Keep in mind that everyone occasionally tells "little fibs" (that's what we call lying when it serves us). In some cases we lie to protect a person's feelings or to avoid doing something we don't want to do. Joseph Teece, a researcher at Boston College, has identified six types of lies:
1. Protective -- shields liar from danger.
2. Heroic -- protects someone else from danger.
3. Playful -- enhances the story.
4. Ego -- prevents embarrassment.
5. Gainful -- enriches the liar.
6. Malicious -- hurts someone.
Men often lie to make themselves look good and to increase their status, while women often lie to make others feel good, thereby enhancing their relationships.
A red flag is a sudden change in movements. Tension is high in liars, so they need self-comforting. They can stroke their hair and touch their face more frequently.
The best overall liar detection clue is a sudden change in posture and movements from the normal patterns for a short time -- until you have accepted what is said. If you believe someone is lying, change the subject quickly and watch the reaction. A liar will follow along willingly and become more relaxed. Guilty people want the subject to be changed, while an innocent person may be confused by the sudden change and want to go back to the previous subject.
So, why do we lie in the first place? David Livingstone Smith, author of "The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind," believes lying is deeply embedded in our subconscious as a result of evolution. Our ancestors who survived by lying passed on stronger and stronger genes in each generation for this trait. Are we talking survival of the most deceptive?
Giveaway signs that a person is uncomfortable include upper-body rocking, leg swinging or finger or foot tapping, along with chin tucking and shoulder hunching.
And how can you tell a real smile from a fake smile? First of all, real smiles are normally symmetrical. Fake smiles can last much longer than real smiles. Also, you can tell a real smile because the person appears to be smiling from their eyes, with little upturned wrinkles in the corners of the eyes. A fake smile doesn't have the eye wrinkles.
Bottom line: Our body language cues are generally recognized by everyone unconsciously because we all have them in our DNA. Emotions are normal and displaying them is healthy. Just be on the lookout if you sense someone is not being truthful with you. And notice if you're giving out any of these cues yourself. If the interpretation doesn't make sense, maybe it's something to examine. Or, it could just be a nervous habit to address.
Don't overthink this. Have some fun with it. And make sure your message sent is message received.
Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.