I was watching the CBS morning news the other day and as the program neared its end, the anchors talked for a few minutes with Vanessa Van Edwards, an expert on body language and the author of the just published book- Cues– Small Signals – Incredible impact. (video clip)

According to Ms. Van Edwards, research indicates that we hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies each day. They may be small “white” ones or rather serious ones. I find this hard to believe especially during the pandemic when most of us were sitting at home and not out and about.

Ms. Van Edwards then briefly discussed the different aspects of body language that indicates someone is lying. She emphasized that we should look for patterns of behavior. The first indication she mentioned was a pursing or pressing or tightening of the lips- as if the liar is trying to hold it in, by pressing the lips tightly together, the liar is attempting to conceal or withhold the truth and/or that he/she really does not want to talk.

A second sign is rubbing or touching one’s nose. According to Ms. Van Edwards, research indicates that when we are about to lie, the tissue in the nose swells due to an increased blood flow which can cause the nose to itch. So, a liar will touch/rub/ scratch his/her nose. (Is this how the Pinocchio legend got started?) Following this theory, researchers found that when President Clinton was providing untruthful testimony in his deposition about Monica Lewinsky, he touched/rubbed his nose 26 times. Yet, when he started telling the truth, he never touched his nose!

Another indication of which we are all aware is the inconsistency or incongruency between our head shake /nod and what we say. For example, we shake our head from left to right (or right to left) to mean “no” but verbally say “yes” or vice versa- nod our heads up and down to indicate “yes” but verbally say “no”! This mismatched behavior between what we say and how we move our head is a sign that we are being untruthful.

One indication of lying that I have not come across is the liar’s dropping his/her use of first-person pronouns- I, me, or my.  When we are telling the truth, we might say, “I am running late because I had to stop for gas.” If, though we are lying (i.e., a little “white” one!), we will drop the “I’s “in the sentence and simply say, “running late as had to stop for gas!”

Finally, Ms. Van Edwards noted that looking away and up towards the sky/ceiling as a sign of lying is a myth. To the contrary, a liar will often look you straight in the eye to judge your reaction and to figure out if you believe him/her. When people do look away and up into space, it is because they are processing what either they just heard or what they are about to say. The liar, while looking straight at you will often use a question inflexion, that is make a declaratory statement with the intonation of a question.

While the segment with Ms. Van Edwards was only about five minutes long, it was enlightening and provided cues to look for the next time we are conversing with anyone about anything.

… Just something to think about.         


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