There are plenty of situations where telling a lie can be beneficial, but it hardly matters if you suck at lying. If you want to be convincing, focus on eliminating the mental lag that makes your answers take longer. Photo by Cat Branchman.
As undercover cop Neil Woods explains over at VICE, when people lie they have to take an extra step to tell a story. If it really happened, then you just explain it. If you're making something up, you have to figure out a new story in your head before you explain it. That process can take up valuable seconds that make your story look suspicious. To get someone to believe your story, you need to eliminate that lag:
Lying creates a buffer, an extra thought loop, where people ask themselves "how do I tell this lie," and this can slow people down They can try too hard to mask the lie, maybe pause too long. The biggest giveaway is people talking too fast, giving too much information away, unusual hand movements, or gestures like looking to the floor. I made sure I was not doing this, and I had to learn to remove that pause, that extra loop from my thought process. I had to envelop all that and absorb it into instinct. If people overthink their lie -- if they are overly conscious that they are lying -- then it becomes too much pressure and they get flustered and the deception becomes obvious.
In many cases, that can simply mean being prepared ahead of time with a story. Say you're going shopping for your spouse's anniversary gift, but you don't want them to know. Go shopping during a time where being away from home isn't suspicious, or have a good alternative reason prepared that would take a similar amount of time.
It also helps if you're not lying maliciously. Part of the reason liars aren't very well liked is because it usually happens at the expense of someone else. If you're lying to cover up something that will harm someone else, your guilt can give away your lie (and perhaps it should). Hiding a shopping trip is less guilt-inducing than hiding an affair, for example. If your reason for lying doesn't introduce as much guilt, then you're less likely to get nervous and hang yourself up on that mental delay.