Having studied and coached on body language techniques for some time now, I am often asked if you can tell if someone is lying by reading their body language. The answer is 'Yes' and 'No'.
Language (our verbal actions), originates from the left side of the brain. Body language (our visual actions) comes from the right side of the brain. Add to this that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa, sometimes what we say is not reflected in our body language when we lie.
Hence, the saying "You are a down right liar" comes for the fact that sometimes when we lie our eyes dart down to the right as our thoughts go to the right side of our brain, our creative side, to make up a story. However, this also happens when we recall an emotional event.
Research suggests that as much of 90% of lies we tell produce tell-tale verbal and visual clues. We can learn to pick up on those little signs, more so if we know the person well. Generally, women read body language better than men. Women also use both sides of their brain when communicating whereas men mainly use their left brain - the logic part.
The secret of reading body language is to first know the other person’s base-line behaviour - how they would usually react in the same situation - and compare that to their current behaviour.
There is no single gesture to indicate if a person is lying. Here are some well-known common indicators with a cautionary note on each;
· Eye contact is reduced - also happens when we are distracted or feeling low.
· Hand-to-face gestures - this is also displayed when we are nervous.
· Biting of lips - again this can also occur when we are anxious or sad.
· Excessive lip licking – they may also have dry lips.
· Rubbing of nose - known as the 'Pinocchio effect', this can also mean an itchy nose or the person has a cold.
So how do you tell by body language if someone is lying. With great caution, you could look for these visual clues;
· Excessive hand gestures such as hand-wringing.
· Fiddling with an object to distract themselves as they lie.
· Shuffling of the feet when standing or ankles crossed tightly when seated.
Of course the main way to tell if someone is lying is by what they say, we will look more closely at this tomorrow.