Pants on FIRE!!

“Lying is the oil the greases our interactions with others and lets us maintain friendly social relationships.” The Definitive Book of Body Language


As much as we would like to claim to be totally honest, it is simply not possible. We all lie – white lies, small lies, innocent lies, protective lies, HUGE lies. It’s part of our social interaction.

A friend told me last week that she’s now at chapter 8 of The Gauguin Connection and she’s wondering how much of me is in Genevieve. As a writer there is always a little bit of me in all my characters. What I did tell my friend was that the one thing I love about Genevieve (and envy her for it) is her black and white approach to life.

Genevieve calls a spade a spade (much to Manny’s annoyance) and never plays word games. She doesn’t play any kind of game for that matter. With her everything is black and white. Simple. I wish life did not consist of me, while in conversation, narrowing my eyes just knowing that the person across from me said one thing, but meant something completely different. But if we did speak in all honesty we might land up being extremely lonely and/or in jail!!

So… how can we tell when someone is lying? Are there dead give-aways? One specific ‘tell’ that will clue you in?

Sadly, no. In all my research and studies one recurring theme popped up – context! We express emotions in clusters. Just because I’m touching my ear doesn’t mean I’m telling a whopper. It could mean that my fabulous earrings are too heavy. As a nonverbal cue it could mean that I am uncomfortable telling you some sensitive information. Not only the topic, context and environment need to be taken into consideration, but also the entirety of my body language.

Enough blathering! Here is a list of common nonverbal cues that could make you listen more closely and ask a few more questions:

o Lack of hand and arm movement – in comfortable conversation we emphasise our stories with gestures. These still when we’re fibbing.
o Covering your mouth – it is an unconscious gesture to hide what is being said. It could be just one finger or the whole hand.
o An abnormal shoulder shrug – usually only one shoulder comes up indicating that the speaker is not fully committed to what he’s saying.
o Touching the nose, ears or eyes. These are all pacifying gestures – unconscious self-touching to calm or comfort in a stressful situation. Maybe the person feels judged or is scared of the reaction to his words. Or he might be highly uncomfortable because he is lying.
o Pulling at the collar – a more common cue with men for obvious reasons. Woman might start playing with a necklace.
o Greater eye contact – contrary to popular believe, good liars will look you in the eye and say, “It wasn’t me.”
o Contrasting head movement – saying, “I don’t know how the car got scratched!” while slightly nodding your head.
o General disharmony in words and body language – calmly telling a story, in detail, but hands are shaking, often hidden under a table.

Remember to read everything in context!!!

So… which is your ‘tell’. Do you immediately reach for your earlobe when you lie? Do you rub the corners of your mouth? Do you touch your neck? Do you know someone with a definite tell? A twitchy lip?


2 thoughts on “Pants on FIRE!!

  1. This is what I encourage for those pursuing accurate knowledge of history, including history of ideas and concepts. Context is a key for spotting those things which indicate expressions of falsehood – misrepresentation. It can be firmly believed but still inaccurate or wrong. As expressed elsewhere in your site, culture and sub-culture impact how we not only spot items in context, but how we give ourselves away. It is possible to be earnestly wrong about something, but the greatest risk to us is not being lied to, but lying to ourselves. IMO. Great stuff Estelle.


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