How to read people is a survival skill
Knowing how to read people to tell if someone is lying is a very important skill for preppers. This skill can not only help you with bartering for goods or making relationships, it can also help detect when someone’s being deceptive or is intending to double-cross you, even if their words don’t sound deceitful. Being able to read their body language may even save your life. It could be especially helpful when trying to vet people when they are trying to be a part of your group or in getting better deals while bartering for goods. Be warned though, using this stuff on your spouse or significant other could have undesired results. You may not want to know what you want to know.
I’ve had to learn a lot about how to tell a lie over the years. Investigations, interrogations, HUMINT and plain-old liaison all require the ability to kno when someone is lying and when they’re telling the truth. After a while you become some kind of human lie detector. Great for work. Not so great for relationships as it turns out. But how do you know when someone is lying?
First, let’s go through a bit of science. I love science because science made beer. That’s why they call it science.
The physiology of telling lies
Paul Ekman is undoubtedly the king of human lie detectors. He’s the guy they modeled the “Lie To Me” show after. I love that show. He went to New Guinea years ago because there was a huge debate amongst scientific face-reader types whether reading people was a natural thing or a learned thing. He found a tribe that had never seen TV or what-not and showed them some pics of people in various stages of moods. They were able to read them just like anyone who’d not grown up under a rock. He’s written several books that are very interesting, including: Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions From Facial Expressions by Paul Ekman and Wallace V. Friesen (Sep 30, 2003) in case you’re interested in his theories. It is fascinating stuff how he can read people’s faces (which is body language) and tell not only moods but underlying thoughts.
One of the key methods he teaches to government agencies and others on how to read people is how to read micro-expressions. According to this theory (and practice), people can’t hide their feelings completely because even when they do, it shows up on their face in little mini-mood twitches that you can be trained to read. Awesome.
Our body is tied to the brain, and the specific part of the brain we’re concerned with here is called the Limbic Mammalian brain. This is the part of your brain that kicks in when you hear a noise in the night and the hair on the back of your neck stands up, your body freezes, your nose clears, and your eyes dialate. It’s an automatic reaction that controls/affects the fight / flight / freeze response. This response is involuntary. It also kicks in when there are positive feelings such as sexual attraction (stop giggling, I’m trying to type here), hunger and pain. This part of your brain pretty much never sleeps.
Whatever feelings your limbic system is experiencing comes out (or leaks) into and affects your body language, anywhere from the frequency of blinking to peeing yourself.
When we lie, that base part of our brain reacts because another part of your brain explains to it that there’s a threat. This reaction manifests itself subconsciously as a discomfort and even further as outright displays of avoidance. Basically, that means that your brain doesn’t like lying so it makes you do things that you don’t realize. It’s these displays that we’re interested in.
These expressions are difficult to control. The more discomfort your mammalian brain feels, the more expressive it will be on your body language. Also, the more engaged the rest of your brain is on something, the more difficult it is to control these expressions. This is why you start tapping your foot or pacing the room when you get nervous. This is also why interrogators put on the pressure to read people. Your conscious mind can only hold so many thoughts at once so trying to suppress your body language when someone is trying to know if you’re lying can be quite difficult.
Now the problem is that it’s really easy to look at someone and see that they looked away when you ask a question. Does this mean they lied? Knowing how to read people is not all that simple. If they were, I wouldn’t be taking all the time to write this for you.
There are certain commonalities in people’s body language; enough that you can look for certain clues to see if there are any related actions. The specific actions that a guy might exhibit will depend on that guy, his feelings at that moment, your conversation, the situation he’s in, the environment, and any of a hundred other things that change with each person and situation. So how do you figure out if someone’s lying to you? Much like piecing together OPSEC Indicators to find out what’s going on in your enemy’s camp, you have to do the same thing, treating each body movement as a possible indicator. A change in indicators tied to something is a clue. Several clues together make a pattern. The patterns that are different from what we assume happen when he’s not lying are what we’re concerned with.