You don’t have to be an FBI interrogator to figure out what’s going on in someone’s head.The signals are always there, but most people don’t even realise it. You have to know what to look for and understand what certain gestures mean in order to solve the puzzle. Keep in mind, there’s no single surefire way to tell what someone is thinking — even the greatest mind-wizards in the world are only right 80% of the time.
We collected a variety of insights from Psychology Today that can help you learn to read people’s verbal and nonverbal hints.
Start by getting a baseline reading so that you can distinguish personal quirks from real tells. A common way to get this reading is by simply observing a person's habits over time
Ex-FBI agent Joe Navarro provided several tips on how to read people in a questioning environment in an article in Psychology Today.
Vague, open-ended questions don't work, because if the person rambles it becomes difficult to detect any deception. Instead, ask question that require a straight answer.
And don't be intrusive. After asking a question, sit back and observe without interrupting.
Here's an example of a word clue that retired FBI special agent Dr. John R. Schafer identified in his column:
'I won another award'
The Word Clue 'another' conveys the notion that the speaker won one or more previous awards. This person wanted to ensure that other people know that he or she won at least one other award, thus bolstering his or her self-image. This person may need the adulation of others to reinforce his or her self-esteem. Observers could exploit this vulnerability by using flattery and other ego-enhancing comments.
When a person leans with their torso away from you, this can mean that the person is going through a moment of stress
Pacifying gestures such as the touch to the forehead or the rubbing of palms against thighs are indicators of stress too
Facial clues of distress and discomfort include the furrowing of the brow, clenching of jaws, lip compression, or the tightening of face and neck muscles
If someone closes their eyes for a moment (longer than a simple blink), takes the time to clear their throat, or asks to repeat a question, they're probably stalling
A lack of eye contact, or excessive blinking or fidgeting are signs that a person may be lying -- but these are also signs of anxiety, and many liars are still easily able to look you in the eye and spew deceit
Touching the notch in the front-middle of the neck can means that the person is trying to protect themselves -- suggesting discomfort, especially in women
A long, audible exhale -- known as a cathartic exhale -- means that the person is under severe emotional distress, and is frequently seen in moments when the person realises that they've been caught
To improve your technique at spotting signs, observe children and what they do when they try to tell a white lie
Professional poker player (and former cognitive psychology doctoral student) Annie Duke suggests turning to kids to help glean information.
Adults learn how to tell white lies in order to survive social interactions, but children haven't learned this skill yet. They're terrible at lying, and each sign of deceit is magnified because of their ineptitude.
Naturally some individuals are better than others at lying. Those that aren't well versed in all the tricks of the trade will exhibit some of the signs that kids do when they lie.
Attending a brief training session won't do much, asserts Claremont McKenna College leadership & psychology professor Dr. Ronald Riggio in his column. In order to get better you must constantly be practicing the skills needed. Structured training modules aren't required to improve -- many have been able to develop the skill by constantly listening and observing actively in every day life.
When practicing reading people, get feedback about your accuracy. If not, you'll never know if you're improving
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.