We watch movies daily and actors convince us of their character and circumstances everyday. Can anyone claim that their body language shows they are lying? To the contrary, their body language shows all truth and honest, even though they are just acting the part. This is why I take it with a grain of salt when someone tells me that they can catch a liar from body language in everyday conversations. That is so untrue.
So can you really catch a liar from body language? Without prior setup you cannot. But if you are willing to put in the effort to “set up” the situation to catch a lie then yes it is possible.
To catch a liar from body language it has to be an unexpected confrontation.
So, for example, if you are meeting with an employee who is not performing well. Do not expect to be able to catch him lying to you, if he does lie. Because, if he is a “good” liar and he is already prepared for the situation, he will just act the part. No way you can catch him from body language. You might be able to catch him from context, from knowing that he usually lies, from facts that you have, etcetera, but you cannot catch him from his body language.
There are two ways to set up the stage to catch a liar from body language:
- Ask questions unexpected, when the other person is not prepared. For example, you are having a casual conversation with the other person not aware of your plans to ask difficult questions. Then ask the question and look at the body language.
- Tell the other person that you know he or she lied, and that you have evidence and make it seem not a problem that he lied and that you understand, and that there will be no repercussions to the lie, and that you are 100% sure he lied. Then move quickly off the point and ask him a different question, that if he answers he is admitting to the lie. Of course you have to play this one carefully.
In both set ups, look for signs of trying to run away from situation, eyes moving to the door, not being able to look you in the eye, being frazzled, etc.
Still with all that, there is no way to guarantee that you read the body language correctly.
So, please be careful not to rely too much on body language to tell you if someone is telling the truth or not. Actually, honest people are easier to catch from body language than hardened crooks. The honest people are not used to lying, this is why it is easier to catch them. But pathological liars, lie with a straight face. Actually they are masters at giving you all the right body language signs that show they are telling the truth. They will look you in the eye, without flinching, looking so innocent and tell you what you want to hear.