When you are speaking to a person and they do not make eye contact with you, are they lying? Not necessarily. Studies have shown that lack of eye contact while speaking with someone is driven more by some overwhelming emotion rather than truthfulness. Could the person you are speaking to be lying? Sure they could - the overwhelming emotion that person is feeling may stem from the fact they are lying to you. However, it is equally true that the person may not make eye contact due to some other emotion: embarrassment, fear, etc. Lack of eye contact is not really a good gauge of truthfulness. So why is it important?
It is important because people expect it. It is important because people believe, whether correct or not, that it is body language that signifies truthfulness. The importance of eye contact is so ingrained that it is futile to fight it.
I always tell my clients to remember that when they testify, they should make eye contact with the jury or Judge. They need to engage the person or persons who will ultimately make the decision as to whether they win or lose on their case. While eye contact may signify nothing, its importance lies in the expectation of the receiver. So, let the receiver have what they expect.
by Steven H. Kaminski, Esq.