News & Politics

How to Tell If Someone Is Lying

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Our expert: Joe Persichini, executive director of the Washington DC Police Foundation and former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. During his 33 years in the FBI, he interrogated thousands of people.

Watch the hands. “If you’re asking somebody a question and they start touching their hand to their mouth, to their ears, to any part of their face, that was one of the number-one indicators.”

Don’t focus on the eyes. “There’s this belief that if the person stares you in the eye, they’re telling the truth. Don’t use that as a judgment. Bernie Madoff [the disgraced financier] stared everyone in the eye.”

Are they thirsty? “Another thing lying does, it produces adrenaline and your mouth goes dry. So you’re clearing your throat and you’re licking your lips.”

Note the nods. “They also used to say that when people nod their head, if they’re lying, they nod the opposite way. ‘Did you take that money?’—and they’re saying no and nodding up and down. I’ve seen it done.”

Read more advice, tips, and tricks from Washington natives in our Secrets of the City package.

This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.