Cast your mind back to the early 2000s. Big Brother was the program to watch during the summer, in the UK anyway, and it kick-started a whole new wave of celebrity culture. Sometimes, whilst we were avidly glued to our screens, watching these 12 strangers locked into a house together, a body-language expert would pop up onscreen and explain who was secretly in love with someone else, and who was not quite what they seemed. My friends and I became body language experts overnight. If a boy had his arms crossed, it means he’s defensive and not interested, but if he leaned forward then it was destined to be true love.
I think, partly due to this pop-psychology, that most people have a basic understanding of body language concepts already. We’re told not to slouch in interviews, to maintain eye contact and appear open. It’s something that’s ingrained in us, and according to one study, accounts for 55% of all of our communication. In fact, verbal communication only makes up 7% of communication. What you don’t say actually matters.
Today’s new thing, learning about body language, is maybe not so new to me as some of the others, but I really wanted to look at it in relation to deception, and how people give themselves away when they’re trying to hide something. A secret desire to be a Bogart-esque detective likely led me here, but also just plain old curiosity. I started with a video from a former FBI body language expert.
He definitely touched upon some of the more well-known body language ideas that Big Brother had already taught me, but he also touched upon some interesting ones. He explained how they once caught a spy from observing the way he held his flowers (flower heads down instead of up – not the Western way) and went into a bit of detail about observing a poker game. I found this so interesting – how the positions of a players hands on the table can give away their feelings, or how much they fidget. I’ll definitely be more attentive next time I play poker (once every three years!)
I then found this website, which goes deeper into the different ways people subconsciously change their body language to try and disguise deception. I could read this stuff for hours, it definitely appeals to my secret detective desire – all of those years spent reading Agatha Christie books definitely had an impact! I tried out my new found skills on my husband, who I asked to tell me a truth and a lie. It didn’t quite work as his lie was so obvious, I only needed the 7% verbal communication to figure it out! I’m definitely going to keep an eye out next time I’m watching a detective show, or even when I’m just in a cafe people watching. This was such an interesting thing to learn about, I can’t wait to try it out in real life.