Debunking the most common body language myths

Body language, also known as non-verbals, is anything that can be used for communication without using words. This includes gestures, the way you dress, the way you walk, the way you stand, and countless others. Usually, body language is used to interpret how someone is feeling or what they’re thinking about even when they don’t say it out loud. However, not everything you’ve read or heard about body language is true. There’s a lot of false information on the Internet, so you should be careful what you believe. Today, we’ll talk about some of the body language myths that many people think are true.

1. Crossing arms is a blocking behavior

This is one of the most common myths when it comes to body language. People often think that when someone is crossing their arms, they’re indicating resistance. However, that’s not always the case. Sure, it could mean the person is being defensive, but it could also mean many other things (or even nothing at all). If someone is sitting on a chair with no armrests, they may cross their arms to feel more comfortable. Some people also do it as a way to increase concentration. Crossed arms alone are not a definite sign that the person in front of you is defensive. It hugely depends on the individual and the situation.

2. The correlation between eye movement and lying

Another common misconception is that when people talk, the direction of their eye movement reveals whether they’re lying or telling the truth. Some believe that if someone looks up and to the left then they’re telling the truth, while looking to the upper right indicates a lie. A research study proved that there’s no correlation between the direction of the eye movement and telling the truth. That’s why eye movement is not indicative of deception, and shouldn’t be used as a sign of lying.

3. Liars don’t make eye contact

This is one of the most common myths about lying. While some people (especially children) can find it difficult to make eye contact while lying, others find it really easy. Some people even make more eye contact while lying to you to make you think that they’re telling the truth. One more thing to note is that in some cultures, making extended eye contact is considered rude or threatening, so you shouldn’t mistake this for an indication of lying.

4. Fidgeting around while speaking can indicate lying

Some people think that if a person clears their throat, touches their nose or covers their mouth, then they’re lying. But this isn’t always the case. We do these behaviors as self soothers, to help us feel more comfortable. They may indeed show nervousness, but they can also be a sign of impatience or even ADD behavior.

To be precise, there’s no single Pinocchio effect when it comes to body language. There isn’t an individual behavior that indicates that the person is lying. Saying that someone is lying just because they’re touching their nose or rubbing their hands is definitely inaccurate. Unless it’s a combination of behaviors while also taking into account the individual and the context, you can’t magically detect a lie.

5. Body language can reveal what someone is thinking

No, it can’t. As we mentioned before, body language alone isn’t accurate when taken out of context or when it doesn’t take into account the individual being observed. It can indeed offer some insight about that person’s feelings and emotions (anger, sadness, nervousness, …) but it doesn’t explain why they’re feeling like that. So there’s no way to deduce that person’s thoughts just by looking at their body language. Each behavior they show can have a hundred reasons, so you shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on such behaviors alone.

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