Deception Tips Podcast Episode 19 – Contempt

Hello, and welcome to the Deception Tips Podcast, where you will learn amazing cues to detect deceit that will help you read people like never before. I’m your host, Spencer Coffman. Let’s get started.

Welcome to Deception Tip 19. Thank you for tuning in once again to this podcast and for your continued loyal listening. If you’re really enjoying these podcasts, I’d love it if you’d leave a review. Let me know what you think of the podcast. Share it with your friends so other people can listen as well.

Last time, in episode 18, we talked about something that is a very unique sign of deception, and it’s a sign that is highly noticeable once you are aware of it and once you start to pay attention to it. And, the reason that it’s highly noticeable is because it sounds so off when people talk like that because, normally, in regular normal day conversation people don’t usually talk like that. What we’re talking about is distancing language.

When people lie, they often tend to distance themselves from the person with whom they are accused of being involved with or caught up within the lie. For example, the famous politician Bill Clinton had his Monica Lewinsky scandal and what he said was, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” And he used distancing language there. He said, “that woman.” Other politicians have used this as well. A lot of other people have lied with distancing language.

Distancing language is something that is done to emphasize the fact that they are not in any way connected to them. They are not connected to that person at all. In normal conversation, we would use things like nouns/pronouns (things like ‘her’/’him’). We would call them by name. We would do things like that. We really wouldn’t say “that person,” or “that woman.”

It’s also something that’s used in business when people are trying to separate themselves. “We would never do business with that company.” They’re distancing themselves saying, “No. We are different. We are in no way connected with that organization.” It’s- they’re separating and they are making double sure that anyone listening knows. Usually, it is an indicator of deception because, like I said, people don’t normally talk like that.

Today, we are going to talk about something else that is a sign of deception primarily displayed on the face. Now, this is a very unique sign of deception in that it kind of goes against some of the stuff that you have learned in the past episodes. I’ll kind of clue you in and give you a little hint on what it’s about. You can maybe figure it out before I tell you.

So, in episode 16 we talked about symmetrical gestures and in episode 14 we talked about symmetrical expressions. Now, in general, when people are telling the truth, their expressions, their gestures, they must be symmetrical. They should happen on both sides of the body. With symmetrical gestures, we said that when people shrug their shoulders, it should happen with both shoulders. If it happens with one, it’s more likely deceptive or they have no confidence in what they are saying.

With symmetrical expressions, smiles are typically the most symmetrical expression and the easiest one to see and to talk about. For example, because smiles, if they’re real, they will happen on both sides of the face. Both of the cheeks go up. Both of the eyes get crows feet in the corners, etcetera. They happen symmetrically.

In episode 12, simultaneous gestures with gestures happening simultaneously with the speech that’s another form of symmetricality. Usually, truthful stuff happens with symmetricality. However, in this case, with this deception tip, there is an asymmetrical facial expression. This is the expression of contempt and it is the only—I’ll say it again, it is the ONLY asymmetrical expression that happens on the face. It is the only one that you will see happen on one side of the face.

Contempt is something that will happen with a lip corner. Now, whether it’s the right or the left could depend on the person. However, usually, it is the left because, as we’ve said, the right brain is more involved with deception. It is usually the left side of the face that has more expressiveness when people are being deceptive because that gives evidence to the right brain is more deceptive. So, the left brain is more truthful which means the right side of the face would have more of the positive or more truthful expressions.

So, contempt can be shown on either side of the face, which is another kind of strange thing. It can happen on a lip corner. It’s usually a lip corner. One lip corner goes up a little bit. Usually, it is the right but it could be the left so you have to pay attention to that. So, here it is. This is Deception Tip 19: Contempt is the only asymmetrical facial expression. Liars may display it when targets suggest incorrect, or inept, answers. Here it is again. Contempt is the only asymmetrical facial expression. Liars may display it when targets suggest incorrect, or inept, answers.

So, what this means is that when someone is telling a lie and they feel like they have fooled the target- or the target starts guessing things that may be wrong, or they start trying to put the story together, or maybe the target starts losing their temper, or becomes frustrated- the liar will often show signs of contempt. Now, contempt is a sign of superiority or thinking that they are superior or that they are smarter.

You’ll often see it when the liar believes they may have fooled the interrogator or when the liar believes the interrogator is on the wrong track. Obviously then that would mean that they have fooled them. But, it usually- the most common place where you will see it is if someone is lying about something, or you’re trying to get them to divulge information but they’re not talking.

They maybe say a few things to kind of lead the person on a path, and then the target starts saying, “Well, is it here?” or “Is it here? Or “Well, is it here?” And, the person who is lying will display contempt when the target is getting off track because they know that they are fooling them. They’re saying, “Yes! They’re barking up the wrong trail. I’m winning.” It’s more of a sign of knowing that the person who is asking and guessing all these things is inept.

So, for example, if you’re the boss and your employee shows contempt, you probably want to fire that employee because they think that they’re superior to you and that you are an idiot. So, that’s kind of a thing. Contempt is usually a non-verbal sign that is directly calling someone an idiot. So, we will talk more about this, after this.

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Contempt is an expression that you hope you never see when you are speaking with someone you work with, or your spouse, or your significant other- boyfriend or girlfriend (whatever the case may be)- because if they start showing contempt when you’re talking, then things are definitely going in the wrong direction. They believe they are superior to you. They believe you are inept. You’re an idiot- whatever the case may be- but they have no confidence in you and they think you are kind of worthless per se. So, if you start seeing contempt on your spouse or your employees, then you maybe need to have a serious chat with them and find out what really is going on.

Now, contempt is a pretty easy emotion to spot because it only happens on one side of the face. Like we said, it is the only asymmetrical facial expression. Typically, it will happen on the right side of the face because the right side is controlled by the left cerebral hemisphere which is, most of the time, truthful/positive/true emotions. The right cerebral hemisphere is associated with the left side of the face and it is more prevalent in false emotions or lying behavior.

Now, I say more prevalent because both sides of the brain, or both cerebral hemispheres, can participate in false emotions. There are people who have had their corpus callosum, which is the area that connects the two halves of the brain together, they get that severed due to epilepsy treatments. A very severe epilepsy treatment is to sever the corpus callosum.

Or sometimes they are just born that way or something has happened. And, their two cerebral hemispheres aren’t in as tight of communication as someone else’s whose is connected, and they sometimes display signs of deception on either side of the face even though their hemispheres may not be communicating like someone whose are connected. So, that’s why I say it’s more prevalent on one side of the face to the other because the right cerebral hemisphere has more of an influence on lying and false emotions.

Contempt, being a truthful emotion, would be predominantly on the right side of the face. You can watch for that, but keep in mind, if you see one lip corner go up it could be contempt. So, you always have to watch out for the context of the situation. What just happened? Did they witness somebody do something? Did they see a dumb move? Maybe they just thought of something stupid. But, you never know. Just pay attention to the context of the situation and also look for other signs because there always are other signs. Especially when contempt is displayed when lying.

If it’s displayed when lying, it’s a superiority gesture which means they may steeple their fingers, they may lean back in their chair. If they get really superior, they may put their feet up on the table and then you know that that’s definitely a sign of some type of contempt or superiority. They certainly believe that you have been fooled.

Contempt is one of those emotions that can be dangerous because it is a type of a complex emotion. I know of one story where there was a big business meeting and one of the guys was sitting at the table and he had his hands crossed, or his fingers interlocked, behind his head and he was leaning back in his chair and kind of- not really had his feet up but had his feet kicked out. And someone said, “Well, I hope that person is the boss.” And another guy said, “Well, why is that?” “Well, because if he’s not the boss then you’re going to have trouble.” And they said, “Well, yeah. He is the boss.”

The reason they said that is because if someone is an underling or a regular employee, is acting like that- like that superiority, like they rule the show- and it’s not the boss, then that employee is going to be problematic for that boss because they clearly would believe that they are better, or that they would do better, than the current boss. Now, this happens and they may be right or they may be wrong. But, the point is that body language gives it all away.

So, if you start seeing it with your employees- you see contempt, you see them showing superiority gestures- then maybe you need to have a talk with them about that. Not in a bad way. But, maybe in a way like, “What’s going on? Do you think you could do a better job? Do you have some suggestions for me?” Maybe you can work with them. And, if their reasons have some legitimacy, if they have a solid basis, if they have some good recommendations, take them up on it and you will form a great alliance and they’ll become an asset for you. But, if they’re unfounded, then it’s best to either have a good talk with them or get rid of them somehow. And, that’s the way that is.

If people are showing contemptuous behaviors and superiority behaviors, and they’re unfounded as in- like a lot of people with mental illnesses (like narcissistic personality behaviors) or disorders- they are very contemptuous towards other people. They think that they are the best, that no one else can do things that they can do, that no one else is good enough, that they know exactly what to do and when to do it and everybody better just listen to them.

Now, I had one guy tell me, “They pee perfume.” Everything is just perfect for them and, really, it’s not. Because oftentimes, they don’t do as good of a job as they really think they do and, really, sometimes they do a worse job than other people. But, in their minds, they’re the best and they do show a lot of contemptuous behaviors.

However, getting back to lying. You will often see contempt mixed in, or concealed, inside a smile. Liars oftentimes use smiles to mask their other false, or their behavioral, leakage. A lot of times, when people have non-verbal signs that come out- where the unconscious is trying to leak that behavior- and they may be aware of it. They may know of some micro-expressions or they may understand a little bit about how the body works and about how the unconscious always wants to be truthful and how it’s their conscious mind coming up with this lie.

So, they may be aware of this and they may feel that certain things happen. Maybe they just leaked a sign or maybe they twitched their eye or something and they’ll mask it with another emotion. And, oftentimes, they mask with smiles. So, you’ll see contempt a lot with smiles. Like I said, you may see it on the right side of the face. This is why smiles are predominantly over-emphasized on the left side of the face because if a liar starts to feel contempt coming on the right side of the face, that’s- contempt is really like a quarter of a smile. It’s like that archaic smile- the Michelangelo smile where the lip corner just kind of goes up a little bit. It’s not a disgust but it’s contempt. It’s like a quarter of a smile.

So, a lot of times, a liar will see that coming on and then they just continue the smile and turn it into a full smile, but then it’s unbalanced on the left side of the face. So, watch out for that. Contempt in lying oftentimes will look like a smile. And then, of course, it will be asymmetrical at that point. So, now you’ve seen contempt and asymmetricality which is two signs that can help you out with that. So, watch out for contempt. It’s a pretty easy sign to see. You’ll see it on one side of the face and it’ll often be masked with a smile. It’ll happen when people think that they are superior to you and you will know because there will always be other signs of deception or other signs of leakage that go along with it.

I want to thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the Deception Tips Podcast. I encourage you to share it with your friends, subscribe to the feed, check out the Deception Tips Blog, and take a look at the books I have available. And, as always, tune in next week for a new Deception Tip.