When it comes to spotting a cheater, we're uncannily brilliant -- as long as it's a cheater in someone else's relationship. That's what some relationship experts proved when they let subjects in a study watch short films of couples interacting with each other. Turns out the observers were amazingly accurate at picking out who was cheating on whom among the couples. Were they picking up on important nonverbal signals? And if so, what are those signals?
Forget all the cliches about liars not making eye contact and having sweaty palms. The clues of infidelity are a little more complicated than that -- but you can still detect them. Here are some of the tell-tale nonverbal cues a cheater gives off when he's confronted.
1. Body language that contradicts what he's saying. "We can hide more on our face than the rest of our bodies," says psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman. "The face is the easiest thing to deceive with." On the other hand, if your spouse's body is doing the opposite of what he's saying, that's a major clue. He may be talking about how much he loves you, but pay attention to what the rest of his body is doing while he says that.
2. Patterns and combinations of behavior that add up. But keep this in mind while you're watching body language: "You have to read in clusters," says Coleman. So don't take any one behavior from this list as your sole proof that someone's being untrue. "Look for a pattern of a number of different things," Coleman cautions. See it all in context.
3. Changes in breathing. When someone is being deceptive, their breathing rate may go up and become noticeably shallow, says Dr. Jeanette Raymond, a psychologist who specializes in body language cues with couples. "Just watch the diaphragm move more rapidly!"
4. Hiding hands. This is another way cheaters inadvertently betray themselves. Coleman says "hitting his hands, keeping his palms down, putting his hands behind his back or in his pockets" are all signals that someone may be keeping something from you.
5. Physical restlessness. "A lot of small muscle jerks almost always accompanies a lie," Coleman says. Raymond agrees. "Being very fidgety and moving around in a chair, legs crossing and uncrossing, crossing at feet and then pulling the feet in" are all defensive behaviors. On the other hand, she says, so is the opposite, being rigidly still.
6. Turning away from you. He could be telling you everything you want to hear, and looking you in the eyes. "But if he's turning his body away from you, moving back in his seat, trying to get as far away as possible, that's definitely a mixed message," Coleman says. Look at where his feet are pointed, toward you or away from you? On the other hand, "if you're leaning in toward someone and he also leans in toward you and reaches out for you, that is probably not someone who is being dishonest."
7. Closed posture. "He might cross his legs at the knees or fold his arms in front of himself, all while saying 'you know I love you,'" Coleman says. Well, there's another major mixed message.
One more thing: It just so happens that women seem to be better at detecting deception than men are. This is because we're better at what Coleman calls "multitracking" -- taking in a lot of bits of information and connecting the dots. So if you think your "gut" is telling you he's cheating, it could actually be that you've picked up on a bunch of mixed messages. And maybe you should look a little closer.
How good do you think you are at spotting a cheater just by looking at body language?
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