Detecting the lies of a narcissist is a very challenging task. As we covered in the previous article of this series on narcissism and lying, Why Do Narcissists Lie, narcissists believe their own lies and desperately need their lies to be true.
This is quite problematic for the people trying to detect narcissists’ lies because people who lie frequently notice their lies a lot less compared to those who don’t lie that often.
What does this mean?
When you combine a narcissist’s belief of their own lies, need for their lies to be true, and the frequency at which they lie, being able to detect their lie becomes nearly impossible because they do it so much that their lies become a part of their identity.
There are a multitude of methods circulating around society that are designed to detect lies that not only don’t work on habitual liars, like narcissists, but also yield inconsistent results among non-narcissistic liars as well.
The best way you can tell if a narcissist is lying is by aggressively pursuing inconsistencies and being aware of a surplus of low probability events embedded into the narcissist’s stories.
But before we dive into that, we are going to debunk some of the myths about lie detecting to ensure you have a much better understanding of why aggressively pursuing inconsistencies and being on the lookout for too many unlikely events are the best methods to tell whether or not the narcissist in your life is lying.
Table of Contents:
- Three Things You Shouldn’t Do When Trying to Detect a Lie
- Two Things You Should Do When Trying to Detect a Narcissist’s Lie
- What Should You Take Away From This Article?
Three Things You Shouldn’t Do When Trying to Detect a Lie
Depending on where you look, you may be advised to scrutinize a suspected liar’s story when they use words/phrases that are vague or leave their options open. The logic behind this is that if someone tells a vague lie and gets caught, it would be very easy for them to create another logical narrative to avoid further detection.
It’s just not a very reliable technique because there are plenty of people who have difficulties communicating with others, even when telling the truth. If you call a narcissist out under these circumstances on something you suspect to be a lie, there’s a very high probability that they’ll use your “pettiness” to gaslight you into backing down.
Another piece of advice you may come across is paying attention to body language, specifically eye contact. This isn’t very good advice because there isn’t a physiological profile for being a liar.
For example, if there was a physiological profile for being a liar, narcissists wouldn’t be able to do something as deceitful as manipulating the court system into accepting their version of reality as often as they do now. If you search the web for some of the signs that someone is lying to you, you’ll be met with some absurd answers that are going to do nothing but drive you insane.
It’s important to remember how intelligent narcissists are. If you are calling them out every time they look towards the door, touch their face, tap their foot, or pause before answering you, it is quite possible that they recognize your hypersensitivity to their actions and given their manipulative nature, continue to drop “signs” to make you feel and look insane.
You may also come across the baseline method. The baseline method is when you have a conversation with a suspected liar about things you know they’re telling the truth about.
During this conversation you pay attention to their behavior patterns so when you move onto something you suspect they’re lying about, you’ll be able to pick up on any differences in their behavior which would indicate a lie is being told.
While there are many reasons a person’s behavior might change in conversation that have nothing to do with lying, the biggest problem you’ll run into when trying to use this method with narcissists is that they’re habitual liars.
Their behavior when they’re telling the truth is the same as their behavior when they’re lying.
“I tried for years to be able to tell when my narcissistic ex-wife was lying by paying attention to her behavior but it was impossible. She could tell ten different stories the exact same way.”Ronnie
Asking the suspected liar to tell the story in reverse is yet another method you may come across in your pursuit for the truth. If I’m being honest, I don’t think anyone could flawlessly tell a truthful story in reverse. So I don’t believe it is a reliable, or logical technique.
Especially since the whole point of asking someone to tell the story in reverse would be to look for any changes in behavior and/or inconsistencies. Being asked to recall something backwards is destined to make even the most honest people uncomfortable.
I also wouldn’t recommend doing this with a narcissist because it is such a bold request. By asking them to tell a story in reverse, it is clear that you suspect them of lying. The potential of them experiencing a narcissistic injury from your request and being thrown into a terrifying rage is quite high.
Two Things You Should Do When Trying to Detect a Narcissist’s Lie
With a clear understanding of what you shouldn’t do, let’s go ahead and get into why being aware of many low probable events and aggressively pursuing inconsistencies are the two most reliable ways to tell whether or not the narcissist in your life is lying to you.
The first thing I want to do is talk about being aware of many low probable events. It’s important to know that one of the reasons one may tell a captivating story is because of the unlikelihood of it ever happening again.
It would be silly to label someone as a liar simply because they had a unique experience. Where you can be more cynical is when there are just too many “unique experiences” for the time frame they are giving you.
Just to be clear, when I suggest that you aggressively pursue inconsistencies, I am not suggesting that you bombard the narcissist in your life with aggressive questions. That would likely result in the same outcome as asking a narcissist to tell a story in reverse, narcissistic rage.
What I’m suggesting is that you remain defiant in the face of narcissistic abuse. Don’t allow your mind to become consumed with self-doubt, don’t gaslight yourself into backing down, and please don’t make rationalizations or justifications for their behavior.
The best ways you can do this is by asking them to repeat the story or asking for more detail. Asking the narcissist to repeat the suspected lie later isn’t as bold as asking them to repeat it backwards, and if they do agree to it, you’ll be able to easily spot inconsistencies.
Asking for more detail may not help you in the exact moment, but if you were to revisit the topic at another time you’d be able to compare and contrast the two stories they give to see if there are any differences.
The truth is that a narcissist’s arrogance, need for dominance, control, power, falsified reality, and unwavering belief in their own lies makes them honestly believe that lying is an acceptable, everyday behavior that they’re entitled to.
Even though I listed many things that I believe aren’t reliable ways to detect a lie, nine out of ten times your intuition is correct and the narcissist in your life is probably lying to you regardless of the technique you’re using.
With that being said, if you pay attention to the inconsistencies while simultaneously blocking out all of the noise designed to plague the environment with self-doubt, rationalizations, and justifications, there’s much less of a chance of the narcissist in your life being able to wiggle their way out of the lie they told.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
It is quite difficult to be able to detect a lie, even if the person in question isn’t narcissistic. When it comes to dealing with a narcissist, there’s a lot more you need to consider than just whether or not they’re lying.
When a narcissist is contradicted they experience narcissistic injury, which you can think of as an ego injury for the time being. The reason it is called a narcissistic injury is because of how easily it can be triggered.
Long story short, a narcissist’s emotional immaturity causes them to building their self-esteem of very materialistic things.
Imagine how fragile your ego would be if your identity was made up by the amount of followers you have, the type of car you drive, or a childish belief that you can do no wrong.
Something as small as a constructive criticism would injure your ego, and if you were narcissistic, meaning you’re unable to regulate the negative emotions that come from ego injuries, you’d throw yourself into a narcissistic rage to make those around you feel as bad as you do.
So, be careful calling a narcissist out on their lies while ensuring that you remain defiant, ignore any self-doubt you have, and avoid gaslighting yourself into backing down.
This was part two of the lying series, so be sure to be on the lookout for part three, What Happens When You Confront a Narcissist With the Truth?
All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.