Many of you know that I teach communication classes at a local university, and one of my favorite subjects to teach is non-verbal communication. Oh my gosh! It’s so fun to teach students how to read body language. Studying the congruence between non-verbal and verbal cues can give you a real edge in identifying trustworthy people.
For instance, I recently sat down with a financial adviser with the intent of potentially hiring him to manage some funds. He looked at me with a dead pan face, and stony eyes and said, “I love my job.” I thought to myself, “Ya coulda fooled me!” I had the feeling that his non-verbals were telling me more than his verbals.
How about you? Can you tell when someone is telling the truth?
How about when your employee tells you that he locked up the store before he left last night, but he is unusually shifting his attention to other things and avoiding your gaze? You wonder if there is more to the story than what he’s telling you.
Or how about the politician who wags his finger about not having “sex with that woman.” Are there some “tells” or some “signs” to alert us to whether a person is trustworthy and believable?
Each person carries around with them certain cues that alert others to their believability. Since each person is different, it’s impossible to list specific “tells” or cues that are generally true for everyone. Simply said, people lie differently. But a simple rule of thumb is to LOOK FOR CONGRUENCE.
The word, Congruent means to agree or to equal. In math, two lines are congruent if they are equal lengths. They match. They mirror each other. So when you are wondering if someone is telling the truth, you may ask, “Do her words match with her facial expression and body language? Is he telling the same story with his body, face and actions that he is with his mouth? Does her face agree with her words?
This is a study in Integrity.
Integrity has the root word integer at its base, and integer means whole number. That means it can’t be split- it is whole and not duplicitous. Don’tcha love math?
When you run into someone who is duplicitous, split or in-congruent, and you are paying attention (that’s key), you will see it. You will notice the slight “tells” or “signs” that something hidden is at play. Maybe it’s the way he shrugs his shoulders, or looks away or purses his lips. Maybe its the way she says one thing and does another. Something seems off. You don’t have to know what it is. You just have to know that it is.
I don’t have to know exactly why I don’t trust this potential financial adviser, I just have to accept that I don’t. When something doesn’t add up (get it? math pun), that’s enough for me to move on. Some of us look past our red flags, and intuitive gifts. Sometimes we make excuses for in-congruent people, or we work hard to look at their positive qualities. But reading people is a gift that we should not ignore.
What about US?
Sometimes, we can be less than authentic, too. Sometimes we can be split, by saying “yes” when we really mean “no.” Sometimes we will agree or keep quiet even though our insides are screaming, “NO!” Sometimes we can say “everything is fine,” when everything Is. Not. Fine.
It takes great courage to be the congruent person on the outside, that you know yourself to be on the inside. It takes courage to speak your mind with truth and respect. It takes faith to say “no” when you mean “no” and “yes” when you mean “yes” regardless of the consequences.
I believe that this kind of authenticity invokes God’s power. When we decide against all odds, and in the face of certain adversity, to be authentic- congruent- whole, we make sacred move toward God. We align with God’s love and power in that moment and His peace is unmistakably ours. It’s not just about telling the truth, it’s about living in it.
When we determine to be completely whole and aligned with the truth, we are able to recognize the in-authenticity in ourselves and others. Our vision becomes clear, and we can read non-verbals, body language and tell-tale signs. When we live authentically, we give others permission to do the same. There is so much freedom in this type of living. Cheers to you, and all your relationships!