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Sometimes it may seem
that when someone talks or writes about microexpressions (otherwise
known as MFE aka micro facial expressions) body language is looked
down upon, or when someone focuses on body language that
microexpressions are looked down upon.
Is it true that one
trumps the other? Is one more powerful than the other?
How can you, as a social engineer, know which to focus
MFE vs Body Language
The face has been labeled “the
organ of emotion.” Why? Because when we meet someone the
first place we look is their face, we recognize people from their
face, we tell how much we trust, like, dislike and are attracted to
a person first from their face.
One study done out of the
University of Tampere entitled, “Categorical representation of
facial expressions in the infant brain.” Indicates that in their
research the face is so important to infants who are unable to
communicate with language at 7 month old that they rely solely on
the face to communicate, trust and determine how much they like a
person “before the acquisition of language.”
this and the many found in Dr. Ekman’s book “Telling
Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage”
indicates the importance of the face while communicating.
So if the fight over? MFE’s win?
No, not that
easy. Sure the face is very important, one of the most
important parts of our body when it comes to communicating, but what
about if you are trying to determine deception?
been many people who have written articles and stated “facts” that a
certain posture, facial expression or eye and body movement
indicates deception. Unfortunately for them, over the last few
years all of those beliefs have been debunked. There was even
a recent study named “The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and
Neuro-Linguistic Programming” done in the Department of Psychology
in the University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom,
even debunked the long held belief that the ways our eye move in a
conversation can indicate our truthfulness.
What About Body
Body language is
likewise important in communication. How the feet are
positioned can indicate someone’s interest in talking with
you. Neck touching or rubbing can indicate stress. Eye
covering can indicate shame or sadness. Palms up can indicate
openness… so on and so forth.
about both body language and facial expressions and many seemed to
center on telling if people where lying our not. Studies, like
the one mentioned about, were valuable in determining that none of
this research seemed to indicate there was a sure fire way to ALWAYS
tell if someone was being truthful or lying.
definite ways to see if someone is under stress - again a
furrowed brow, tension in the face, rubbing the neck, lip
compression, biting of lips – all of these can indicate someone is
feeling stress… but the question that remains is WHY?
is the hard question that many times cannot be fully understood
through facial expressions or body language. Imagine this
As a social engineer you approach the front desk
with the goal to get through reception and into the company
warehouse. As you approach the gatekeeper you put a big smile
on your face and start your opening line. You look at her and
see that her legs are pointing away from you, her brow is furrowed,
and as you start you notice she puts her hand to her
All of these are indicators that she is under
stress. A person may jump to conclusions that all of this is
due to her seeing you and she isn't going to tell you
anything. Or they may think that she is about to be untruthful
due to these signs.
The facts are is that all we do know for
sure is that she is dealing with some stress and it is
showing. Our approach should not be to jump to conclusions but
to use body language and facial expressions that will not add to her
Coming at her with hips and feet pointing her
way can make her feel boxed in and under pressure. We might
want to say something like “I just have a quick question” and doing
so while our torso is pointing away from her. This will back
up that we don’t intend to take her time.
We first must educate our selves on
what these queues look like. Learn how stress can be
indicated. How does anger look? How does sadness
look? How does fear look? What body language indicates
lack of interest?
Then practice observing these on
people. The mall or a shopping center is a great place where
you can watch people without being creepy. Watch people from a
far interact, try to determine as you approach if they are
comfortable or not. Then as you get closer see if you can hear
conversation that indicates if you were right.
My partner in
my training class, Robin, did this fascinating thing where he spoke
to his son about some problems he was having in school and video
taped it. What’s fascinating is seeing how you can easily pick
out stress, happiness, comfort, discomfort when you are educated to
Adaptation is the oil then that makes this
machine run. Once you learn, once you observe be able to adapt
your nonverbals to work in the situation you are in. Be able
to think on your feet, think critically and make changes to put your
targets in a better state of compliance will make you see like a
magician or a mind reader.
Our original question here was who
wins in a battle – MFE’s or Body Language and the simple answer is
neither beats the other – they both win. You need one to
verify and validate the other. You use them in tandem, you use
them both to read, understand and also influence.
makes perfect. This was a question submitted through our email
Thank you for that
excellent question. Keep them coming.
written by: Chris "loganWHD"
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