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Body Language Betrays Insincerity

August 12, 2009

Jan Hargrave

Did you know if you are watching a man and a woman in a casual conversation and the man starts to pull up his socks, it usually means he wants to ask the woman out on a date?

It’s true. At least, according to Jan Hargrave, author, speaker and expert in non-verbal communication. Hargrave kicked off the final day of The Forum for Women in Accounting and The Forum on Recruiting and Retention in Las Vegas with a humorous and informative presentation of just how important non-verbal communication can be. She had the audience in stitches, offering tidbits on reading body language in both business and personal settings.

Hargrave, who helps choose jury members for court, specializes in when somebody is telling the truth and when people lie. Fifty-five percent of our communication is nonverbal, she said, 38 percent of a person’s communication comes from voice inflection and only 7 percent of people’s actual communication comes from the words that they say.

She talked about gestures that represent honesty and dishonesty. For example, when men rub the bottom of their chin while listening, Hargrave said it is a gesture that conveys the man is seriously contemplating what is being said. Men who jingle change in their pockets communicate that they are concerned about their financial situation or money. She said people who use their left hand a lot while gesturing — not lefties, however — typically lie.

Hargrave also showed the audience a gesture called “the steeple,” or when hands are folded in a prayer-like position, and said the movement is one of the largest symbols of confidence.

“Someone is confident when they are creating a steeple at chest level,” she said. “When someone is confident in what they are hearing, there is a steeple at lap level. You can spot when someone is insincere because their gesture doesn’t come at the appropriate time.”

Hargrave also said the type of handshake offered is indicative of that person’s self-esteem. Ideally, people’s “webs” (the area between the thumb and index finger on each shaker’s hand) should meet, and the correct number of “pumps” in a handshake is three.

Hargrave recommended never crossing your hands or arms when in conversation with someone. “The more open your upper body is, the more accepting you are about what they are saying,” she said. “When we are cold, the shoulders are up, and when we are angry, they are way back.”

In terms of honesty, Hargrave said if someone can never meet someone else’s eyes, what they are saying should not be trusted.

“We have found in the court room that excessive eye blinking is a dishonesty gesture,” she said. “Or when somebody keeps their eyes closed, they are trying to block out information.

Rubbing the nose with the left hand is a huge dishonesty gesture, since the person is trying to cover the mouth, which distracts the listener from what they are saying. Tugging on the ear, or eye, on the left side of the body is also indicative of someone trying to cover up the truth. She said the most sincere gesture someone can possibly make is placing their hand over their heart with wide fingers.

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