If you are a parent and you have seen the Fox TV show “Lie to Me,” you are probably wondering if the same strategies work on teenagers? The premise of the show is that Dr. Cal Lightman–based on real life Dr. Paul Ekman has done research on emotion detection. He can tell, using non-verbal cues like voice tone, facial expression and body language if someone is lying and their true emotional feelings.
Many parents have told us, wouldn’t it be amazing if parents could do this with teens and teens could do this with each other? Wonderfully, we can! One of the things we teach here at Radical Parenting and in our lectures to parents and teens is how to read faces and detect emotions in each other. This is another way of teaching active listening–with even more specific strategies on what to look and listen for when trying to glean meaning and intent. There are four main facets to teen lie detection.
1. Facial Microexpressions
One of the major facets of lie-detection and emotion detection is understanding microexpressions. Microexpressions are the quick facial expressions we make when we feel an emotion. This happens incredibly quickly, and it is very hard to control our microexpressions because they happen as a direct result of our primal emotions.
2. Body Language
Body language is also an integral part to understanding someone’s true intent. There are a nunber of research studies that support body language similarities in emotion. For example, there is the ‘battle stance’ which is wide legs, toes pointing forward, with hands on the hips and strong, square shoulders. This almost always means the speaker feels ready to fight–verbally or physically and is feeling defensive. Another body language cue you can learn to recognize is the palms up gesture. This means ‘no offense’ or ‘innocent offering.’
3. Voice Tone
Voice tone is a great way to clue in to someones true meaning. Typically men go deeper in voice tone when they are trying to be persuasive and women go up in voice tone when they want to be helped (mimicking a child).
4. Social Intelligence
Social intelligence or social literacy is a person’s ability to interact, maintain and build relationships with others. Teaching social literacy involves teaching young people communication and social skills, as well as showing them how to effectively and purposefully mediate their interactions with family members, friends and colleagues in the school or business environment. Some of examples of social literacy issues might include lack of eye contact, understanding angry feelings versus fear or being able to deal successfully with confrontation.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is when a person is able to understand and express their own emotional states, needs and intents clearly. This is essential in family situations and for teens. Having high emotional intelligence or “EQ” also helps you read others emotional states by asking the right questions and making the right observations.
We love teaching these concepts because we think there are many benefits. First, teens learn to pick-up on real life social cues. In the digital age this is becoming more and more important as teens become socially illiterate from all of their screen-time and lack of face time.
Second this helps both parents and teens pay attention to each other in new ways. In many parent-child relationships miscommunication is a major issue. When both sides are trying to pay attention, and have new skills to do it, miscommunications happen much less.
This is part of EmoSocial Intelligence series. If you are interested in more information on our social and emotional literacy programs or if you would like to read more articles on how to read and build nonverbal communication skills in your family or with your child, please visit our EmoSocial Intelligence page for tips and updated research.