A Former FBI Agent’s Trick To Spotting A Liar: Listen To How They Say ‘No’

A Former FBI Agent’s Trick To Spotting A Liar: Listen To How They Say ‘No’

The word “no” is used a lot by liars trying to cover up their tracks. According to a former FBI counterintelligence agent, the way someone says it can truly reveal their deceptive behaviour.

Photo by Lwp Kommunikáció.

Catching a liar in the act, and getting them to admit to it, isn’t easy to do. It can be especially difficult if they’re actually good at it. If you’re looking for a simple way to get a feel for someone, former FBI agent LaRae Quy suggests you pay attention to their use of the word “no”:

  • say “no” and look in a different direction;
  • say “no” and close their eyes;
  • say “no” after hesitating;
  • say “noooooooo,” stretched over a long period of time;
  • say “no” in a singsong manner.

According to Quy — who has dealt with countless liars as an agent — any of those signs suggest they’re demonstrating deceptive behaviour or trying to mislead you. That being said, there’s no absolute guarantee that someone is lying just because they said “no” in a singsong manner. Don’t go accusing people of things until you’ve dug a little deeper. You can learn more lie spotting tricks from former-agent Quy at the link below.

An FBI Agent’s 8 Ways to Spot a Liar [Inc.]


  • It seems that every possible thing a person does while being interrogated could be interpreted as an indication that they are lying.

    Touch their face? Lying
    Scratch their ear? Lying.
    Look up and to the left/right? Lying.
    Lean back in the chair? Lying.
    Lean forward? Lying.
    Cross their arms? Lying.
    Nervous and/or fidgeting? Lying.
    Calm and/or relaxed? Lying.

    • Touching their face etc, doesn’t necessarily mean they are lying. It could be that they stating a position, but they are personally against the position they are stating. Politicians do this regularly when they are revealing policy in an interview. They have to tow the party line even though they don’t agree with it.

      • And what evidence is there of this? That certain behaviours during speech indicate lying or even misrepresenting their true feelings?

        The whole idea of “if someone does X they’re lying” doesn’t seem to be based on anything. It’s also interesting that there is only a list of things people do when lying. Where is the list that tells us what people do when they are being honest. That would be equally as useful but it is no where to be found.

        • When people do uncomfortable things, they seek comfort offset their feelings. There are plenty of books/articles on micro expressions, body language and mentalism.

    • All of those things you’ve mentioned have been popularly but erroneously attributed to someone being deceptive, when it’s more of an indication of them being uncomfortable with what they are saying or what they are being asked (with the exception of the calm/relaxed).

      For instance, I might ask you if you stole $20 from the petty cash drawer – you might lean back and cross your arms, not because you are lying, but because you know who did and you do not want to reveal that information.

      Whilst body tells do have some relevance, it’s markedly less so than TV shows like Lie To Me make out.
      If you’re interested in that sort of thing, the book Spy the Lie is a good insight into that world, written by several CIA interrogators (think of less waterboarding scenarios and more of quiet chat and coffee)

      • And someone could be a hard, honest worker who resents being a suspect in a theft. Or you might know there was no money in the petty cash draw and suspect your boss is creating an excuse to fire you. Or maybe you were on your feet all day and you were just leaning back in your chair because your feet and back were sore. Who knows?

        It is entirely likely that body language does change but there doesn’t seem to be any way to know which changes indicate what. I wouldn’t pursue someone based on whether or not they had good posture or say “no” and close their eyes.

  • Lying is a pretty loose term. Considering, ““no” after hesitating” could mean they are not telling the whole truth.

    • Did you eat spaghetti for dinner, seventeen days ago?

      If you hesitate, it could also mean you have to think – seriously – before giving a blanket “yes / no” response.

  • These techniques are scientifically questionable at best. Worse they discriminate against certain people on the autism spectrum (as I am). ASD people are typically scrupulously honest, sometimes brutally so, but our discomfort with eye contact and general fidgeting behaviour are often interpreted by authorities (teachers, bosses, police etc) as signs of dishonesty.

    Without some kind of baseline questioning (checking the person’s behaviour giving known truthful answers to questions such as name, address, details of family or work) this so-called expert has zero credibility and any evidence from such an interview could be made inadmissible by a competent defence barrister.

    Radio National did a good show about the justice system and ASD recently. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/the-autism-spectrum-and-the-criminal-justice-system/6755196

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