Learning to read body language could help you spot a liar

27 November 2017 - 13:30 By Yolisa Mkele
Ask someone to do something with your palms revealed and your request is more likely to be taken as just that, a request.
Ask someone to do something with your palms revealed and your request is more likely to be taken as just that, a request.
Image: 123RF/bialasiewicz

Have you ever met someone and thought something was off about them? Something you couldn't quite put your finger on. Or wondered why people always seem to take what you say out of context?

Renowned local mentalist Gilan Gork says it could be that your body language is giving you away.

"In a one-on-one conversation 60% to 80% of the message that's communicated is through non-verbal channels so the actual words we say have far less importance than what people give them," said Gork.

"How we say them and the body language that we use can really change the whole message," he said.

For example, the directions your palms face when you ask someone to do something for you can dramatically alter the tone your message is received in. Ask with your palms revealed and your request is more likely to be taken as just that, a request. Face your palms down and your petition is likely to come across a little more harshly. Point while you make your plea and you are basically giving an order.

A large part of being able to read body language accurately comes from knowledge of your subject. Someone you've known for years and spend regular time with is much more of an open book than a complete stranger and that can make catching people in a lie a little complicated.

"Lie detection is very finicky because the minute you have the stimulus you have a five-second period to pick up at least two signals or gestures that might indicate the person could be lying or feeling psychologically uncomfortable with what they're thinking or saying," said Gork.

The problem is that even if you do know what to look for, becoming a human lie detector is difficult.

"I could teach this in a day but it may take the unpractised person a couple of months before they pick these things up intuitively. Specifically with lie detecting because we think much faster than we talk. If you wait more than five seconds your ability to pick up cues diminishes," he said.

Like learning how to read or drive a car, mastering the art of body language detection takes a great deal of practice. There are a lot of things to look out for and very little time in which to spot them. Those who manage to become adept at the vagaries of bodily communication have a leg up on us laymen. They soon find that influencing people becomes easier though not guaranteed.

How they choose to use their new-found powers is a question for another day.

For more information on how to better read body language and other mentalism skills visit gilangork.com

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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