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These 7 Ways Can Help You Recognize a Liar

These 7 Ways Can Help You Recognize a Liar

There are two types of signs that occur when a person is lying. There are the blatantly obvious or conscious signs, and there are the hidden, unconscious signs that are far more subtle. Whether the sign is obvious or not, the best way to recognize a liar is to use your mental skills.

Mental skills are derived from the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious mind. If you don’t have strongly developed mental skills, sometimes the signs that someone is lying fly right over your head. The good news is that they’re easy to develop and they seldom fail as long as you’re really tuned into them.

Research by Dr. Leanne ten Brinke, a forensic psychologist at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, supports the fact that our instincts for detecting liars can be fairly strong. However, the racing thoughts of our conscious minds sometimes cloud these instincts.

“A man when moderately angry, or even when enraged, may command the movements of his body, but … those muscles of the face which are least obedient to the will, will sometimes alone betray a slight and passing emotion.” — Charles Darwin

It’s safe to assume that what Charles Darwin was referring to are subtle, unconscious signs. The best way to begin recognizing these types of signs is through mental skills. If you’re not sure whether or not you use your mental skills, this may help clear it up. Think about a decision or task you’ve made in the past. Was there a time that you weren’t sure you were making the right one? Were you second guessing yourself? This is because your conscious decision, or action wasn’t in correlation with your unconscious, or subconscious thoughts — your ‘gut instincts.’  You only used your conscious thoughts to make the decision. In order to best recognize a liar, you have to listen to your unconscious thoughts as well. A great guide to knowing whether you’ve used your mental skills is when your head and your heart are balanced after making a decision.

With every sign the experts have out there for detecting lies, there are always exceptions. The best ways to recognize a liar are by watching their unconscious body language and honing your mental skills. As you observe body language, facial expressions and voice intonations, also pay attention to what your mind is saying. Listen carefully. There are your conscious thoughts: these are the loudest and the most immediate that come up. Everyone is aware of their conscious thoughts. But listen to your subconscious as well. What is it saying? These are the thoughts that crop up, sometimes only for a millisecond. It’s that flash you get that suggests a person is lying, or that something isn’t right, or that they’re leaving part of the story out.

Use the following clues, and combine them with your mental skills to better enable yourself to recognize a liar.

1. Eye contact: Either none or way too much.

The most obvious sign is when there is little to no eye contact. But you also have to look for forced, or purposeful staring, with infrequent blinking. Professional liars use deliberate, unbroken eye contact as a subtle intimidation tactic. They’re also going to feed off of the verbal and nonverbal cues from you.

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The truth teller is likely going to fall in between the extremes. Use your mental skills as a radar. Pay attention to not only your conscious thoughts, but your subconscious ones as well. This is where your expertise in detecting deception resides.

2. Sudden head movements.

Dr. Lillian Glass, in her book The Body Language of Liars, discusses head movements. When you ask a question and the person’s head jerks back, or glances away and then back at you suddenly, tilts to one side or looks down before answering, Glass suggests these are unconscious signs of deception. The mouth can lie. The body, however, cannot.

3. Fidgety versus very still.

Our nervous system has a natural defense mechanism sometimes referred to as ‘the fight or flight system.’ Lying promotes stress and anxiety, so naturally, the fight or flight reaction will take place. Liars use both. Some examples of using the ‘fight’ mechanism are when they become highly offended at your questions, intentionally stare you down, or, if standing, freeze themselves in a very stiff, intimidating stance.

Some examples of a liar whose ‘flight’ mechanism has kicked in are when they’re restless and can’t be still, they’re touching their face, mouth, ears, head and other body parts, when they continually say they have to go, and when their feet continuously shift, even while sitting.

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4. Nervous Nellie.

It’s natural for anyone who is being questioned to be a little nervous. A ‘Nervous Nellie,’ however, cannot be still. This is the person who will turn their body away from whomever they’re speaking with, have their arms crossed, or unconsciously blink more than they usually do. They either don’t smile at all or display half smiles that aren’t their usual smile. Another unconscious action is when they touch their face, rub their eyes, itch or fiddle with random objects just as a question is asked. These objects may include keys, a pen, earrings, etc.

5. Stalling tactics.

The obvious stalling tactic is when the liar changes the subject, usually with a compliment or a question. The less obvious is responding to a question by saying, “Where did you hear that?” This gives the liar a few extra seconds to fabricate his or her answer.

They can also get very squeamish during extended periods of silence.

6. Offense versus defense.

The obvious liar embellishes on explicit details regarding unimportant information. The not-so-obvious liar makes statements such as, “I did not …” instead of using the contraction didn’t. They may also make statements such as, “Well he did/said this, so I … but I did not …” Anything done or said to deflect blame or attention off of them, or any anger are always red flags. A truth teller will assume more of an offensive position. This means they’ll be cooperative and do everything they can to provide the information in a natural, relaxed disposition that isn’t aggressive, or leaning toward defensive.

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7. A story that changes.

Liars tend to either forget what they said or the order of events when they’re making the story up. Therefore, if you ask similar questions that mean the same thing and get conflicting sequences, this is a strong sign of deception.

Even lie detector machines aren’t considered 100% accurate. This is probably why they don’t hold up in any court of law. In a study that was performed in 2004, the results indicated that a liar is detected a mere 53% of the time. Experts on lie detection continue to explore technology that increases this percentage. Chances are, they will succeed. However, until then, the fastest, and most reliable way to recognize a liar is by combining the use of your mental skills with the aforementioned signs. This article by The New York Times is an excellent way to practice detecting the liar. So put your God-given mental skills to good use and become much more able to recognize a liar!

Click here for more information on detecting a liar.

Featured photo credit: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/uJCyZh8ApyP/Lindsay+Lohan+Mugshot+Collection/6fmm_Im2xuP/Lindsay+Lohan via publicdomainpictures.net

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Lynn Silva

Lynn Silva helps solo and entrepreneurs develop mental skills for business.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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