“These Are The Best Hidden Secrets About Shoulder Shrugs” – Negotiation Insight

“The lack of understanding of a shoulder shrug can leave hidden secrets concealed.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“These Are The Best Hidden Secrets About Shoulder Shrugs”

“Were you involved with those other people that ransacked Mr. Smith’s store?” No was the answer to the question. “Then why did some of the people that confessed say you were there?” I don’t know, was his response as he shrugged one shoulder. “You’re not telling the truth! Don’t try to hide your secrets. I can tell when you’re lying!” I’m telling you the truth was the statement made as he displayed a double shoulder shrug.

You might wonder why it’s so important to understand the meaning of shoulder shrugs. And the answer is, they unlock secrets into the thoughts occurring in the person emitting them. Because to possess a lack of meaning about shoulder shrugs is to have a lack of insight into the person with whom you’re communicating. In essence, the person is signaling the need to protect himself. From what is the answer you should seek. Thus, the better you become at interpreting nonverbal signals that shrugs offer, the more able you’ll be at understanding the secrets that others attempt to conceal from you, and why they do so.


To better understand the meaning of a shoulder shrug, you must observe what’s occurring when the action happens. That’s because people emit shrugs based on how they feel at a specific moment. And the gestures occur to secure one’s inner self, their emotional state of mind, or to add additional meaning to what they’re saying.

When displaying a shrug, to add additional meaning to one’s words, the act can become exhibited to convince you of a lie they’re telling, or an attempt to enhance the believability of their truth. And that’s the reason it’s so important to observe when the gesture occurs.

If someone senses that you may be in the process of uncovering their lie, they may become more defensive, which might cause them to shrug both shoulders. The meaning of that act, in that situation, would be an effort to make a smaller target of themselves. That’s something everyone instinctively does when they’re attempting to protect themselves. And that act would be the attempt to conceal the lie flowing from the mouth. Someone’s head might also become tucked to protect the throat better.

You can detect when a lie versus frustration is causing a shrug by the degree that one tucks their chin to protect their throat. As an example, when someone attempts to convince you of their truth, and they emit a shoulder shrug, they may do so with more of their throat exposed. They’re stating through the throat-exposing gesture that they want you to believe their words and accept them as the truth, as they think it to be.

When accessing the meaning of shrugs, keep in mind that the truth is what someone believes it is. Thus, someone may display a signal contrary to what’s above per them telling the truth versus a lie. That means, they may expose the throat to protect a lie because they don’t believe they’re lying. Hence, it can become complicated to discern without a doubt that someone is displaying a gesture per how you perceive it. So, when you’re unsure of a gesture’s meaning, note when it occurs at other times during a conversation.       

Single vs. Double Shrugs

  • Single shrug – A single shrug can be a softer form of communication, but you should note what it’s accompanied by when comparing it to a double shrug. As an example, if someone cocks their head to one side while lifting the opposite shoulder, you might assume the person is inwardly confused. Because that gesture is not natural. Try it, and you’ll better understand what I mean. Tilt your head to the right and lift your left shoulder. It feels acquired, doesn’t it? In general, a single shrug can denote the perception of being in a less threatening environment than what a double shrug might indicate.  
  • Double shrug – A double shrug, in most cases, is a more substantial commitment to what the person said. Which means, he’s most likely in more of a protective state. That could also imply that you’re closer to uncovering secrets that he’s trying to withhold from you.

Remember, shoulder shrugs are a form of protection. They make a smaller target of one’s body. Therefore, when you see a double shrug after you’ve observed multiple single shrugs, take note of it. You’re more than likely getting close to uncovering something that’s hidden.

Validating Shrugs

To validate the meaning of someone’s shrugs, ask questions that gradually irritate them. By ‘turning up the heat,’ you’ll sense how exposed they feel by the line of questions you’re posing. While asking what you believe to be non-threatening questions, observe when, or if, shrugs occur. One point to note is when shrugs arise based on what you expect. Another point is when they don’t ensue when you expect them to happen. The purpose of that observation is to attune your perception of that person’s behavior. In both cases, you’ll gain information to compare someone’s actions later. And that’s the process that you can engage in to validate the meaning that someone gives to their shrugs.


Shoulder shrugs can send different signals, depending on the sender of the act. But if you establish the meaning someone gives to their shrugs, you’ll gain insight into what the shrug means to them. Once you have that insight, you’ll have the key to understanding when they might be lying, and when they may be telling the truth. And that will give you more understanding into why and what secrets they’re attempting to conceal.

I state that you may have that insight, which implies you may not. That’s because there’s no science to confirm the exactness of someone’s shrug that states that everyone performs the gesture in the same manner in the same situation. Nevertheless, if you employ the guidelines mentioned, you’ll have a higher perspective about the silent shoulder shrug signals people are sending when you’re communicating with them. And everything will be right with the world.  

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

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