Telltale body language

Photo used under Creative Commons License
Photo used under Creative Commons License

Macy Sliman, Staff Writer

   Communication is a vital tool in our relational society. This is obvious by the amount of things we actually get wrong. There are countless languages all over the world and even more cultural differences that pertain to our difficulty of verbally communicating effectively. Not only are there these sorts of roadblocks in the day-to-day spoken exchange of ideas, but there is also the deceptive and illusive body language that attributes to communication in every conversation.

   Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell is one of the original experts of nonverbal communication. Birdwhistell observes that the average human speaks about ten to eleven minutes a day while, at the same time, we can create and recognize about 250,000 facial expressions. This supports the fact that people do most of their communication through nonverbal cues such as expression and body language. We use this nonverbal language in almost every social interaction and these messages contribute to how we create and cultivate relationships with people.

   Birdwhistell notes the significance of body language in different situations, such as when someone is telling a lie. There are eight basic gestures of a liar to keep a wary eye out for. The first is the mouth cover. When the person you are speaking with is asked a question and they hesitate by covering their mouth, this could mean that they are lying. This is somewhat of a subconscious way of the body trying to stop us from the deceitful words that are about to come out.

   The second popular gesture of liars is the nose touch; this can often be several rubs or one quick one. This type of gesture should not be confused with the itchy nose, although developing a random itch is also a good sign someone is uncomfortable and trying to keeping distracted by scratching.

   The next deceitful gesture is the general eye rub. This mimics the “see no evil” saying by closing one’s eye to avoid looking at the person they are trying to deceive.

   The fifth gesture is a sister sign to the last in its imitation of “hear no evil.” This sign is an attempt to block out the lie by physically covering the ear or tugging on it.

   Moving down from the ear, the next sign of lying is the neck scratch. This gesture is often under the lobe and is usually done with the index finger of the writing hand a total of five times. This gesture says, “I do not agree” and can be more easily noticed if the person is actually saying something to the contrary like, “I can understand how you felt.”

   Another sign of deceit is placing any fingers in the mouth. When this is being done, it usually means that reassurance is needed like a child having a blanket or sticking a thumb in their mouth for comfort.

   Lastly, the collar pull is the most noticeable gesture that someone is feeling uncomfortable with being dishonest. This movement embodies the saying, “hot under the collar” which refers to when a person is under pressure and starts to sweat, needing to pull the collar away from the neck in order to get more cool air to circulate.

   Now, personally, I could have really avoided some sketchy relationships had I been a little more aware of the volume of red flags I was receiving via body language. While the study of body language is not an exact science, these are a few telltale signs that someone is lying or hiding something that could help you avoid being the victim of deceit.