Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To Tell the Truth With Your Elbows

According to a special documentary on “body language” over ninety percent of all human communication is non-verbal. (As I type this, my shoulders are very pinched and close to my ears.)

Everyone lies.  I am told that this is true, because people have seen it on a t-shirt and a fictional character on television repeats it a lot. (At this point, my lips are pursed, emphasizing the fine lines and fissures into which my lipstick tends to pour.)

Therefore, if everyone lies and ninety percent of communication is non-verbal then forget about what’s coming out of people’s lips and concentrate on what’s happening between their eyes. (A wrinkle shaped like a cavern just deepened near my left eye.)

I hate lying. I love liars. (My right eye is twitching so hard I can hear it.)

That is a lie. I don’t love liars. I try to love liars in the “love the sinner, hate the sin” way, but it’s hard, because liars tend to lie, and they can’t be trusted with your automobiles, wallet, lawn mower, good name, daughters, or your female cat, and she’s been spayed. I continue to try to love liars, but it’s a struggle.

No, it’s not a struggle; that’s a lie. It’s more like a wrestle—Greco/Roman style. 

Liars are exhausting, because you have to listen to them lying and “read” their body language all at the same time. Or if you’re not around when the liar is lying then you have to hire someone to watch the liar lie, and if you live in a particularly dishonest society, eventually you will run out of people, to watch the people, who are supposed to be watching the people—in case the people are lying or plagiarizing or faking important governmental reports. (See?  It’s exhausting.) So, if it’s true that everyone lies then we’re screwed.

My favorite story about liars is a story my husband likes to tell. (I use it here with permission—no, not really. I totally stole his story.)

At a father/son campout, my husband and others continually warned one young boy to cease and desist putting a sharp, pointy stick in the campfire, igniting the end of the sharp, pointy stick, and then wandering about the campground while waving the now flaming, sharp, pointy stick in the air. He agreed to stop—verbally. (The body language test results have been misplaced.) “Put that stick out,” they demanded. He put it out.

Sherwood retired to his tent, only to emerge later to see the young boy standing in the middle of the campground holding the flaming, sharp, pointy stick aloft—apparently in tribute to the pointy stick fire gods.

“Son!” My husband calls all boys son; it doesn’t necessarily mean a blood relation. “Son! Did you put that stick back in the fire?”

The young boy said, “Nope.”

We have boys. Sherwood knew what he was up against.

“Are you holding a stick?”


“Is your hand in a curved position around a former tree branch?”

The phrase “former tree branch” tripped the kid up.

“Yes,” the boy said.

“Is that stick on fire?”

“I don’t know.”  A shower of sparks made the boy flinch. His body language gave him away.

I know it’s old fashioned. I know it’s considered a simple fix for a simple mind, but I like the Ten Commandments. They were written on stone, thus saving paper. They’re short. They’re numbered. They’re to the point.

I especially like the one that read:  Thou shalt not force me to have to learn body language to be able to tell if you’re a big, fat liar when I ask, “Who busted the loveseat?” and you tell me, “I don’t know.” And then six months later, I find broken bits of loveseat hidden behind our wedding picture and all over the house—Sherwood Kevin Zern! And all the grandkids were in on it, including Reagan and she doesn’t have teeth. (I am now leaning toward the computer screen in a combative, aggressive posture.) 

Yep. That’s my favorite commandment. Nah, I’m lying.  Actually, I believe that there are really only two commandments and they’re my favorites.

Thou shalt love God and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself . . . because people who love their neighbors don’t lie to, steal from, lust for, cheat over, shoot at, curse up, or covet their neighbor’s good looking donkeys. Nice people only need two rules, in my opinion.

Read This!

Linda (Read My Lips) Zern  




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