Have you seen those crazy videos? The ones that decode people’s body language while they are being interviewed. The experts call it the science of body language.
Yes, of course, we all express fear, anger, and laughter by using facial expressions and other body movements. But these experts have gone way further and tied the body language to what we actually say and how we say it. This is supposed to reveal what we are really saying!
Welcome to the world of non-verbal communication where a mere tic or blink of an eye, movement of the head may condemn you for the rest of your life. This is the mysterious world of body language. Yes, mysterious it is and it is likely to stay that way forever. It is true though that 75% of communication relies on non-verbal signals.
The most popular victims so far are:-
Welcome to the trial.
They pull them apart but they never say they have actually lied. You are the jury and you can decide whether they should be hanged at dawn or locked up.
Here are some typical comments from the experts
There’s something going on here
Higher blink rate reveals more stress
That shaking of the head means it’s a denial. The body doesn’t lie.
If she changes the tilt of her head from left to right, that becomes a red flag for me.
Eyelash flutter and her rate increases
If the blink rate goes up, that is typically a stress indicator
Blink rate decreases during the lie but goes up after
She’s narrating the story with her body language
Are her eyes dilating?
Also I saw higher honesty but higher stress
Large inhale before starting to talk, could be something, could be nothing
These experts are descending into hellish detail. The worst thing is that I have started watching the commentator’s (experts) own body language. They are all using the same gestures and hand movements. What does this mean? Can I really trust them at all? Are they trying to cover something up?
They also claim that they are experts in interrogation, help people gain credibility, and win trust. They will teach you all that. They also coach politicians! Also, they will instruct you on enhanced persuasion. This could be useful when you are caught by the FBI and you have to face interrogation.
So, here is my advice for the next time you are interviewed on TV or YouTube. Just DON’T do the following because you will be torn to pieces by the lion experts in the den. You will be on YouTube before you know it. One way of becoming famous, I suppose.
Anyway, just DON’T:-
- Steeple your fingers — demonstrates power, perhaps.
- Move your thumbs
- Move your ankle up and down
- Change your breathing — keep it steady
- Tilt your head to on side and if you do, just don’t change sides!
- Make eye contact — too risky!
The best candidate I can think of here is Mike Pence. He hardly moves any facial muscles and there are very few hand gestures. I do not think we will see a video of the experts doing an analysis of one of his speeches.
Research on body language
But how reliable is this? Body language is not an exact science. It can be a great indicator that the subject is not at ease or is in difficulty. I looked for some research on this and this is what I found.
The article here says that we must not read too much into the fact that when a person crosses their legs. It can mean something it does not!
Doctor-patient communication in using body language is a very interesting area and it can be a useful tool in training doctors.
Another fascinating area is where students’ body language can reveal how receptive they are to learning and being creative. This has some implications for teaching as scientists from Stanford University reveal in this video.
Body language can be a great aid in interactive communication and we use it all the time in our everyday lives. Watch people gesticulate when they are talking on their phones. They don’t need to but it helps them to make it clear.
The listener cannot see this body language at all. But the spoken language and body language are inextricably linked and this is a fascinating area of study.
Interrogation and lie detection procedures often use techniques such as body language. However, the facts and myths of lie detection are described in the book called Behavioral Profiling by Diana Nowek of the Institute of Non- verbal Communication.
When it comes to judging people and assessing whether what they have said in a TV interview is true or not, then decoding the body language is not reliable.
“In spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody. The essential substance of every thought and feeling remains incommunicable, locked up in the impenetrable strong-room of the individual soul and body. Our life is a sentence of perpetual solitary confinement.” ― Aldous Huxley