the truth or lying. So, what are the behaviors and traits of a genuinely honest person?
Here’s why we have trouble pinpointing them. Everyone lies.
Even if you say you’re an honest person, you probably lie every day without realizing it. If a friend buys you lunch and asks if you enjoyed the meal, you might say yes out of a desire to save the person’s feelings even though your food was cold and tasteless. On average, you get lied to 200 times a day. One study found that 40% of adults said they fib at least once a day, usually in small ways.
12 Behaviors of an Honest Person
1. Drops the profanity
You may have heard that the use of profanity means a person is honestly expressing their thoughts and opinions. In fact, politicians who believed this began using more profanity in hopes of appearing honest. Curious about this premise, researchers conducted a study to find out if it was true. They found that, in fact, the opposite is exact. Sincere people tend to use less profanity, not more. Honest people don’t need profanity to make their point or to convince you they’re being honest. They’re just honest.
2. Won’t use the word, “honestly”
If you’re talking with a person who peppers their conversations with “honestly” or “to tell you the truth,” they’re lying to you. This phrase may appear as being candid or straightforward, but it’s a dead give away of being dishonest. Liars also use phrases like “to be perfectly honest” or “let me be honest with you,” to convince their listener they’re sincere. This kind of qualifying language discredits the speaker and reveals their deceit.
3. Gestures correctly
Dishonest people tend to gesture AFTER they speak instead of during or before they talk. Everyone uses gestures, it’s reasonable to gesture while you’re talking. But when someone gestures at the wrong time, it’s a sign of deception. It’s as if the person is making up the answer as they go along, and their gesturing can’t keep up with their words. Honest people gesture in the right way and at the right time for emphasis, not because they are lying to you.
4. Normal voice tone
Liars change their voice tones in conversations. They may get louder as they talk. The more they talk, the louder they will get. Or they will lower their voice as if they’re telling you something in confidence. It’s as if the person feels defensive, and their pitch is revealing this to you as they continue to lie. It’s a dead giveaway when someone does this, so don’t believe them. You can spot an honest person in conversations because their voice will be consistent throughout the discussion.
5. Blinks normally
It’s thought that a person who is lying to you blinks more often and has longer blinks than a person who is telling the truth. Changes in their blinking patterns are also a sign of lying. This subtle clue is worth watching while you’re in conversations. It’s a pretty clear indicator the person isn’t being honest with you.
6. No throat clearing
Honest people use a normal voice tone without constant throat clearing or hard swallowing before they answer. A person who continually clears their throat before he answers your question, he is probably lying to you. He’s probably feeling anxious about lying, and this may cause his throat to feel dry out, so he needs to cough or clear his voice to talk.
7. Mouth looks normal
Honest people hold their mouths regularly during conversations with you. A dishonest person purses their lips or tenses their mouth while in chat. They may give you a fake smile or a half-smile. A real smile involves the eyes, not just the mouth. When a person smiles, there are wrinkles at the edge of their eyes, called crow’s feet, that will appear. A person who is fake smiling smiles only with their mouth, not their eyes.
8. Movements are natural
Non-verbal clues are often the best way to tell if someone is lying to you. If the person you’re talking to shuffles their feet or moves around in their chair or fidgets with the clothes, there’s a good chance they’re lying to you. But a liar may also become unnaturally stiff, freezing their upper body movements. In general, unnatural movements being either too stiff or too busy, are indications a person is lying to you.
9. Pupils aren’t dilated
It’s often thought that when someone doesn’t look you in the eyes, they’re lying. But studies show that looking either to the left or right isn’t necessarily a sign of lying. Liars will look at you too much. Practiced liars maintain eye contact with a type of stare-down ability. When they do this, the pupils of their eyes will dilate, indicating they’re not being truthful.
10. An honest person looks relaxed, not moving too much or too little
If you’re in a conversation with someone who is lying, they will often wiggle or tap their feet nervously. Honest people are calm. They don’t shuffle their feet to distract you or out of nervousness. They’ve nothing to hide, so they aren’t worried you’ll find out they’re lying to you.
11. Uses non-formal language
Liars use formal language to cover up their lies. Saying, “I did not commit a crime,” instead of “I didn’t do it,” tells you that the person is working hard to cover up their lie. Liars use this formal way of answering questions to try to appear sincere and truthful. Honest people use ordinary, everyday language when they answer questions because they don’t have anything to hide.
12. Doesn’t give you too much information
When a person is lying to you, they’ll often repeat your questions back to you. They’ll give you lots of unnecessary details as if to overload you with information to deflect their lies. These are subtle but clear clues the person isn’t being honest with you. They’re stalling, trying to come up with an answer they think you will believe. It’s a classic indication of lying.
Final Thoughts on Identifying When You’re Dealing with an Honest Person
Figuring out if someone is an honest person isn’t simple. Many gestures get misunderstood as lying when the person is just nervous. It takes practice and the ability to get to know the person to understand whether they’re lying to you. Ask lots of questions, probe into what they’re saying to you. Look for inconsistent patterns in their speech, nodding yes when they say “no.”
Also, look at their attitudes and subtle movements. If someone is co-operative and ready to work with you to help you to get the truth, that’s a pretty good indication they’re being honest with you. They’ll be willing to share their ideas or brainstorm or provide details to solve the problem. Clear indicators that the person you’re talking to is lying will include looking down frequently, pausing, or being withdrawn, unnecessary head shakes, or shrugging.