PEOPLE are not always truthful. Be it a white lie, half-truth or an outright fib, people lie to protect themselves or, simply, to be polite.
Often, we hear the verbal replies of those we speak to and we assess what is said. However, people unconsciously communicate their true feelings through facial expressions and body signals.
These may be obvious to the observer — some body movements or facial expressions are dead giveaways, like a big smile indicating joy.
But there are more subtle reactions, such as not maintaining eye contact, that are harder to understand.
The ability to read people well gives a leader a tremendous advantage. He is able to cut through misleading information to get to the truth or to read between the lines to know the true feelings of his staff.
Take, for example, a smile. It is often seen as a friendly gesture. However, by observing the smiler’s eyes, one can read what “type” of smile it is:
A genuine smile is often accompanied by laughter lines at the corners of both eyes. These lines are called “crow’s feet”.
A smile without crow’s feet is a polite smile as there is an absence of genuine happiness.
A broad smile that is accompanied by narrowed eyes is known as a self-centred smile and it reveals personal satisfaction.
A smile coupled with inverted “V” eyebrows says the person is concealing anxiety or nervousness.
Read between the lines
When a person is in an emotionally charged situation, he may be able to control what he says, but it is very difficult for him to control his feelings.
These will trigger involuntary muscle contractions, giving him a certain expression, which a person familiar with body language will read accurately as “upset”.
Someone who is not telling the truth may exhibit this body language:
Not maintaining eye contact,
Rubbing his nose when articulating a lie,
Playing with items in his pocket, or
Hiding his palms.
Even if he manages to control these actions, there are other signals that are less easy to mask, such as:
Cold and sweaty palms,
Tightening of lips,
Tone of voice,
Speed of reply, and
By observing these body signals and facial expressions, a leader can accurately assess the situation before him and manage it effectively.
A trained practitioner can use the questioning technique to further confirm his misgivings about someone. Take this scenario:
When a staff member is suspected of pilfering from the cash box, there are several ways to question him and find out the truth.
“Did you steal from the cash box?”
The guilty person will often go on the defensive and answer: “I did not take it, I wasn’t near the cash box all day.”
The innocent will often go on the offensive and his answer may be: “Why are you accusing me of doing this? I can’t believe that you could even consider me as a possible suspect!”
While these are basically initial guidelines for level-one questioning, you should also look at facial expressions to determine if the person is, in fact, lying.
Generally, you should look out for genuine anger, guilt, fear, nervousness, sadness, happiness, scorn and so on.
“What do you think we should do when we catch the culprit?”
The innocent person would most likely be quick to answer, “Report the matter to the police”, “Deal with the person severely and make the person an example” or “Immediate termination”.
The guilty person may start off with a more cautious reply like: “I think you must be very careful when you accuse someone.”
He may also give a deflective response like: “Are you sure someone stole the money? Maybe the person used it to purchase some office supplies?”
People around you leave hundreds of these signals every day.
However, only 50 out of every 20,000 people are naturals when it comes to reading body signals, that is, 0.25 per cent of the population.
The average person barely notices 15 per cent of these hidden expressions and few people are likely to be 100 per cent accurate all the time.
By contrast, a trained practitioner can increase his ability to 80 or 95 per cent accuracy.
Men and women have the same potential of achieving high accuracy scores.
By knowing what to look out for, you can sharply increase your ability to read the truth about anyone.