Guilt is a powerful emotion that can impact people on a very psychological and physical level. Psychologically, when people experience guilt, they’ll often avoid showing their full range of emotions, show sensitivity to others’ actions, and may have reduced self-esteem. Naturally, these psychological symptoms are bound to express themselves physically through their body language and other non-verbal cues.
Experts in body language and forensic psychology have researched for decades, trying to crack the code that determines whether someone is guilty or innocent. While there is still no sure-fire way of determining guilt just based on somebody’s body language, there are some very telling signs everyone should be aware of if they want to avoid being deceived.
If you’re interested in determining whether someone is secretly guilty, keep reading because today’s topic is “12 Signs Someone Is Hiding Guilt.” Be sure to read until number one because it’s the most important tip we have for determining whether someone is guilty or not.
Number 12: Guilty people might have a blank, downward-facing stare.
When people are harboring a guilty conscience, often they’ll be lost in a different world of regret. They might be replaying the event that they wish they could take back over and over in their minds, hoping they could turn back time. As a result, this might impact their body language.
When people are guilty, it’s common for them to have a blank stare, often facing downwards, either to avoid eye contact with others or to reflect their shame. Just imagine a little kid who stole a cookie from a cookie jar sheepishly looking at the ground, worried they’ll get caught. Adults do the same thing too. So, if you see an adult with a vacant, faraway stare with their eyes lowered, they could be feeling guilty.
Number 11: Fidgeting or other anxious movements.
Someone guilty will also often display stereotypically anxious movements and gestures. If someone is hiding a dark secret, you might catch them behaving more jittery than usual. Maybe they’re biting their fingernails, tapping their foot on the floor, playing with their hair, or gesturing in other ways that suggest anxiety.
Of course, there are many other reasons why someone could be behaving like this; they could just have anxiety. However, if you suspect someone of lying and they begin acting more fidgety and nervous around you, maybe their guilt is beginning to eat away at them.
Number 10: In contrast, their movements may be stiff or controlled.
Of course, not everyone shows signs of guilt the same way. Some people might act the opposite of the traditional jittery guilty person. Instead, their body movements and facial expressions will appear more controlled and stiff than usual.
Perhaps someone who often struggles to maintain eye contact during conversations suddenly leaves their eyes fixated on you. They could be taking extra caution not to appear suspicious. People usually equate shifting eyes with guilt, which can sometimes be the case. But because that is such a well-known theory, it is often what liars are focused on keeping the most normal.
In some, it is best to keep an eye out for any body language that seems abnormal and out of character for the specific individual.
Number 9: They’ll cover their mouths.
When people are lying or feeling guilty, they’ll often cover their mouths as if hiding their lips from revealing the truth. People will often unconsciously hide their mouths, either with their hands, by taking a drink from a beverage, or simply folding their lips over so they’re hidden.
According to Tracy Brown, an expert in body language, usually, “if someone hides their lips, the next thing to come from them is a half-lie or a lie.” So, if you’re ever in need of interrogating someone to discover the truth, focus on what they’re doing with their lips.
Number 8: They hide their device when someone can see the screen.
This sign involves more than just body language, if someone begins hiding their screen when someone else can see it, they could be hiding something. Unfortunately, this behavior is especially common in romantic relationships when one member might be engaging in an affair.
Their phones always seem glued to them until their partner walks into the room. When the phone disappears into their pocket, maybe they are private and seem uncomfortable if their partner needs to borrow their cell phone or laptop for a moment or are caught staying up late texting when they think their partner is asleep.
Of course, it’s important to respect a person’s boundaries when it comes to their cell phone; perhaps they’re simply a private person. Before you jump to the conclusion that your partner is cheating on you, try confronting them about your suspicions calmly. Perhaps they are just stressed over their fantasy football league or planning a surprise holiday for the two of you.
Number 7: Shaking their head from side to side.
Another sign of guilt is someone shaking their head slowly from side to side. This movement reflects their internal monologue, usually filled with feelings of shame and regret, as if asking themselves, “How could I do that?”
Number 6: They will close their eyes.
Instead of avoiding eye contact, some people will simply close their eyes when they’re feeling guilty. People who display this sign of guilt are almost trying to hide in plain sight. If they do this in the middle of a discussion with someone, then they could be doing it to delay the flow of the conversation and think of a response without distraction.
Regardless, if someone closes their eyes when answering a confrontational question, you might want to consider that they could be hiding something from you.
Number 5: They become avoidant or over-affectionate.
People who are feeling guilty about something might show a change of personality in regards to how avoidant or affectionate they are. Both can be signs of remorse, depending on the individual. If someone is feeling guilty over something, they could become more avoidant and withdraw from whoever they are keeping their secret from, whether it’s a romantic partner, friend, or even just a co-worker.
If they’re normally warm and welcoming but suddenly begin dodging your text messages or finding excuses to leave the room when you enter, they probably feel uncomfortable being around you while feeling guilty. If someone you know begins acting avoidant and you’re feeling suspicious, try asking them about their behavior before getting too worried.
In contrast, some people will become more affectionate. Say your co-worker at the office begins buying you coffee every morning, or your partner makes you breakfast in bed with flowers for seemingly no reason. If this generous and affectionate behavior is unusual for them, they could be overcompensating for their guilt.
Number 4: They delay their answers.
Experts in body language state that if people delay for five seconds or more between answering a question, they’re likely being dishonest. The reason for the pause is usually so the dishonest person can think of a lie or excuse rather than being truthful. This is similar to people closing their eyes when in a conversation to collect their thoughts and avoid being caught in a lie.
Regardless, when people feel confident about what they’re saying, especially if it’s regarding their behavior and actions, they normally don’t need to pause to think about how to respond. If someone shows a delay in their answers, they could be trying to hide their guilt.
Number 3: When you lean in toward them, they lean back.
This nonverbal sign of guilt is seen when someone, like an interrogator, leans towards someone they assume is lying. If the person is guilty, there is a good chance they’ll lean away from the interrogator, as if protecting themselves from them. If someone is not lying, they’ll likely remain still and calm when being pressed for answers.
Number 2: Holding their head in their hands.
This is a self-soothing nonverbal cue of guilt, holding your head or face in your hands. This type of body language shows the individual’s feelings of self-pity and remorse and their attempts to comfort themselves. Some people suggest that the guilty person behaving in this manner is thinking thoughts along the lines of, “Woe is me.”
Number 1: Everyone is different, trust your instincts.
While body language and non-verbal cues are excellent at aiding you in discovering deceptive people, there aren’t any 100% conclusive signs of guilt. Forensic psychologists, criminologists, and police interrogators have tried to master a way to discover lies, but sadly, even machine-operated lie detector tests are not always reliable.
Some people are naturally skilled at lying and will give no physical or verbal cues of deception. That’s why it’s important to always trust your gut. Most of all, when trying to determine someone’s innocence or guilt, if someone you have confronted about lying swears up and down that they’re innocent and aren’t showing any of the signals, but you still have a feeling that they are being dishonest, it might be better to trust your gut.
If someone seems suspicious to you, they’re likely doing something you might not be aware of to make you feel that way. It’s better to be safe than sorry.