ShareThis Page

What does your body language reveal about you?

| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Those darting eyes. That clenched fist. Those folded arms.

Did you know your body language is saying much more than the words you're speaking? In fact, it comprises 60 to 70 percent of our communication, according to body language expert, Kevin Hogan, Psy.D. So, are you sure you're sending the right message?

Positive body language says things like, “I'm really interested in what you're saying.”

Negative body language conveys things like, “I don't believe a word you're saying. Besides, I'm bored.”

Although body language originates in the old brain limbic system and occurs unconsciously, we can learn to minimize it with training. You may even remember a TV show from a few years ago, “Lie to Me” about an investigator that analyzed body language to crack criminal cases.

Here are a few giveaways:

• Touching your face while speaking – rubbing your nose, eyes, ears, head or neck – shows doubt in what you're saying or hearing

• Hiding your hands or palms – keeping a secret

• Showing your soft wrist underside – flirting

• Finger tapping, scratching and darting eyes – discredits what the speaker is saying

• Folded arms – guarded

It's been said that our eyes are the windows of our souls. And they certainly play a major role in our body language. Check out these “Visual Accessing Cues,” identified by researchers Richard Bandler and John Grinder who pioneered studies in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

These observations are from your viewpoint — looking at the subject. And they're based on a right-handed perspective. Many left handed people access information opposite that of right- handed folks. You can test someone (or have them test you) by posing quick questions about historic facts to get an individual baseline.

• Eyes Up and to the Right – Visually Remembered Images (accessing memories/facts)

• Eyes Up and to the Left – Visually Constructed (fabricating a story/imagination)

• Eyes Sideways to the Right – Auditory Remembered (factual)

• Eyes Sideways to the Left – Auditory Constructed (imagined)

• Eyes Down and to the Right – Internal Dialogue (talking to oneself)

• Eyes Down and to the Left – Feeling/Kinesthetic (recalling a smell, taste or feeling)

Generally speaking, you could say “right is recalled” and “left is lying.” While body language is a good indicator of when a person is lying, it's not foolproof. So, just take these guidelines as a “heads up warning” that something is not quite right.

Here's what to watch out for when a person is lying to you:

• Eye contact is broken

• Body and face become stiffer

• Shoulders are pulled up and elbows are pulled into sides

• Forehead tightens

• Nostrils flare

• Blinking is increased

• Tone flattens

• Stuttering or mispronunciations occur

• Hand-to-face touching increases – especially mouth covering and nose rubbing

• Objects may be placed between you – cups, keys, pencils, chairs – as defensive postures

Keep in mind that everyone tells “little fibs” occasionally. That's what we call lying when it serves us. In some cases we lie to protect a person's feelings – or to avoid doing something we don't want to do.

Joseph Teece, a researcher at Boston College, has identified six types of lies:

• Protective lie – shields liar from danger

• Heroic lie – protects someone else from danger

• Playful lie – enhances the story

• Ego lie – prevents embarrassment

• Gainful lie – enriches the liar

• Malicious lie – hurts someone

Men often lie to make themselves look good and to increase their status, while women often lie to make others feel good, thereby enhancing their relationships. A red flag is a sudden change in movements. Tension is high in liars, so they need self- comforting. They can stroke their hair and touch their face more frequently.

The best overall liar detection clue is a sudden change in posture and movements from the normal patterns for a short time — until you have accepted what is said. If you believe someone is lying, change the subject quickly and watch the reaction. A liar will follow along willingly and become more relaxed. Guilty people want the subject to be changed, while an innocent person may be confused by the sudden change and want to go back to the previous subject.

So, why do we lie in the first place? David Livingstone Smith, author of “The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind” believes lying is deeply embedded in our subconscious as a result of evolution. Our ancestors who survived by lying passed on stronger and stronger genes in each generation for this trait. Yikes – are we talking Survival of the Most Deceptive?

Giveaway signs that a person is uncomfortable include upper body rocking, leg swinging or finger or foot tapping, along with chin tucking and shoulder hunching.

And how can you tell a real smile from a fake smile? First of all, real smiles are normally symmetrical and shorter. Fake smiles can last much longer. Also, you can tell a real smile because the person appears to be smiling from their eyes – with little upturned wrinkles in the corners of the eyes. A fake smile doesn't have the eye wrinkles. A good website for more information on this topic is Bottom line: our body language cues are generally recognized by everyone unconsciously because we all have them in our DNA. Emotions are normal, and displaying them is healthy. While these are helpful signals, you may want to keep things in perspective. Just be on the lookout if you sense someone is not being truthful with you. And notice if you're giving out any of these cues yourself. If the interpretation doesn't make sense, maybe it's something to examine. Or, it could just be a nervous habit to address.

So, don't overthink this. Have some fun with it. And make sure your “message sent is message received.”

. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers Street, Charleston, WV 25301 or e-mailed to

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.