A big part of nursing involves understanding what the patient is needing and feeling at any given time. But what happens when the patient doesn't want to tell you the truth? 

It's important to be able to identify when a patient may not be wanting to tell you the whole truth. If this isn't your first rodeo, you probably already know that the reality is that more patients and families hesitate to tell you the entire truth. After all, we have all told a little white lie to their doctor or nurse before.


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Can you recall the last time you were asked how many times a week you drink alcohol? Your options were:

A) 0

B) 1-2 times per week

C) 3-5 times a week or 

D) 7 days a week


Everyone always chooses B even though in reality, the honest answer is C. We lie about it because it doesn’t seem logical to admit that we drink 3-5 times per week when we can just say we drink 1-2 per week. Plus, we don’t want our doctor to think we are an alcoholic. The point is - EVERYONE lies a little bit. As a healthcare professional, we need to know when someone is lying to us, even if we don't intend on calling them out on it. Your lie detector skills could save a life or even prevent an addict from overdose.


So what are the tell-tale signs that someone is lying? Some of the signs are obvious, and some, not so much. Is it possible that people are able to lie without any signs at all? Yeah, we suppose. But if a person can lie without any tell at all they are most likely crazy and actually believe their lie to be truth. Steer clear of these people because their reality is much different than ours. Now, let’s dive into the signs that appear when someone is lying.


Lie Detector Training for Nurses 

9 Ways to Tell If Your Patient (Or Their Family) is Lying to You

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1. Voice Changes

This is a relatively easy one to detect. If someone’s tone starts to go up or down during a conversation it is possibly because they are lying. Lying makes people nervous and anxious and these two feelings affect the pitch of our voice. Liars also use changes in pitch to emphasize different parts of the story. This creates enthusiasm and makes you, the buyer of lies, more invested in what they are saying which causes you to overlook the fact that you are being bamboozled.


2. “Tuh, tuh, tuh, today junior!” -Billy Madison

Uncharacteristic stuttering is a sign that someone is improvising and making sure that nothing they say will contradict what they have already said. Stuttering also happens when a person lacks confidence in what they are talking about. Luckily for us, this one is fairly easy to notice and will likely let all parties in the room know that something fishy is going on. 


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3. Windows to the Soul

If the eyes truly are the windows to a person’s soul, then we should be able to decipher a lot based on a person’s eye movement. If a person that usually makes eye contact with you isn’t making eye contact with you, it could be because they are lying. Some liars try to overcompensate with eye contact in an effort to manipulate you. Unusual blinking is another thing to look out for. A good rule of thumb with eyes is this; if it feels awkward… there is a good reason for it.


4. Physical Protection

When people lie, they will cover their mouth or their eyes trying to protect themselves from being found out. They do this without even realizing it as these behaviors are driven by their subconscious. They will also subconsciously cover the most vulnerable parts of the human body. They cover their throat, their stomach, or cross their arms over their chest. If the person you are talking to looks like they are protecting them self from physical harm, either they are afraid of you or they are LYING to your face.


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5. Deer in Headlights

If the person you are talking to looks like a “deer in headlights”, you have yourself a liar. It is common for a person to stand perfectly still while telling a lie as they are directing all their focus and attention into fooling you. We are talking human statues, people. They become statues when they lie because, for them, the situation is tense. They are in the process of selling a lie and if you don’t buy what they are selling they don’t make that commission that puts food on the table. 


6. Excessive and Irrelevant Details

Some liars will add excessive or irrelevant details to a story that is not true because they are literally trying to convince themselves that what they are saying is true. All the little details are sprinkled in and are intended to boost the confidence of the liar and increase the likelihood that the story is believable. If you are listening to someone talk, ask yourself if what they are saying is excessive or irrelevant. If so, they are either lying or very lonely and just needing someone to talk to.


7. Fidgeting Around

Look for signs of fidgeting. Classic examples are looking around, playing with their hands, or tapping their leg. If someone appears as though they are about to pee their pants, but in a very classy and socially acceptable way, they are experiencing anxiety from the lie they are trying to sell you. This fidgeting behavior is the behavior of a novice liar. Good liars, heck even decent liars don’t do this. This tell will most likely only work on youngsters.


8. Perspiration and Blushing

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These are easy ones to spot. While they don’t always indicate that someone is guilty of a lie, they are worth perking up your ears for. If you see a little sweat run down the side of someone’s face and they don’t wipe it off… that is a bit of a red flag. Who doesn’t wipe off beads of sweat on their face while having a conversation with another person? Someone trying to hide the fact that they are sweating - That's who! Blushing is an uncontrollable bodily response and is a great way understand how a person is feeling. It’s basically a result of the fight or flight reflex we all have. It can come from stress or embarrassment. You have to read the situation in order to interpret the why behind the blushing face.


9. “My mind is telling me no, but my body is telling me yes” -R. Kelly

We find this tell to be very humbling. What happens is, the liar is telling you a lie and is show none of the signs of lying. They appear perfectly normal. And then you notice as they are telling you this extremely believable lie, they are subtly shaking their head side to side as if to gesture they do not agree with what they are saying! This “shaking” is happening without their knowledge. The person's body is shouting at you that it doesn’t agree with what the mind is telling you. The lesson here is that the mind and body don’t always agree.


Okay, you are practically a walking lie detector now. Go into the world and practice what you have learned here today. If you catch yourself wanting to lie to your doctor about how many drinks per week you have, go ahead and tell him the real number. Odds are he already knew you were lying.

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