By Ted Land
Channel 2 News
6:54 AM AKDT, April 27, 2012
Police officers, the FBI, and Alaska State Troopers analyze people's body language all the time. It's part of their job and helps reveal who might be bending the truth.
But according to one local specialist, the rest of us who don't work in law enforcement could learn a thing or two about how to read one another.
“It becomes so second nature that we don't think about it,” said Jerry Balistreri, a body language consultant and trainer who lives in Anchorage and is married to Channel 2 Morning Edition anchor Sheila Balistreri.
He helps teach police officers, tells them what to look for during interrogations, and also lectures a broad range groups, showing them how to do a better job of reading one another.
“Most people don't realize the ‘tells’ that they're giving off,” he said during a recent interview.
Take for example a recent conversation that took place on Channel 2 News and KTUU.com right before the municipal election, when voters defeated proposition five, a measure which would've added sexual orientation to a list of protected rights.
KTUU hosted a debate between Jim Minnery of "Protect Your Rights, Vote No on 5" and Trevor Storrs of “One Anchorage," the group supporting prop 5.
Balistreri happened to be watching the full debate online and says he could not believe his eyes.
“I was flabbergasted when I saw that,” he said.
It wasn't what Minnery said that caught Balistreri’s attention; it was the way he was sitting.
“Look at how he has to crank his upper torso and head to get around to even address Mr. Storrs, that's really bizarre,” said Balistreri pointing at Minnery’s body position.
“What if that's just comfortable for Jim?” asked Channel 2 reporter Ted Land.
“I can tell you for a person that does a full 58 minute interview you would not be comfortable doing this for any more than 5 minutes,” Balistreri responded.
“It suggests that he is not liking to be there. It suggests he is not wanting to have this conversation,” he said.
Balistreri says certain body language clues or “tells,” are not difficult to identify.
He says knowing what to look for could actually help people figure one another out.
Say for example your mechanic tells you you'll need to buy a certain part.
Balistreri says once you learn the price; ask follow up questions, like how they determined the cost or if they've considered any alternatives.
“You're kind of putting them on the spot, you're questioning their technical prowess, if you will, as to how they came to that conclusion,” he explains.
Then watch their reaction. If their body gets rigid, they lose eye contact, their voice shifts tones or speeds up -- beware.
“All of those would be indicators to me that person is now nervous and they are likely nervous because they might've been telling you something that wasn't truthful,” said Balistreri.
But keep in mind; some people are masters of deceit.
Balistreri points to an example from 1998 when President Bill Clinton told a national audience on TV that he “did not have sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky.
“Mr. Clinton is a master,” said Balistreri.
“If there’s a standard by which others need to be measured it would be him when it comes to being deceitful and lying because he’s very good, he does not give off any of the normal tells that he is being deceitful,” he said.
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