(TruthSeekerDaily) You’ve likely heard that body language accounts for up to 55% of how we communicate, but reading non-verbal cues isn’t just about broad strokes. The same gesture can indicate a number of different things depending on context. In this post, we’re going to take a look at three common situations in which non-verbal cues are especially important—detecting lies, going on a date, and interviewing for a job—then explain how to interpret body language more accurately so that you can read between the lines when a person’s words aren’t necessarily conveying the way that they honestly feel.
The truth is, people lie very often without even realizing it consciously. When having a conversation with a stranger, chances are we’ll lie in the first ten minutes. Sometimes we’ll lie more than once in that same period of time. These may not always be big lies, but we still do it. We all willingly partake in deception from time to time because it helps us avoid conflict, but often we’re better off knowing the truth. While words can be deceptive, the human body is a terrible liar. This is where reading body language and using your own effectively, can be extremely useful when communicating with others.
First, the basics.
Body Language Basics
When you’re reading body language, your primary goal is to determine whether or not a person is comfortable in their current situation. Once you do this, it’s a process of using context and other cues—which we’ll get into later—to figure out the specifics. There are plenty of ways a person may indicate their comfort level, but here are a few of the most common.
Positive body language:
- Moving or leaning closer to you
- Relaxed, uncrossed limbs
- Long periods of eye contact
- Looking down and away out of shyness
- Genuine smiles
Negative body language:
- Moving or leaning away from you
- Crossed arms or legs
- Looking away to the side
- Feet pointed away from you, or towards and exit
- Rubbing/scratching their nose, eyes, or the back of their neck
A single cue can mean a myriad of things. For example, crossed arms falls under the category of negative body language and can suggest that a person is physically cold, closed off, or frustrated. It can even indicate that they’ve simply had too much to eat. It’s necessary to pay attention to multiple behavioral cues as a single one can be misleading. While it will help to indicate comfort level, to really understand why you need to look deeper. This means paying attention to other cues as well as their context. As we get into the specific situations, we’ll look at how these cues work together to help uncover the truth in a given moment.
Spot a Liar
One of the biggest advantages of learning to read body language well is being able to judge when someone is lying with a fair amount of accuracy. Your intuition is never going to be 100% accurate, but with a little practice you can become more aware of when you’re being fed a load of crap. It’s very important to recognize what kind of lies you are actually detecting. The techniques we’re going to discuss in this section correspond to big lies—the lies people tell when they are uncomfortable or afraid of the truth. These skills will get you almost nowhere in detecting white lies, small lies of omission, and what people do most often: exaggerate. Those types of deception are very hard to detect, and it’s important to remember that, regardless of the type of untruth, you’ll never know for certain. You can, however, pick up on common cues so you know when to hold a healthy suspicion about what a person is saying.P
Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, conducted significant research on the ways we lie to figure out the common patterns in our body language. She found that liars often exhibit much of the behavior you’d find in any other uncomfortable person, but with a few very specific additional traits.
People are bad at offering a genuine smile when they’re lying. In fact, a genuine smile (often referred to as a Duchenne smile), is often said to be impossible to fake. This is why many of us end up with awkward family photos. We may think we look like we’re smiling, but to most anyone it looks like we’re faking it. This is because your smile is in your eyes, or, more specifically, the wrinkles around them. You display a few crows feet when you smile genuinely because your smile pushes up your cheeks which bunches up the skin near your eyes. It’s fairly hard to fake this. You need to feel some sort of genuine happy emotion at the time to do it, and when you’re uncomfortable this is next to impossible. This is why a non-genuine smile can be a helpful indicator of a lie in progress.
Stiff Upper Body and Too Much Eye Contact
Liars like to overcompensate when they’re lying, and so they’ll often try to remain still and offer eye contact. This will often result in so much eye contact it’s often a little unsettling, and their body will become stiff because they’re attempting not to fidget. Normally, people move and do not hold eye contact for extended periods of time. When uncomfortable, however, people will often rub their neck or eyes and look away to the side. Rather than exhibit the positive body language that would imply comfort, liars tend to opt for doing very little. This, in and of itself, is an indicator. Look for tense shoulders and an unusually high amount of eye contact and you’ll be more likely to spot a liar.
Context and Paired Behaviors
In addition to all these non-verbal cues, you’ll need to pay attention to the context. Liars will often offer more details in their stories, suggest punishments for the “real culprit” if they’re being accused of something, and answer you questions with a question to give them time to fabricate an answer rather than provide you with the truth. These behaviors, when paired with standard negative body language and the previously mentioned cues that liars exhibit, give you the right mix of untrustworthy behavior. Separately they may not mean much, but together they point to dishonesty.
It’s important to remember, however, that some people are just awkward and exhibit this kind of behavior with regularity. You should take the way a person normally acts into consideration as well. Watch their mannerisms and eye movements when you know they’re telling the truth and compare that to the times when you think they’re lying. When you see consistent change when certain statements are made, you’ll know how this specific person acts when they’re thinking of what to say rather than recalling information. Again, this or anything else previously mentioned isn’t sufficient in detecting lies. You have to look for multiple cues or what you’ll just discover that you’re fooling yourself into believing you know the difference between fact and fiction.