A commonly asked question is, ‘Is it possible to fake your own body language?’ The general answer to this question is ‘no’ because of the lack of congruence that is likely to occur in the use of the main gestures, the body’s microsignals and the spoken words. For example, open palms are associated with honesty but when the faker holds his palms out and smiles at you as he tells a lie, his microgestures give him away. His pupils may contract, one eyebrow may lift or the comer of his mouth may twitch, and these signals contradict the open palm gesture and the sincere smile. The result is that the receiver tends not to believe what he hears.
The human mind seems to possess a fail-safe mechanism that registers ‘tilt’ when it receives a series of incongruent non-verbal messages. There are, however, some cases in which body language is deliberately faked to gain certain advantages. Take, for example, the Miss World or Miss Universe contest, in which each contestant uses studiously learned body movements to give the impression of warmth and sincerity. To the extent that each contestant can convey these signals, she will score points from the judges, but even the experts can only fake body language for a short period of time and eventually the body will emit signals that are independent of conscious actions. Many politicians are experts in faking body language in order to get the voters to believe what they are saying and the politician who can successfully do this is said to have ‘charisma’.
The face is used more often than any other part of the body to cover up lies. We use smiles, nods and winks in an attempt to cover up, but unfortunately for us, our body signals tell the truth and there is a lack of congruence between our body gestures and facial signals. The study of facial signals is an art in itself. Little space is devoted to it in this book and for more information about it I recommend Face Language by Robert L. Whiteside.
In summary, it is difficult to fake body language for a long period of time but, as we shall discuss, it is good to learn and to use positive open gestures to communicate with others and to eliminate gestures that may give negative signals. This can make it more comfortable to be with people and can make you more acceptable to them.
How To Tell Lies Successfully
The difficulty with lying is that the subconscious mind acts automatically and independently of our verbal lie, so our body language gives us away. This is why people who rarely tell lies are easily caught, regardless of how convincing they may sound. The moment they begin to lie, the body sends out contradictory signals, and these give us our feeling that they are not telling the truth. During the lie, the subconscious mind sends out nervous energy that appears as a gesture that can contradict what the person said. Some people whose jobs involve lying, such as politicians, lawyers, actors and television announcers, have refined their body gestures to the point where it is difficult to ‘see’ the lie, and people fall for it, hook, line and sinker.
They refine their gestures in one of two ways. First, they practise what ‘feel’ like the right gestures when they tell the lie, but this is only successful when they have practised telling numerous lies over long periods of time. Second, they can eliminate most gestures so that they do’ not use any positive or negative gestures while lying, but this is also very difficult to do.
Try this simple test when an occasion presents itself. Tell a deliberate lie to an acquaintance and make a conscious effort to suppress all body gestures while your body is in full view of the other person. Even when your major body gestures are consciously suppressed, numerous microgestures will still be transmitted. These include facial
muscular twitching, expansion and contraction of pupils, sweating at the brow, flushing of the cheeks, increased rate of eye blinking and numerous other minute gestures that signal deceit. Research using slow motion cameras shows that these microgestures can occur within a split second and it is only people such as professional interviewers, sales people and those whom we call perceptive who can consciously see them during a conversation or negotiation. The best interviewers and sales people are those who have developed the unconscious ability to read the microgestures during face-to-face encounters.
It is obvious, then, that to be able to lie successfully, you must have your body hidden or out of sight. This is why police interrogation involves placing the suspect on a chair in the open or placing him under lights with his body in full view of the interrogators; his lies are much easier to see under those circumstances. Naturally, telling lies is easier if you are sitting behind a desk where your body is partially hidden, or while peering over a fence or behind a closed door. The best way to lie is over the telephone!
HOW TO LEARN BODY LANGUAGE
Set aside at least fifteen minutes a day to study and read the gestures of other people, as well as acquiring a conscious awareness of your own gestures. A good reading ground is anywhere that people meet and interact. An airport is a particularly good place for observing the entire spectrum of human gestures, aspeople openly express eagerness, anger, sorrow, happiness, impatience and many other emotions through gestures. Social functions, business meetings and parties are also excellent. Having studied the art of body language, you can go to a party, sit alone in a corner all evening like a wallflower and have an exciting time just watching other people’s body language rituals! Television also offers an excellent way of learning nonverbal communication. Turn down the sound and try to understand what is happening by first watching the picture. By turning the sound up every five minutes, you will be able to check how accurate your non-verbal readings are and before long it will be possible to watch an entire program without any sound and understand what is happening, just as deaf people do.