Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Home-grown experiment with body language

As I was reading, and then editing The Sleeping Doll, Jeffery Deaver's terrific thriller in the latest Select Editions, I got to thinking. His heroine, Kathryn Dance, is an expert in kinesics, or reading body language. She can tell if the bad guys are lying by nonverbal cues. Hmmmm, I thought, I wonder if this works for teenagers. I decided to conduct an experiment.

"Did you walk the dog today?" I asked my 14-year-old daughter. "Uhhmmn," she said as she sat at the computer IMing her Very Important Friends. Let's see. She did not look at me. She did not stop what she was doing. The dog was circling around in an agitated manner. Conclusion: she did not walk the dog. Further probing revealed my initial guess to be correct.

I tried additional research. "What time did you go to sleep last night," I asked my night-owl 16-year-old daughter who sleeps till noon whenever possible. "Not that late," she said. She met my gaze only fleetingly. She began chewing her nails. "How late is not that late," I probed. "I don't know," she said, irritation creeping into her voice. "Around midnight. And why do you care?" The nail-chewing intensified. She looked annoyed. The signs were all there. She had gone to bed WAY past midnight. Further probing revealed that she had watched her DVD of Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time, dragging herself to bed at 2 a.m.

I learned from Kathryn Dance (and Jeffery Deaver) that body language CAN help you uncover the truth. Now, if they could only teach me how to deal with teenagers...


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