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Your body language speaks the truth even when your mouth lies

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 There is an advantage in learning how to read Body Language and to understand the true meaning of what is actually being communicated ... and besides that, its also fun to do!  Imagine detecting false smiles or to have the ability to read a handshake or best of all, to know what people are really thinking and if they are telling a lie.  I will be hosting a free talk on Body Language, based on "The definitive book of Body Language" written by Allan and Barbara Pease.  The next talk will be held on Tuesday 21 March between 18h30 and 20h00 at 16 Sunbird Close. Blouberg Rise.  Unfortunately seating is limited and booking is essential via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Is it laughter or a primate warning?  Look at Trump's handshake - notice the upper arm grip?  Wouldn't you like to find out what is meant by that type of handshake?


Some Facts and Body Language


  • Woman are actually far better at interpreting body language than men.  No surprise! 
  • The way we hold our body, reveals our emotions and thoughts.
  • We do share common gestures with some of our primates.
  • Over 90% of our communication is non-verbal.
  • 55% is body language - yes we do listen with our eyes.
  • 7% is the actual words we say.



The Free talk on Body Language - "Making Body Language Work for You"  gives you a basic understand of Body Language together with some practical demonstrations.


 The three rules for an accurate Body Language read

  • Read gestures in clusters
  • Look for congruence
  • Read the cluster in context


Read gestures in clusters.  A basic mistake when learning Body Language is to pick  on a single gesture, in isolation.  As with any language we compile sentences and not just single words.  So, look for the whole "sentence"of the gestures.  For example if  you are observing a group of people and you notice someone folding their arms, it may not be a defensive gesture.  Look for other clues, are they rolling their eyes, nodding their heads in a rapid movement or just bracing themselves before they nod off. Never base a read on a single gesture.

Look for congruence.  What the speaker is saying must match the body language.  If the speaker is saying "I am so excited to be here" while slumped over the podium hiding a yawn.   Sigmund Freud also looked for congruence in body language to detect what a patient is actually thinking.  For example, a patient verbally expressed how happy she was in her marriage while unconsciously slipping her wedding ring on and off.  Needless to say the marriage she eventually left her husband.

Read the cluster in context.  The gesture cluster of a person sitting, huddled up in a very cold air-conditioned room, will have a different read, if the environment was normal.


The power is in our hands ... and we talk a lot with them


The Palms. 

In ancient times, the open palm was used to show that no weapons were concealed.  Today the open palm is used to imply honesty and openness, it's an unconscious signal indicating that the person is telling you the truth.  The way we hold our palms can speak volumes.  Just observer when a person is not wanting to speak, the palm are hidden, either placed in pockets or behind the back.  Notice when your a child lying, they tend put their arms behind their back, hiding the palms. Palms when held up are non-threatening, just think about the classic "I surrender" pose!  Palms turned down however, have a very different meaning, one of authority.  Just recall how a teacher, with one downward palm can get a whole class to sit or what about Hitlers salute, the palm down.

Have you ever noticed the palms closed and finger pointing gesture, you know what your immediate reaction to that is. We don't like a pointing finger in our face.  So, if you have to point, soften it by bringing your thumb and index together, it is less intimidating.  Just observe how many public speakers use this.


Hands and Thumbs. 

Eight of the most common hand and thumb gestures


  • Rubbing the Palms together.  The slower a person rubs the hands together, normally indicates that something devious or sneaky is about to happen.  You can almost picture the villain rubbing the hands slowly together, in anticipation of the next despicable act or deception.  However, if a person is rubbing their hands together a lot faster, it normally indicates that something exciting about to happen.
  • Rubbing the Thumb and Finger together.  Is a common gesture for expecting money or making a payment.
  • Hands Clenched together.  Depending on the position of the hands you can judge a person level of frustration. Generally, the higher up the hands are clenched the greater the degree of frustration.  There are also different meanings, depending on how the hands and fingers are interlaced.
  • The steeple.  This is  when the hands are joined together just from the finger tips.  It is frequently used by people expressing superiority over a subordinate.  Watch out when the Steeple is converted into the "praying" position, it is an attempt to appear "god-like".
  • Holding Hands behind the Back.  This is a a gesture of superiority.  Just try standing like this and notice the effect it will have on your confidence.
  • Thumbs-Protruding-from-the-Coat-Pockets.  Again a gesture of confidence and power.
  • Thumb Displays.  Displaying the thumbs is normally indicates self-importance .  Thumbs are displayed to show dominance, assertiveness or sometimes even an aggressive attitude.
  • The Face Platter.  Generally used by woman, in an act to displayed the face to be admired and is not considered a negative gesture.                                


Eight worst handshakes

  • The Wet Fish - cold, clammy and soft hand.
  • The Vice - not to be confused with the "bone cruncher", this starts as a single sharp downward pump action while stopping the blood flow to the hand to the poor recipient, then followed by a two or three returns.
  • The Bone-Cruncher - very similar to the vice, except the hand shaker squeezes the knuckles to breaking point.
  • The Finger-Tip-Grab - this often happens between male/female greeting.  The hand shaker misses the mark and ends up grabbing the fingers as the recipient retrieves their hand before it is grasped.
  • The Stiff-Arm Thrust - similar to the vice, except it is used to push people away.
  • The Socket-Wrencher - similar to the Stiff-Arm Thrust but instead of pushing people away the recipient is pulled with the aim to part the arm from its socket.
  • The Pump Handle - the recipient is left wondering when will this handshake end as the hand shaker continues with the never ending rapid hand shake.
  • The Dutch Treat - it is very similar to the Wet Fish but not as clammy and the fingers are straighter and stiffer.  It's often referred to like holding a bunch of carrots.

The humerus side of cross cultural hand gestures

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There are so many hand signals we use daily that may have a totally different meaning in another country or culture. 

It' good to know this ... imagine being on holiday in Greece and you flash a thumbs-up sign, to the chef, in appreciation of the good meal you have just had.  Expecting a positive acknowledgement in return, the chef, is enraged and you can't understand why.  The Thumbs-up sign in Greece is equivalent to flashing the middle finger!

There are actually quite a few of these hand gestures that differ from country to country, so when abroad it may be prudent to limit your hand gestures


It's all in the eyes   Eyes 2


A practical demonstration on eye movement and how to read the eyes is included in the free Body Language talk.  A person's eye movement can reveal a lot of what their mind is focused on.  When a person remembers something that they saw, their eyes will move upwards to their left.  When recalling something they heard, they will look to the side and tilt their head as if listening.  When recalling an emotional event, the eyes look downward and to the right and when we talk to ourselves (inner-talk) we also look downwards but to the left.


Arm Signals


Our arms are used like barriers, it gives us something to hide behind.  By folding our arms in front of our chests, we create a barrier to block fear or any other undesirable feelings.  Our arms are then protecting our heart and lungs from any threat of attack. 


When someone is folding their arms it is also seen as expressing a negative attitude.  So as long as the person you are observing has their arms folded they will not be open to any suggestions and will maintain a negative attitude.  To get a person to change their attitude in a very gentle way, give them something to do with their hands that will unfold the arms!


Some interesting facts about arms

  • When we fold our arms we learn and retain less ... up to 38% less
  • Men rotate their arms inwards, which helps to throw things better
  • Women rotate their arms outwards, which helps them carry better

Leg signals

As our legs are the furthest part of our body from our brain, we are therefore less conscious of what we are doing with them. So, in a way our legs then truly reveal what our subconscious minds want to do.  An example of this, just observe people talking in a doorway, notice the position of the legs and feet, if  they start pointing to the open doorway, you know then, that is the cue that they really don't want to be where they are.


Three of the main standing positions

  • Standing at Attention - a very neutral position
  • Legs Apart - a predominantly male position to display the crotch.  When standing in this macho stance, it is also common for men to adjust and tweak the crotch area.
  • The Foot Forward -  the body weight is shifted to one hip which leaves the front foot point forward.  Just observe if the foot is pointing directly to a person, generally, this will be the person whom they are most interested in, or attracted to.

The eight common lying gestures

  • The mouth cove
  • The nose touch
  • The itchy nose
  • The eye rub
  • The ear grab
  • The neck scratch
  • The collar pull
  • The fingers-in-the-mouth

1. The Mouth Cover
It is almost as if subconsciously, the brain has instructed the hand to cover the mouth to stop lies from coming out. It may be just a single finger placed over the lips or a closed fist covering the whole mouth. This hand gesture may also signify that the person does not want to talk.
2. The Nose Touch
It can be a subtle like several quick rubs to just holding a finger against the nose. When observing this gesture also look for the “Pinocchio Effect”.  Yes it’s real, when we lie a chemicals known as catecholamines are released which cause the tissue inside of the nose to swell and make the nose feel itchy.
3. The Itchy Nose
This gesture is a more like a, vigorous rub or scratch, not just a nose touch. When a listener is using this action it is normally an indication of doubting the speaker’s words.
4. The Eye Rub
As with the mouth cover, the eye rub is an attempt by the subconscious mind to put a stop to the deceit by closing the eyes. Men usually rub their eyes when they are telling a lie, woman use a less obvious gesture, by just touching gently under the eye.
5. The Ear Grab
This is also an attempt to block out the deceit, it may be a tug on the earlobe or rubbing the back of the ear. Children often put their fingers in their ears or their hands over their ears to block out what the parents are saying. The ear grab may also signal that the person has heard enough and wants to talk, so remember to look for other supporting gestures before deciding whether the person is lying.
6. The Neck Scratch
Here, the index finger, normally of dominant hand is used to scratch the side of the neck, just below the earlobe. The Neck Scratch is not a direct gesture to indicate a lie, for example like the nose touch, it is more of a signal of doubt or uncertainty. If a person’s spoken words are seen not to be matching their belief, the "Neck Scratcher", will be doing their thing!
7. The Collar Pull
The Collar Pull a strong indicator of a lie. Lying causes a tingling sensation in both the facial and neck tissues, and only a satisfying scratching can appease it. Once again don’t’ confuse this with the “hot under the collar” pull which more to do with frustration and anger.
8. The Fingers-in-the-Mouth
Generally and Hand-to-Mouth gesture is connected to lying but it can also be a need for reassurance.


Time to practice

The next talk will be held on Tuesday 21 March between 18h30 and 20h00 at 16 Sunbird Close, Blouberg Rise.  Unfortunately seating is limited and booking is essential via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.












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