Tag Archive for Posture

Eye Patterns In Lying

Eyes that wont make contact or seem to dart around as if they are fabricating stories can give liars away.

Eyes that wont make contact or seem to dart around as if they are fabricating stories can give liars away.

Shifty eyes, where the eyes dart all over the room to focus on anything but someone else’s eyes, is habitually associated with lying. However, as we learned previously, most practiced liars hold gaze even more strongly than in normal situations. In a study that looked at seventy-five countries, it was found that avoidance of eye contact was named as a lying trait in every single one of them. It is also frequently named first as a tell, and was named by old and young people alike. This trend exists cross culturally, despite any supportive scientific findings. People will stereotype liars as having shifty posture, self touching, appear nervous, have broken speech and so forth, but it is the belief that “they can’t look you in the eye” that is first and foremost on the tongue of all human lie detectors throughout the world! I suppose it would be less fascinating if that trait actually did predict lying, but it doesn’t. It’s simply a widespread belief that is passed down from generation to generation.

With regards to the general public who hold strong ideas about what a liar looks like, be sure to avoid gaze avoidance! Looking away for long periods of time, especially while talking, shifty eyes as mentioned, or using “stammering eyes”, which is the action of keeping the eyes closed for prolonged periods of time have all been noted as giving liars away. Despite widespread beliefs about how liars refuse to look other people in the eye, there is little empirical evidence to suggest its truth. Gaze avoidance might be more closely associated with the intent of appearing more subordinate, or to reduce anxiety and intensity so as to diffuse the situation.

Shutting out the outside world with stammering eyes can be a strong turn-off to other people, as can eye gaze avoidance which is probably why people universally attribute bad eye language to dishonesty. Negative impressions can stem from poor eye contact, even coming from the most honest and trustworthy people especially when it is the desire of others to label someone a liar for their own interest or purpose. It is a well known fact that when people hold specific beliefs they discount information that disproves their ideas, and actively seek out information that support it, some of which doesn’t exist in ready made form. To the more astute, it will come as obvious that reading bad eye language can help us reduce the creation of false impressions about others. Just because someone has unusual eye patterns does not mean that a person is lying, but chances are good that if you use bad eye language, or see someone else use bad eye language, you and they will be classified as untrustworthy.

The final aspect related to eye language worth mentioning is pupil dilation. Under stress or arousal of any kind, the pupils expand so as to allow more light in. This can include stress and fear due to lying, or any other fearful situations for that matter, but does not discount the stimulus of seeing something particularly attractive, as this too causes pupil dilation. By placing a suspect in the hot seat it is possible to gauge what level of fear he has with regards to accusations because it eliminates the confusion that outside stimulus creates larger pupils. However, like all lying language, pupil dilation is due to stress, which can result from being put in the hot seat! It is the gauging of pupil size from baseline that tells us something useful. Talking about something neutral like what they did last week on a random day, then switching to something more questionable like whether or not the stole office supplies is a great way to measure pupil differences as well as other lying language.

While we expect a liar to be more stressful overall, this isn’t always the case as has been one of the reoccurring themes in this chapter. However, if we wish to fool others, or maintain our innocence in their eyes, we should try to remain relaxed thereby giving off few or no negative cues.

Deception Causes Arousal, Generally

While he COULD be lying, it's much more likely that he's actually anxious.  We instinctively (and wrongfully) link anxiety with lying, when in fact good liars often feel no anxiety whatsoever when they lie, and honest people feel anxiety when they think they will be disbelieved.

While he COULD be lying, it’s much more likely that he’s actually anxious. We instinctively (and wrongfully) link anxiety with lying, when in fact good liars often feel no anxiety whatsoever when they lie, and honest people feel anxiety when they think they will be disbelieved.

It is a widely held belief that emotional arousal and stress, is strongly tied with lying. It is also at the heart of the polygraph or lie detector. Here, autonomic responses which happen in our bodies without our conscious control such as sweating or ‘skin conductivity’ is measured as well as increases in heart rate and breathing. It is assumed that when lies occur, stress related behaviours increase. Lie detector machines measure a baseline, that is, they take readings when lying is known to occur and compare it to readings when lying is thought to occur. By reading the differences, lying should become obvious.

We can use similar methods to read arousal without the help of the polygraph. Watching for an increase in adaptors, shifting, subtle movements, touching or scratching the face, neck or nose can show us that someone is uncomfortable. What it won’t show us is the reason for the discomfort. By grilling someone for the truth, this is often enough to cause someone to feel stress thereby creating the behaviour instead of uncovering it. Other clues to an increase in stress includes an increase in eye blinking, changes in posture, avoiding eye contact and foot and leg movement. It is important to always put fear of lying and arousal into context. Someone with little fear, little to gain or loose, or in other words, ‘when the stakes are low’ wont show any of these signals. Aside from this lack of tell, it is important to realize that body language cues, especially lying language is not a result directly of lying, but rather an indication of the stress, fear and anxiety that may or may not be present when lying.

Why We Lie

Research by Bella DePaulo of the University of Virgina and Deborah Kashy of Texas A & M University in 1998 found that on average people tell one or two lies daily. The research tells us that people lie most often about their feelings, preferences, attitudes and opinions and lie less frequently about their actions, plans and whereabouts presumably because it would be fairly easy to detect these lies. Lies are also told about achievements and failures. Material gain, personal convenience or escaping punishment are all fodder for lies but most often, lies are used to gain psychological currency such as to appear more sophisticated or virtuous. It seems that we take self-presentation, that is, the way we are perceived seriously. Lying permits us to convey certain roles and personal qualities to others as we see fit. It’s important to realize the main reasons for lying so that we can be skeptical at the right moments. It is difficult and perhaps even detrimental to constantly be suspicious of lying. In fact, letting lies pass detection is often the best thing to do since not all lies are of significance, in fact, most are not. This strategy doesn’t require you to believe someone’s lies, but it does requiring the ignoring of certain lies, especially the unimportant ones.

The upside to lying is to protect others from disapproval, to reduce disagreements or to prevent hurting the feelings of others. Lying is therefore a skill to manage our impressions in light of others. Politicians present an example we know all to well, as they posture from all sides of every issue to gain the most support. Another feature of lies is that they often occur from omission where we remove or withhold information so as to mislead. Incidentally these are the easiest to get away with. When asked about the effect of lies, most agreed that lying produced little regret and that the lies where of little consequence. Most reported that they felt bad immediately after telling a lie though, but did not take much time planning lies or thinking about the consequences. Lying has a dark side too, and these are to hide actions that would otherwise lead to punishment which can be from cheating to deep betrayals of intimacy and trust.

In closing off this general introduction, I would like to emphasis that by no means is lie detection easy or straightforward and any source that tells you it is, is misleading you. Lying is not universally stressful, guilt-inducing or even complicated. Some lies are simple and the motivation for lying varies greatly. It is my contention which is supported by the literature on deception, that lying is used routinely, and competently executed yields only faint clues through body language. Researchers who favour my view say that ordinary people are so practiced and proficient and unaffected by lies, that they could be regarded as professionals. Lying is so pervasive that over time (evolution), those who were best able to fool others tended to be most successful and produced more of this trait. Therefore, only weak ties exist between verbal and nonverbal tells with regards to lies, with the most blatant and obvious signals eliminated quickly through our development and our evolutionary history.


We can tell if our boss autocratic if they are attached to the status artifacts around them. Their desk will be used as a barrier protecting them from intruders, they will have cleaver title markings on their desk or door, and usually have trophies or accolades on their walls. Their dress will be formal and expensive and their posture will be rigid and straight. Friendliness is the foe of the autocratic boss so he will keep you at arms length, keep conversations on task and hold expressionless faces. If you get out of line, he will use his body language to put you back in your place with harsh voice tones and eye contact. Often autocratic bosses are seen as unloving, unfriendly or inhumane. To get along with him, use body language that doesn’t undermine his status, allow him to maintain his power, never enter his personal space or move to his side of the desk without permission, don’t interrupt him, smile pleasantly, and keep conversations brief so as not to waste his time.

Leadership Body Language

Holding dominant body language is like a wedge that holds the door open between levels at your work. When new employees arrive in our companies, even if just a junior level employee, everyone instinctively classifies them. They are either leaders or followers from the start, but it’s not just “something” about them, something mystical or intangible, it is plain and simple, it is their body language that tells us their future roles. We know right away if they will fit into the company, be fired, or come out as future “top dogs.” The research shows us that if you don’t hold dominant body language, you’ll never be promoted to leadership roles. Leaders aren’t usually able to talk their way up a hierarchy, although sometimes they do, and it ends up causing remorse and conflict from lower ranking employees because they lack the respect that comes with dominance and leadership seeming to emanate from certain people. So if you want to get higher in your company here are some tips.

First, increase your height through better posture. Hold your head higher and whenever you can exploit high differences, do it. If everyone is sitting, stand, but don’t make everyone feel uncomfortable by towering over them. If you have split levels, stand on the top level and keep everyone else on the lower rug. Find excuses to stand by volunteering to draw out plans on a board when brainstorming. This gives you two advantages, the first of which is the height advantage where you can tower over your follow employees and the second is more strategic. By being the chalkboard secretary, you become the person that everyone defers to for idea acceptance, while having the freedom to add any ideas yourself as desired without needing approval. Second to exploiting height differences, is breadth expansions. Meaning, one should try to appear bigger by taking up more space. Not only should you spread out your legs and arms, but you should also spread out your papers, pens and other artifacts. Taking up space is a way to own more of it, and is a strong signal of dominance.

Your gaze should be serious and direct, with your head held high. Don’t be afraid to use touch, but touch only in safe zones such as the arm between the hand and elbow, the elbow itself and sometimes the shoulders but only with caution. If you can get away with shoulder or back touches, do so, but pay attention to the reaction is creates so as not to insult others. Always try to be the first to speak and be the “go-to-guy” for questions and opinions. It is therefore important to be helpful, task oriented, and sincerely try to do a good job. Avoid smiling too much especially if you are a woman, as this can be taken as submission or placation. A neutral face is more appropriate during high tension situation so fight the urge to smile nervously and only nod in agreement with statements you really agree with. In other words, don’t smile and nod while expressing negative ideas as it only serves to confuse others, and can make people think you are weak and easily manipulated. Keep your body language in tune with your verbal words and don’t be afraid to cast judgments on solutions you feel are inappropriate. Conversely use encouragement when deserved and back it up with genuine body language.

While body language alone won’t guarantee a raise in dominance, it’s a good first step. The next part of the process is an attitude overhaul while remaining consistent. A word of caution is a must. If you are working within an existing environment where your behaviour will be monitored throughout the process rather than entering a novel environment where people have no baseline to compare you to, be prepared for some resistance. Understand that you are sure to cause resentment, which might create a desire to undermine you, but the last thing you need in your quest for a higher rank are lower dissenters so always treat others with the respect they deserve – even if they don’t deserve it! Upward movement while others stagnant, can be perceived as a threat, create animosity, and more than likely bread challenges. Your task to leadership will be to meet these challenges with consistent and unwavering body language.

Leaning And Ready Language In The Office And Elsewhere

We show attentiveness and also readiness, meaning a preparedness to take action by leaning toward the speaker, or things we want to get closer to, and away from speakers, or things we want to avoid. “Things” in the sentence previous can mean anything from proposals, ideas, opinions, decisions or anything else for that matter. This “ready posture” is akin to the sprinters ready position at the starting blocks and is called an “intention movement” because it tells us what someone wishes to do. The hands are placed on the legs or knees and the body leans forward ready to spring up and close a deal, or any other action that is being presented. It can also be done by placing the hands on the chair, arm rest or hands on the knees. While standing, the ready position is taken up by placing the hands on the hips. The eyes can also play a role in ready language as they make frequent and repetitive ganders to where a person is thinking, or where they would like to be.

In a business meeting or on a sales call, the ready position indicates that it’s time to stop talking and time to start closing, and that any agreement related to the conversation previous is likely to be accepted. Leaning forward not only means readiness, it sometimes means general interest. For example, a conversation taking place between friends containing some juicy gossiping or with an enthralling storyline, will have each party up “at the edge of their seats” and engaged in the conversation seemingly hanging onto every word. Other times, leaning language means that someone is late and needs to leave, or is bored and ready to go. The opposite position, meaning backwards leaning shows the reverse. It shows a detachment from the topic or from the speaker but can also indicate a high degree of comfort or relaxation where someone wishes not to leave. To uncover the true meaning behind leaning it will be a matter of tracking down additional cues to produce a cluster, and then matching this cluster with the context. The torso, however, is a great place to look to uncover where someone wants to go; it usually points directly to it.

A final ready posture that tells us someone wants to leave happens by propping the body up and coiling the legs underneath in a seated position. Uncrossing the legs and getting them underneath the weight of the body, shows body language readers that someone is ready to pick themselves up. This type of body language is a “leading gesture” because it is a predictor of what is about to happen. The body can also be tensed up or fidget so as to ready itself even more, and be moving away from what would normally be perceived to be the centre of attention. When people want to leave, their body begins to lean toward the exit, but even if their torso’s don’t, their feet will betray them by being extended forward. Additional ready gestures include straightening clothing, arranging or organizing papers, grabbing bags and so forth. These last cues, like the others, indicate an effort to get things going.

Power Sitting For Women – What To Do, What To Avoid

Women in the workplace are always walking a thin line between their sexuality and authority. Women all know that their looks can be used to manipulate others around them, especially men, however physical attractiveness in the workplace has been repeatedly shown to lead others to dismiss women’s thoughts. However, one way women can combat this and still maintain their sexuality is as follows: sit with legs crossed leg over knee and have the high heel pointed horizontally at someone they wish to intimidate. Most dominant cues that work for men, such as the full body steeple, are ineffective when used by women. However, the heel is something men don’t have so it doesn’t come across as being a typically dominant male gesture. The heel acts like a dagger against its prey and neutralizes it. The posture shows assertiveness and that she is willing and able to emasculate men.

One sitting position women should particularly avoid is sitting with arms up and behind the head in the full steeple position as mentioned. This posture has the effect of putting the breasts on full display which counteracts any dominant aspects it might otherwise impart. Even having the legs crossed in the figure four looks odd when performed by women. A crotch display is not effective for women as it is for men, so it should be eliminated altogether. Hand steepling is another gender neutral dominance stance and can be used with effectiveness. Women want to pick up cues that suite their overall personality without putting people off. Assertive women often described as “bitchy” to others, usually because they take things too far. Women seeking powerful positions often think they need to go over-the-top because the fear being discounted. However, this isn’t so, and like men, need to balance being dominant and “mean” and demonstrating leadership qualities.

How Men Can Use Negative Body Language

"Pecking forward" is a negative body posture for men in courtship because it makes him seem needy and low value.

“Pecking forward” is a negative body posture for men in courtship because it makes him seem needy and low value.

Men should make all their movements more planned, deliberate, and purposeful. Leaning in too much, also referred to as “pecking” forward, is a big fault most men make. Leaning back will force others to engage you, instead of the other way around. Talking quietly also has the affect of forcing people to move closer to you, thereby increasing your status but if done too frequently appears submissive and unconfident.

Don’t be afraid to use negative body language when people do things you don’t like. If they “start on you”, don’t be afraid to turn your back or cross your arms. At the same time, men should display honest and genuine interest and try to build others around them up, but at the same time force them to work for their approval. Most everyone has a sore spot for validation and if you can become a root to their confidence, then they will seek you for approval which gives you the power. However, men shouldn’t be afraid to show interest either. Body language like verbal language is a negotiation.

Does he really want to leave?  In most cases, negative body language is truthful, but he's playing a game - hard-to-get!

Does he really want to leave? In most cases, negative body language is truthful, but he’s playing a game – hard-to-get!

One negative body language technique involves talking over a shoulder so as to show some but not total interest in someone. If done correctly it, the body language teases woman and forces them to display stronger signals of interest to keep the man’s attention. That is if she’s been given enough cues to feel compelled to compete for your attention. Using negative body language in this way is especially attractive to women who habitually have men fawning all over them. Far too often men use body language that is open an accepting in all cases and situations even though women don’t fully and sometimes not even partially deserve it. Negative body language shows rejection, which a lot of women are not accustomed to so it brings out their competitive spirit.

Above: Playing hard to get can sometimes put you back in the driver’s seat with women. For example, you could display a carefree attitude by slouching lower in a seat, opening up your posture, and taking up more space than necessary to demonstrate dominance. This may excite certain women since you are displaying as a typical alpha male, but if you go overboard, it will turn women off.

The Dominant Male Stance

An alpha posture takes up space as if he's in his own living room.

An alpha posture takes up space as if he’s in his own living room.

Whenever not in motion, men should keep both feet flat on the ground with their arms to their sides and their weight even across both feet. Men should do their best to avoid placing their hands in their pockets as it comes across as dishonest as though they have something to hide. The hips should be forced forward slight, with the legs just wider than shoulder width. Men might also wish to extend a foot in the direction of the woman of interest to give her a subtle cue of interest.

It is paramount that men avoid leaning up against objects or walls and using them as a crutch. Confident men will appear relaxed, calm and grounded, without the help of chairs, walls or other crutch-like-objects to fiddle with and occupy their hands. Men should also avoid standing or sitting in the same position for too long. Rather, they should move confidently about the room and explore all aspects of their territory making themselves at home.

Dominant Body Language

The alpha male solicits (elicits) attention from women.

The alpha male solicits (elicits) attention from women.

Establishing dominance and status are the main messages men deliver to establish attraction with women and there are a variety of methods to do so. Fashion is one aspect of status and it includes expensive watches and suites, polished shoes and being well groomed. Status also comes across through body language. Open postures, legs spread apart, arms uncrossed and keeping the hands away from the face. Alpha men display alpha traits because life has treated them well. Good posture also shows that life hasn’t taken advantage of him and the weight of the world isn’t holding him down.

The torso’s of dominant men is firm and still, they will use their arms to punctuate points, but keep them relatively inactive. Dominant men only rarely raise their arms above the level of their belt. Speaking slowly with a calm voice also shows dominance. The fewer words used, the more emphasis is placed on what words are used. Instead of rambling on, men should use more pauses and allow their minds to catch up. Alpha men speak slowly, almost carefully. They choose their words wisely and avoid fillers such as “ummm” and “ahhh.” Taking up space is also part of dominant body language. Having the arms spread wide while on a sofa and the legs apart gives the impression that men are relaxed and also larger than they actually are.