Your Emotions Betray You!
Eric Goulard is a nonverbal and body language expert as well as Humintell’s France affiliate. He offers online education and resources in the field of non-verbal communication through his website Non-Verbal.info.
Below he offers some insightful excerpts on lie detection from his book, Les mensonges en action : Vos émotions vous trahissent! Apprenez à détecter les mensonges. (Lies in Action: Your Emotions Betray You!) . This book is available in a second edition under the title “Comment détecter les mensonges: vous emotions vous trahissent…” (Leduc.s Editions).
Many of us know that there is no foolproof method to detecting lies, but we often forget that it is important to consider the risks of lie detection as well.
We are all human and we react to emotions, every day, all the time, from morning to night. Emotional changes in voice, body language and facial expressions give us an insight into what a person is thinking when they express those emotional changes.
In films, we can often see perpetrators hooked up to a lie detector. What does this machine really do? Can it really tell if the person is lying?
Not at all! A lie detector detects emotional changes, not an actual lie. An individual may be scared to death and will generate negative emotions, but that does not mean he is guilty! There is always a risk of error.
It is important to note that there is no precise way to detect deception. There are only clues indicating that the emotions expressed by a person (visually) do not agree with what he expresses verbally. Accusing an innocent man is the worst thing that could happen. In addition, the tension and stress of being falsely accused can make things worse.
We Believe Lies Everyday!
Another risk is to believe the liar.
This is what we do best in spite of ourselves! We hear lies every day, all around us. We do not notice all of them, but unconsciously we believe them and we live with this rationale.
If you go to buy a bottle of water and at the cash register you hear someone say to someone else, “My back hurts,” it may be a lie. It is possible that this sentence was imposed for the sole purpose of maintaining the relationship with the other person.
When people feel good together, usually they talk. If the silence is too long, it can be perceived as disturbing, so people talk, sometimes for no reason. Often they dump out huge quantities of lies. As trust is established, their words are rarely questioned. It’s human nature!
Tips to Remember
There is no conduct or expression that can give an absolute certainty of either truth or falsehood.
However, there are two main dangers when trying to detect deceit. 1. Not believing the truth and therefore accusing an innocent person. 2. Believing the lie, and therefore believing the liar.
To prevent misinterpretation, take some time to analyze the style of the person to establish a basis for analysis: the baseline.
This principle is also used to calibrate the lie detector machines prior to analysis. The suspect must respond to simple questions such as: “Are you a man?”, “Are you thirty years old?”, “Is your name John?”, etc. The officer in charge of the analysis verifies that the machine is responding correctly.
What would happen if the individual being tested thought intensely about very positive or negative things at the time of the calibration? The analyst would be unable to establish a reference of behavior. He would be unable to calibrate the machine and thus detect emotional changes.
The Principle of Normality
In addition, you should always take into account a “normal” attitude to adopt in the analyzed situation.
It’s normal to be stressed out when talking in front of a group. Cameras add an additional layer of stress, especially since the camera can reveal many facial expressions. Therefore, don’t jump to the conclusion that a person is lying. He/She may just be stressed out due to the situation.
Your reflection should focus on attitudes and reactions. To help you in your reflection, you can keep these two questions in mind:
1. “What would your attitude be in this situation?” 2. “How would you react?”
Be careful not to unduly restrict the possible attitudes and reactions of any situation. Individuals are only human beings; they feel emotions whether or not they are telling the truth. We must take into account the emotions, positive and negative, the individual may feel in the circumstances of the observed situations when he is telling the truth.
The fear of being seen as a liar is close to the anxiety of not being believed. In both cases, the primary emotion is fear.
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