Updated: May 26
In my introduction, I promised to elaborate on several points made throughout it, and I intend on doing it; however, I should make somethings clear before I proceed with my explanations of who I am and why I do what I do.
I’ll do my best to make it simple…
Like any complex notion, the idea of “reading people” and its consequences are full of misconceptions and myths. There are many out there who claim always to know what others are thinking by reading their facial expressions. This is simply impossible. And while it is possible to interpret a person’s states of mind by observing their nonverbal behaviour, the context in which these behaviours arise is essential to the accuracy of those interpretations.
Others claim, and annoyingly so, that one signal or one cue is enough to tell what a person is thinking, or worse, that the person is lying. One common myth is that of eye movement; many will ask their interlocutors to look at them in the eyes and tell them the truth.
People move their eyes when thinking about different ideas. While there is no general rule on the direction of the eye movement, it is known that neurologically healthy individuals exhibit subtle eye movements when remembering or reconstructing information.
There are many misrepresentations of popular psychology and behaviour, like eye movement analysis. Along the same lines, it’s maintained by many that people look to the right when they are telling the truth and to the left when they are lying, but science tells us that this has more to do with the dominant brain hemisphere than with the individual’s predisposition to deception.
Okay, that got complicated. Let’s put it like this…
There is no specific signal that can tell us what someone is thinking or whether or not they are lying. Like words, these cues are often meaningless on their own, and may at most indicate that further investigation is required. Clusters of indicators can carry better information, but even in this case, the context surrounding the interaction has to be considered carefully. Always keep in mind that body language alone may tell you what someone is thinking or feeling, but not why they have those thoughts or feelings.
These myths are so widespread and accepted that they are often part of law-enforcement training manuals in North America. Imagine the danger of having a criminal investigator basing a conviction on misapprehensions about human behaviour. Yes, reading people can give you a clear idea of what a person is experiencing; however, this idea should only be a starting point in your search for the truth.
Please do your best to remember when you read body language that as you try to interpret other people’s cues; they are also doing their best to understand yours. I will explain to you in another story how this can be used to influence what other people think and feel.
If your words can carry profound messages to the person with whom you speak, the physical movements that accompany them can be used to accentuate or enhance that message. The right head nod, the proper hand gesture; or the wrong one, for that matter, can have a severe effect on the intended meaning of your communication. Please pay attention to the actions people make when they speak as you go forward today. Do your best to see if what they tell you is congruent with the way their body and face move. The word YES followed by the wrong head movement can be grounds for further inquiry.
Originally posted on Medium