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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
How to Know When Someone is Lying
Finding Those Interested in Lasting Relationships

What are the signs that someone I am talking to is lying, on and offline?


A question like this might depress some psychologists, but not me. I’m glad to see people approach love and attachment sober and with both feet firmly on the ground. It’s easy to get carried away when looking for love; just read my recent piece about how “love really is blind”. So, this type of question makes me feel good, because it tells me that there are people out there who are realistic while they’re being optimistic.

Unfortunately, the latest research by experts like Drs. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire and Maureen O'Sullivan of the University of San Francisco reveals that people are terrible at telling when someone is lying. For instance, do you think that liars avoid eye contact and fidget a lot? Many people do… and they would be wrong. In fact, good liars maintain more eye contact and they don't fidget. People naturally pick up on cues when trying to assess the sincerity of someone, but more often than not people focus on cues that indicate when someone is stressed, not necessarily when they’re lying.

So what are some reliable signs that some is trying to deceive you? Basically, the trick is to look for inconsistencies in the way people are talking. Experts like Drs. Wiseman and O’Sullivan note some examples from their research investigating lying in offline situations:

» There are long pauses between the questions you ask and the answers people give. When someone is lying they may have to think more about keeping details straight and slow their speech or become more hesitant.

» There is an increased use of short sentences, and there may be frequent fluffs or errors in the person’s speech. Liars must work particularly hard to make the lie flow smoothly and speak more rapidly or become tongue-tied.

» The increased use odd phrases.

» Lack of movement can also be a clue to untruthfulness.

The idea is that inconsistencies or the changes in delivery are clues that something is going on. Of course, none of these things guarantee that someone is lying, but these clues can alert us to the possibility of deception. It’s reasonable to extrapolate that similar clues hold true for online communication as well.

I also have some other clues of my own. For example, you should always be concerned if someone displays a sense of confusion about him or herself and if the person seems increasingly more secretive and defensive when discussing a particular topic. Also, a major red flag is when someone is simply non-committal --- they refuse to give direct answers, stall for time or are evasive, or change their answers over time. Finally, it could be an omen if the person’s screen name is “Pinocchio.” Of course, it might be more productive for us to call on Dr. Freud to investigate this situation rather than enlist the services of Drs. Wiseman or O’Sullivan ;)

How can I find people who are looking for a lasting relationship?

It might take time, but your patience and effort will be rewarded. Basically, I recommend that follow this guiding principle: “You’ll get what you attract… and you’ll attract what you advertise for.”

This means that you should surround yourself with like-minded people – both online and off. If you want a long-term relationship, then don’t spend the bulk of your time on adult sites, casual dating sites, or social networking sites. If you want a long-term relationship, then create an online profile that’s consistent with that goal (read between the lines here: no suggestive photos or language). If you want a long-term relationship, interact with prospective dates in a manner that advertises this fact. I don’t mean push the concept of commitment or marriage down the boy guy’s or gal’s throat. But, don’t act overly flirty or “easy” either, when your real intentions are to pace a relationship so it will grow over time into something really meaningful.

Consistently exhibit attitudes and behaviors that advertise you’re looking for a lasting relationship… and in time… those signals and cues will be seen and attract the right type of person for you. I can’t emphasize this enough: it often takes time to find people that both satisfy your personal preferences and want a lasting relationship. So, be persistent, patient, and don’t lower your basic standards. Rewards will come from this approach.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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