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Setting Up A Liar To Be Read Through Body Language

When trying to read someone for truth-telling, have an open view of their body to be able to see any signs of comfort and discomfort as they may arise.

When trying to read someone for truth-telling, have an open view of their body to be able to see any signs of comfort and discomfort as they may arise.

The following is a sequence by which lying can be more effectively read as outlined by Joe Navarro in his book What everybody is saying. Navarro follows a more interrogative style which will work in some circumstances, but is limited in others as you will see.

1. Get a clear unobstructed view of the person you wish to read so you don’t miss any pacifying behaviours. If possible put people in an open space.
2. Expect some nervous and stressful body language especially pacifying behaviours. People are expected to calm themselves at all times even when no lying is being done.
3. Expect initial nervousness. When someone is questioned they will feel tension regardless of their level of guilt.
4. If possible have the person you wish to read to first relax. With time everyone relaxes, even guilty people so if you can put off asking important questions or build rapport, do so.
5. Look to establish a baseline. This is especially important if you don’t know the person you are questioning all that well. Look for cues they use normally especially mannerisms and pacifiers.
6. As you begin questioning, watch for an increased use of pacifiers. This will be especially telling when they seem to increase dramatically during specific questions or when certain topics arise. When they arise, it will provide clues as to which information requires further investigation.
7. Pause frequently after asking questions. It is important to avoid putting out too many questions all at once because it will only serve to create stress. Give the person you are trying to read enough time to think and answer questions so as to avoid false positives.
8. Stay on task and maintain focus. When people feel stress they often want to change the subject matter or avoid questions. If a person gets the opportunity to change the subject their will emit fewer nonverbal tells of deception because when people speak they get to choose and control the topic.
9. Chatter is not truth. Listening to one side of the story often produces a bias and on the surface, the more we listen to people, the more we tend to trust and believe what they tell us. Advertising campaigns work through a similar mechanism as the more we hear the message, the more we think it to be true. Eventually, if we hear messages enough time, they work into our subconsciousness to become “ours”, they re-write our reality. When people present a huge amount of information about a topic, they appear to be telling the truth, however this is not always the case as even creative liars can go at lengths to produce elaborate and believable lies. It is not the amount of information provided that matters, but rather the accuracy of the information which can only come through verification of the facts.
10. Stress in and stress out. There are two times when stressful nonverbals are emitted, once when the question is asked which can appear like distancing behaviours such as arms and foot withdrawl and then again when pacifying is needed to calm. These come out as neck touching, stroking the hair and so forth.
11. Isolate the cause of stress. Is stress due to being asked stressful questions, or because someone is being interrogated. Not all stressful nonverbal language is due to lying and often people that are honest, show nervous language.
12. Pacifiers tell us a lot. Pacifying body language tells us when someone is stressed which tells us which scenarios, questions or information has created it. It therefore follows that pacifying cues tell us which areas require more thorough investigation.

Comfort And Discomfort Body Language In Detecting Lies

By keeping a “subject” relaxed, we can measure lying more accurately. Instead of creating lying-language through suspicion, we can find out which facts create discomfort – it is discomfort body language that helps uncover the truth.

By keeping a “subject” relaxed, we can measure lying more accurately. Instead of creating lying-language through suspicion, we can find out which facts create discomfort – it is discomfort body language that helps uncover the truth.

Ex-FBI agent Joe Navarro explain in his book What everybody is saying that nonverbal cues put out by the limbic mind are paramount to detecting deception. He says that it is the displays of comfort versus discomfort that tells body language readers when someone is telling the truth or lying. When people lie they experience discomfort and “guilty knowledge” which leaks through the body due to the fear response, but when people tell the truth, they “have no worries.” This approach says that a person uses more emphatic gestures with their hands and arms when they tell the truth, but when they lie they tend to freeze up and lock themselves down. By extension, we should be careful not to grill someone for the truth as this is often enough to cause someone to feel stress thereby creating nervous behaviour instead of uncovering it.

We have seen how open and closed body language can signal a desire to allow access to the body. Ventral displays show that a person is open and trusting. This is difficult to fake when people are trying to hide emotions. Another cue to watch out for is proximity displays, as it is a hint to overall comfort. People will move their torsos closer, or lean inward, rather than away, when they feel at ease and are in agreement with others. The removal of objects that impede their view, taking a jacket off, and so forth can also increase intimacy and display honesty.

Comfortable people will hold their bodies loose rather than rigid, and their body will move with fluidity. They will gesture with their speech instead of freezing instantly or awkwardly, called “flash frozen.” Sometimes people will slow down their speech to catch their thoughts and create stories. However, a good body language reader will note when the context warrants slower speech patterns such as when producing accurate answers, and when it is done in order to prevent truth telling. Comfortable people also mirror others around them instead of avoiding synchrony. Their breath rate will be similar and they will adopt like postures instead of showing differences.

Bodies show discomfort by increased heart rate, breath rate, sweating, a change in normal colour in the face or neck, trembling or shaking in the hands and lips, or elsewhere, compressing the lips, fidgeting, drumming the fingers and other repetitive behaviours. Voices often crack when under stress, mouths might dry up producing noticeable swallowing, “hard swallows”, or frequent throat clearing. Liars might use objects as barriers. They might hold drinking glasses to hide parts of their face or use walls and chairs while standing to lean against to gain support (a crutch for their lies). Liars might engage in eye blocking behaviours by covering their eyes with their hands, or seem to talk through them, or even squint so as to impede what is being said from entering their minds. The eyes might also begin to flutter or increase in overall blink rate showing an internal struggle.

Lack of touching, or touch reduction also signals discomfort and a divergence of ideas. When people’s ideas differ they find it hard to come close to others as part of the natural fear response. Head movements that are inconsistent with speech such also betray liars. A sight head nod during a denial or completing a negative thought shows a lack of synchrony which giving us evidence requiring further investigation. Additionally, when gestures are done out of sync with what is being said, they tell us that a person is adding the gesture as support for their statement after the fact. Honest people will use gestures in sync with what is being said.

How People Really Detect Lies

Reading lies in real life is an active comparison from information we know for certain, and information told to us. No doubt, nonverbal language can provide clues to us as a full package, but it doesn’t permit us to ascertain conclusive evidence. We should therefore use untrustworthy or nervous body language as motivation to spark further investigation.

My advice to read people who want to detect liars is to watch for the little stuff, the microexpressions, the small gestures and the ones that happen instantly, and then hone in on further. Keep in mind too, that you won’t be able to detect lies much better than about seventy-five percent of the time anyway, which is on par with the CIA, minus of course various lie detection machines which are impractical and requiring cooperation that you are very unlikely to garner!

The top lie detectors all seem to have one trait in common, and that is skepticism. They know or assume that someone is lying and so view them through a skeptical eye. They are careful to watch and recall any cues that tip the scales toward deception. Looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses will lead to rose-coloured predictions about people, and this is all just dandy, and works for most people, but if you truly want to know the truth, you need to watch people more critically. You also must be aware of a person, from their face to their toes. If you’re goal is to make friends, then by all means avoid filtering and analyzing the body language around you. In fact, I would advise body language readers to relax their skills when around family and friends, or at least keep it a secret!

It is not safe to immediately peg someone a liar based on one or even a handful of cues just by the nature of the trade. Reading lying correctly is a long term comparison of the facts, the emotional body language, fear and stress, from one moment to the next, weighed against relaxed, neutral and contented body language. Success will come by looking at the full picture and comparing the parts to the whole and digging deeper when discrepancies happen between expressive behaviours and the words said. No doubt, lie detection is difficult, but with some body language, and knowledge of its limitations, your odds of success with significantly increase.

The Most Common Body Language Gestures Associated With Liars: Face Touching, Ear Pull, Neck Scratch, Hand-To-Eye, Nose And Closed Language And Eye Patterns

Liars are difficult to detect and sometimes body language is more of a distraction than a help, however, most people still rely on visual cues and identify (at least in their mind) liars through their body language. While these cues are only sometimes useful in detecting lies, they are always valuable as cues to avoid if the desire is to appear honest and trustworthy in the eyes of others. In other words, here is a list of cues to avoid emitting yourself!

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Unnecessary face touching shows emotional discomfort. When in the right context, it can signal a lie.

Unnecessary face touching shows emotional discomfort. When in the right context, it can signal a lie.

Increased Face-Touching In Lying: Self touching is one thing we habitually associate with liars. Liars are thought to touch their chin, neck, nose, ears or will pull their collar away from their neck. These traits are of course related to nervousness and the mistake we sometimes make is directly associating nervousness with lying. Not all liars are nervous, some liars enjoy lying!

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Tugging at the ears helps distract the mind from emotional stress.

Tugging at the ears helps distract the mind from emotional stress.

The Ear Pull Body Language: The ear rub or pull is as gesture done as a response to greater blood flow to the ears and as a result of an increase in body temperature. Lying ear language can come in the form of a pull downward on the lobe, or as a scratch, or swipe behind the ear. When we get hot, we flush, and the neck and ears are particularly sensitive to flushing. Ears might be “blocked” in part when lying so as to avoid hearing our own fib. Only it is not a complete blocking, but rather an abbreviated blocking so instead of covering them completely, the hand merely grazes the ears or pulls on them. Pathological liars don’t hold a positive self image, at least not about their honesty and integrity therefore feel no remorse from telling a lie and therefore. This is why liars avoid the stress response lying usually produces.

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Does this gesture means something or is her neck itchy?

Does this gesture means something or is her neck itchy?

Neck Scratch And Collar Pull Body Language: When someone utters words such as “I completely agree with you, that sentiment is bang-on” but then punctuates the sentence with a neck scratch, it might mean that they in fact believe the opposite. Scratching the neck when no itch is present is a way to displace some of the nervous energy created by the lie and so distracts them from the pain of their dishonesty. Usually, honest neck scratching happens about five times, usually exactly. It seldom happens more than this, and rarely less. Thus, single scratches and excessive scratching can indicate underlying anxiety. The collar pull is another form of self touching that is related to the neck. In this case, the idea is to reduce friction causes by an increase in blood flow. As blood flow increases to our neck, it stimulates nerves which in turn cause irritation and discomfort. Other times, the collar pull is a way to release heat created by our bodies while under pressure due to higher levels of moisture from sweating.

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Hand-to-eye sometimes gives liars away as they wish to “see no evil” – in this case, the evil of their own lies.

Hand-to-eye sometimes gives liars away as they wish to “see no evil” – in this case, the evil of their own lies.

Hand To Eye Gestures In Lying: Reaching for the eyes, rubbing the eyes or touching the skin below the eyes are all abbreviated forms of eye covering. It is a response to the embarrassment caused by the lie and is, in effect, an attempt to “see no evil.” As a response to seeing traumatic events we instinctively cover our eyes so as to shelter ourselves from negative images. This is a childhood throwback when kids would burry their face in blankets when confronted with scary scenes. However, in order not to give ourselves away, and to keep our victims in sight, adults stop short of covering their eyes completely, and instead only scratch just below the eyes. Men might vigorously rub their eyes however, whereas women will lightly rub around the eye so as not to smear their make-up.

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When a child lies, she might bring her hand up quickly and slap her mouth closed, but when an adult lies, she holds back and might only lightly touch the side of the mouth. When a child lies, she might bring her hand up quickly and slap her mouth closed, but when an adult lies, she holds back and might only lightly touch the side of the mouth.

When a child lies, she might bring her hand up quickly and slap her mouth closed, but when an adult lies, she holds back and might only lightly touch the side of the mouth.
When a child lies, she might bring her hand up quickly and slap her mouth closed, but when an adult lies, she holds back and might only lightly touch the side of the mouth.

Hand To Mouth Gestures In Lying: Mouth covering is another way to reduce the pain of telling a lie. In this case, it is to “speak no evil.” Small children perform a full cover and even slap their mouths when they say something they shouldn’t. Grown adults will sometimes cup their hands to their mouth like children in effort to “jam the words back in” but usually use more subtle gestures such as talking through their hand or placing a finger softly over their lips.

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When people are stressed, blood flushes into the skin.  Our hands are then drawn to the areas most affected due to increased sensitivity and heat so we tend to point out our stress.  Enlarged capillaries in the nose can induce our hands in it’s direction to sooth it.  As blood flows to the nose, it enlarges, giving credence to the ‘Pinocchio effect.’

When people are stressed, blood flushes into the skin. Our hands are then drawn to the areas most affected due to increased sensitivity and heat so we tend to point out our stress. Enlarged capillaries in the nose can induce our hands in it’s direction to sooth it. As blood flows to the nose, it enlarges, giving credence to the ‘Pinocchio effect.’

Nose Language Of Liars: Nose touching might also stem from lying. It can happen as a quick but purposeful touch, the finger might graze the side of the nose, or it can be a persistent rubbing. Sometimes the touch is quick and dirty in an up and down motion, other times it is a brief almost unnoticeable touch to the base of the nose or its side. Face touching can come in two forms, one that serves a real function to alleviate an itch, and one that is the result of negative feelings such as being uncomfortable and stressed. Face touching that is due to an emotion is designed to fix the emotion-to sooth, and not due to any physical need.

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Closed body postures, like hands hiding in pockets, indicate insecurity which we subconsciously associate with lying.

Closed body postures, like hands hiding in pockets, indicate insecurity which we subconsciously associate with lying.

Closed Body Postures In Lying: Closed body positions, as we know, give off bad signals in general. When in a high pressure situation, closing the body off in any way may cause people to think that you are dishonest. Tucking the chin in, pulling the arms closer to the body, crossing the legs, turning the body away, and taking on a less threatening profile are all attributed to lying. Another less obvious clue to being closed-off, is to subconsciously place an object between the liar and interrogator, such as a book, brief case, or any other “security-blanket.”

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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.

Eye Patterns In Lying: 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. 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 connected with lying. 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.

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Nonverbal Microexpression In Lie Detection: Anger, Fear, Surprise, Disgust, Scorn, Doubt Or Disbelief, Reverse Smile And False Smile

Nonverbal Microexpression In Lie Detection: Anger, Fear, Surprise, Disgust, Scorn, Doubt Or Disbelief, Reverse Smile And False Smile

Keep in mind that microexpressions are useful when they appear out of congruency with other gestures or language. It is when the facial expression is out of tune with what is being said. For example, telling a positive story while smiling and momentarily flashing a microexpression can mean that the person is lying. Here are some microexpressions with respect to emotions.

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Copy-of-BodyLanguageProjectCom-Anger-1Anger: Lowering the brow, flaring of the eyes and tightening of the mouth.

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Copy-2-of-BodyLanguageProjectCom-Fear-Facial-ExpressionFear: Raising the upper eyelids and showing the whites of the eyes, raising the inner brow and folding the eyebrows inward (activation of the grief muscle), lowering the brow and or tightening of the eyelid. A grimace usually comes across the face.

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BodyLanguageProjectCom-Surprised-Facial-Expression-Or-SurprisedSurprise: Straight upward lift of the brows.

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BodyLanguageProjectCom-DisgustDisgust: Baring of the teeth, lower of the eyebrows, tightening the eyelid, and wrinkling the nose.

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Copy-of-BodyLanguageProjectCom-ScornScorn: A combination of anger and disgust that happens by wrinkling of the nose, raising and tightening of the upper lip. To visualize this expression think of a bad smell.

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Doubt or disbelief: While answering a question in the affirmative saying “yes” the head is seen shaking from side-to-side in a ‘no-gesture.’

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Copy-of-BodyLanguageProjectCom-Down-Turned-Smile-Or-Reverse-SmileReverse smile: While smiling the corners of the mouth curl downwards momentarily displaying a caught/suppressed frown.

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BodyLanguageProjectCom-False-Smile-Or-Ohoney-SmileFalse smile: Where the eyes play no part (no wrinkles in the corners of the eyes as in the Duchenne smile and the mouth is stretched across the face).

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Microexpressions In Lying Body Language

Microexpressions, such as this furrowed forehead (a negative thought indicator) are called “leaked” because they happen quickly and last only fractions of a second before disappearing. Because they are difficult to control, they tend to be reliable indicators of truly felt emotions.

Microexpressions, such as this furrowed forehead (a negative thought indicator) are called “leaked” because they happen quickly and last only fractions of a second before disappearing. Because they are difficult to control, they tend to be reliable indicators of truly felt emotions.

Microexpressions are facial movements or expressions that flash across the face at such a fast rate that they are barely perceivable. Slow motion replays of high speed videography easily shows what is difficult to see in real time. The persistence of these cues range from 1/25 to 1/5 of a second. It is the study of microexpressions that assumes that certain aspects of facial expressions reveal this duplicity to betray the liar. The research was originally pioneer by Guillaume Duchenne in the 1800s who discerned the difference between real and fake smiles from the use of the zygomatic major muscles which pull the corners of the mouth upward and the orbicularis oculi, the muscle around the eye that pulls the cheek up while lowering the brow. This was the true smile and in the same way, other unconscious microgestures reveal negative emotions.

The Science of Lie Detection Through Arousal And Body Language

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.

The Nine Reasons We Lie (outlined by Paul Ekman)

1. To avoid punishment. This is the most frequently mentioned motive and is used to cover up a deliberate or accidental misdeed.
2. To gain access to a reward not otherwise readily obtainable.
3. To protect another person from being punished.
4. To protect oneself from the threat of physical harm. This is unlike lying to avoid punishment as the threat does not come from a misdeed. Ekman presents the example of a child who lies about his parents being home to avoid having an intruder prey on them.
5. To win the admiration of others.
6. To avoid awkward social situations i.e. lying to avoid a boring party, or saying you are busy so you don’t have to talk on the phone.
7. To avoid embarrassment i.e. telling others that you spilled water on your pants, when in reality it was the result of a bathroom ‘accident’.
8. To maintain privacy. Lying to avoid revealing personal matters.
9. To gain power over others, by controlling the information they have, or think is correct.

Lying and Lie Detection Body Language – A Primer

Touching the nose has long been use as a ‘tell’ when detecting lies. However, is lying just that easy to spot?

Touching the nose has long been use as a ‘tell’ when detecting lies. However, is lying just that easy to spot?

Several cues have been attributed to detecting lies. They generally fit into two broad classes. The first is nonverbal visual cues such as facial expressions, eye blinking, eye contact or gaze aversion, head movements, pupil dilation, nodding, smiling, hand movements or gestures, foot and leg movements and postural shifts. The second includes paraverbal cues including pitch, pauses, or speech errors.

Notwithstanding the myriad of hard fast research on lie detection, it is still a widespread belief in the population that nonverbal behaviours betray a liar. Worldwide, cross-cultural comparison has shown a universally held belief that liars are spotted through their bodies. Police training packages will often include nonverbal and paraverbal behaviours as part of the ways in which deception can be detected. A study by Lucy Akehurst of the University of Portsmouth found that when asked which behaviours they thought would be consistent with lying, both police officers and regular lay people agreed. There was no difference between what the experts thought betrayed a liar and what regular people thought. They also agreed that these behavioural changes would occur more frequently in others as they lied, than in themselves. This finding is replicated in other studies as well. For example, police officers and students agreed on which behaviours were consistent with lying and they also thought that they themselves would display these cues less during lying. The research therefore is inconsistent with the nature of lying. It can not happen both ways, and it seems that our attitudes about lying and lie detection are skewed.

Judgments of deception are heavily correlated with long held stereotypes. Person’s that display behaviours associated with lying are often judged as deceptive even though they may be telling the truth! Study after study shows that roughly only fifty percent of the time liars give themselves away, the remaining time, liars are passed off as truth tellers and truth tellers as liars. Pegging liars based on body language alone or some other mystical cue is a dangerous assumption. It can lead to marital break-ups such as if a spouse falsely labels her husband as a cheater, can put innocent people in jail, can lead to the firing of employees on suspicion of theft and so forth. Yet with this huge propensity for error and consequence, we still, by in large, believe that we can read people on this trait. What shouldn’t surprise us are the rewards achievable through lying and cheating.

Teachers, principles, lay persons and even intellectuals have been shown to all think similarly in terms of lie detection, and the body language associated (even if incorrect). Thus to avoid being detected, or mislabeled a liar (which is worse), we should still avoid displaying stereotypical lying body language that will serve to give us away.

The Nonverbal Cues Of Seating Arrangements In Offices And It’s Hidden Meaning

Seating positions can indicate our reason for meeting, be it ‘affiliation’ – to build group cohesion, ‘achievement’ – to get things done, or ‘power’ – to emphasis control. How a meeting is organized typically dictates how meetings will transpire.

Casual corner positions where speakers meet across the corners of a rectangular or square table preserve closeness between people, but still offers the security of a partial barrier. The side-by-side seating position creates cooperation and when facing across from one-another, but not head-on, independent though is fostered. When facing directly across from another person, competition is created. Therefore we should aim to set up meetings depending on what we aim to achieve.

Leadership studies show us what we intuitively already know, that leaders take up the head position, that those at his or her flank receive trickle down leadership, and that even when seating is pre-determined (not self selected), leadership is assigned to the head of the table. Square tables include both competitive and cooperative seating positions because a set of people sit to the left and right, and another across the table. Circular tables have similar outcomes to square tables where it’s mostly an affiliative arrangement, except if an obvious leader is present. In this case there is a trickle-down-leadership-effect as leadership is assigned left and right around the table. In this case, the closest to the leader deemed most powerful and the person opposite the leader finds himself in the competitive head-to-head position.

Desk placement and office artifacts are crucial in an office and give us clues to the personality of the people they belong to. A photo can show that a person is a family man, a trophy can show his interest in tennis or golf, books shows he is learned, and so forth.

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