5 Signs Someone's Being Fake


We all do it to some extent: Present a carefully crafted persona that highlights our best qualities and minimizes our flaws. It's human nature. In fact, the vast majority of us tell at least one fib each day. It's not always a bad thing; our ability to obscure the truth is part of the reason human beings have such highly developed brains. (See also: 8 Giveaways That People Were Just Talking About You)

Even so, this behavior can go too far, which is why you've probably met at least a few people in your life that you referred to as "fake." People who were inconsistent. People who stretched the truth. People who refused to own up to their bad behavior. In short, people you probably struggled to trust before. So how can you spot someone who's being fake before being duped? Here are five signs that the person you're dealing with is a phony.

1. They Use a Fake Smile

Some amount of fake smiling is normal. You probably crack a fake smile when someone pulls out a camera, or when you feel social pressure to laugh at a joke. But when you catch someone pulling a fake smile too often, beware.

How can you tell the difference?

According to extensive research by Dr. Paul Ekman, it's all in the eyes. In a genuine smile, tiny wrinkles appear at the corners of the eyes, and the skin between the eyebrows and upper eyelids will move down. While much of a smile can be produced voluntarily, some of the muscles used in a real smile can't be contracted at will. Can you spot a fake smile?

2. They Can't Get Their Story Straight (or Don't Believe It Themselves)

When people are telling the truth, it always comes out the same. Because it really happened. When people are bending the truth — or making things up — it's harder to keep that story straight. That's why if you suspect someone is being fake, you should listen for inconsistencies in their stories. You can look for inconsistencies in what they say and what happens on their face as well. Believe it or not, when a person is lying, she might be saying one thing is the truth, but betraying herself with an ever-so-slight shake of the head. (See also How to Tell If Someone Is Lying — Besides the Long Nose.)

3. Their Microexpressions Tell a Different Tale

Just like tiny gestures, microexpressions, or the subtle, less-noticeable expressions that tend to pass quickly across a person's face, can tell you a whole lot about that person's sincerity. These expressions tend to last less than a 25th of a second, and tend to represent a concealed emotion. Watch carefully for what the person's face is telling you — and whether those expressions match the person's words.

4. Their Body Language Shows Discomfort

We don't always pick up on a person's body language, but it can be a huge red flag that that person is being insincere. Does the person turn his or her body away from you while speaking to you? That can be a sign of discomfort. Does the person tend to fidget, blink rapidly, and shrug his or her shoulders at times? Those can be signs that a person is being less than honest. A liar might also unconsciously place items between you and him or herself while talking. These signs don't always mean a person is being fake, but when you see this behavior often, or at times when you believe a person's story to be suspect, beware.

5. Your Gut Says So

How can you spot someone who's being fake? The simplest answer may be easier and more effective than all of the above: trust your instincts. According to research, our initial impressions of a person's motives tend to more accurate than what we come up with when we think about it too much. Maybe our sense of empathy kicks in. Or we feel we need to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Or be polite. Or ensure that we're liked. And, in many cases, those messages can speak louder than that gut feeling telling us that a certain person just isn't sincere. If a person makes you uneasy and you initially question their integrity, listen to your instincts. Then, look for other clues that you're dealing with a phony. Chances are, you'll find them.

Know of any other sure fire ways to spot a phony? Please share in comments!

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