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Telling lies in a professional setting leads to myriad problems in the workplace. For an effective work environment, teams must trust each other and build relationships based on honesty and the common goal of achieving the best results at work. However, there will always be co-workers, clients, potential hires, and executives who won’t tell the truth.
It would be great to have a magic wand that could tell you who’s lying and who’s not lying, but that’s not an option. Fortunately, there is other ways to understand if someone is less than honest with you and your business. The following signs do not even require words and are all non-verbal tails.
Related: How to tell if someone is lying from a psychologist who trains the FBI
What is non-verbal communication?
Non-verbal communication understands the many ways we communicate without words. For example, facial expressions are a code or signal that reflects what a person is feeling from moment to moment.
Micro-expressions are facial expressions that happen quickly. They are a natural reaction to an involuntary situation and a way to gauge the real genuine emotions others are feeling.
“When people try to hide how they feel, the expression is reduced in time from a few seconds to a fraction of a second – a tenth of a second – so brief that you can miss it if you blink,” explains psychologist and author Paul Ekman. “Most people don’t recognize the emotions expressed in these micro-expressions. But people can learn to see them. Learning to read facial expressions gives you an advantage in business because it allows you to communicate more effectively with your business partners. .”
Another form of non-verbal communication is body language. It involves how you move your body, including unconscious movements. It is not uncommon for our bodies to communicate something that our words are not.
For example, arms crossed in front of the chest is usually a sign of defensiveness. Crossing the legs can indicate that someone needs privacy or is closed off. Sitting too far away shows disinterest, when leaning forward shows interest.
Related: A Negotiation Expert Shares the 4 Body Language Clues Every Entrepreneur Should Recognize
Have you ever felt like someone is not be honest with you? Maybe you can’t explain it in words, but you feel like something is wrong. Chances are you’re right. Most likely, you are unconsciously aware of changes in the person’s nonverbal communication.
David Matsumoto is an expert on microexpressions, gestures, non-verbal behavior, culture and emotion. He explains that to properly detect lies, you have to observe people.
Matsumoto teaches that when your body language and non-verbal communication are congruent, the words you speak have a much higher value. Conversely, when your non-verbal communication is not congruent with your words, people tend to ignore spoken words and focus on body language.
Research also shows that when people lie, they experience negative emotions because they know they are lying. They will automatically feel a certain contempt, either for themselves or for the situation that forces them to lie.
Related: How to tell if someone is manipulating you based on their body language
People also lie to protect themselves or someone else from being punished. In some cases, they lie to avoid an embarrassing or uncomfortable situation or to boost their self-esteem in the eyes of others.
All of these reasons to lie have a clear reason and purpose. They are all equally driven by emotions. Human emotions are impossible to hide completely and will be displayed non-verbally in one form or another (unless you are dealing with a psychopath or sociopath).
When you think someone is being dishonest, try observing them for emotional incongruities. Discomfort can manifest in many ways, including anger, contempt, disgust, fear, and sadness. Stress can also indicate a lie, and emotion releases adrenaline. Adrenaline provides more energy to the limbs, which can lead to restlessness.
It is also useful to look for gestures that are out of the ordinary. Often these will come in “clusters”, meaning two or more non-verbal gestures that signify distress. They can be as simple as a facial tick, shoulder lift, or eyebrow wrinkle. Once you learn to better identify discomfort, it is much easier to see someone’s inner world.
Keep in mind that there is no infallible or universal signal demonstrating dishonesty. There are a few non-verbal signs that, when in a group, could mean the truth is unconfirmed. These signs may include:
- Excessive blinking
- The eyes that turn around
- Irregular eye contact
- Excessive body touching
- rapid head movements
- Nodding yes while saying no or vice versa
- Facial redness
- twist your fingers
Remember, these are all possible signs of deception, not confirmations of deception. Lie detection is complex and not as simple as watching someone touch their nose. It takes practice and precise training. Nevertheless, by using your own skills of critical thinking, observation, experience, and basic knowledge about a person and a situation, you can have many of the tools needed to clearly assess the truth.