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“This Is How To Unlock Secrets Hidden By Stress” – Negotiation Insight

“Secrets hidden by stress reveal themselves, once you unveil the stress behind which secrets hide.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language Expert (Click to Tweet)

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“This Is How To Unlock Secrets Hidden By Stress”

People become stressed for any number of reasons. It can occur due to their fear of upcoming interactions with others, especially with the Coronavirus pandemic plaguing people around the globe. And they can experience stress due to their attempts to conceal secrets or lies.  

The point is, when you’re in the presence of someone displaying signs of stress, first, you should know what to observe. Then, you should be able to detect their source of stress. The reason being, the better you can understand someone’s source of motivation, the better you can understand what’s motivating their actions.

The following are body language signs highlighting the source that denote actions stemming from stress, and how you can use that information to uncover hidden secrets.

Stress From Current Environments:

Some people experience stress in some environments due to their lack of assuredness about their placement. And that stems from how they compare themselves to others. If this person is concealing a secret, make him feel at ease before attempting to coerce it out of him. To do otherwise may cause him to bury his secret deeper.


Another sign that stress induces is stammering and forgetfulness. Thus, when you encounter someone displaying these symptoms, recognize that they could be expressing discomfort.

Based on when the stammering or forgetfulness occurs, it may announce your relative closeness to hidden information. And the forgetfulness may also be the crutch they use as the excuse to keep from disclosing that information. If you sense that, and it’s crucial, probe to uncover what’s attempting to remain concealed. As you do, observe what becomes of the stammering. The more it occurs, the closer you’ll be to discovering what’s hidden.  

Adam’s Apple/Swallowing:

You can glean insights from observing someone’s Adam’s apple. As they speak, when stressed, they’ll tend to swallow more than previously. If stress is the cause, their swallowing action will be due to an effort to hydrate the throat.  

Attempt to calm the individual by backing away from the subject that’s causing discomfort. And note the movement of their Adam’s apple once they reach a state of calm. If it noticeably dissipates, that will be an indication of what caused their stress. If it behooves your efforts to obtain the truth, ratchet up the tension by delving back into the story that caused the anxiety. You can engage in that yin and yang until you’re satisfied that you’ve obtained all of the truth.  

Taking A Seat:

Do you observe how someone sits in a chair? Do they plop into it, ease into it while gripping the arms of the chair (if there are arms)? If so, how much weight are they releasing when they sit? And how much pressure are they applying while gripping the arms of the chair? Those actions indicate how they feel at that moment.

Someone experiencing a higher degree of stress than usual may plop into a chair or grip its’ arms tightly. The person that’s stating that action is attempting to rid themselves of the load they’re carrying. That load may be mental due to stress. If you note those signs, act to uncover what may lurk beneath them.

Lip Chewing/Licking:

Another possible sign of stress occurs when someone constantly licks their lips. This action stems from a lack of moisture in the mouth, which causes the lip-licking to occur. It can be one of the most accessible signs to detect because it’s literally right in front of you.

Holding/Rubbing Wrist:

Supporting one’s wrist or rubbing it is another indicator that stress is prevalent. That action denotes an attempt to release the pressure that may stem from other parts of one’s body. Thus, it serves as a release valve.

If you observe this gesture, ask if everything is okay. And note how the person responds. If they question why you’re asking, they’re seeking input before giving information. That could be an indicator of their attempt to conceal information. If they state a reason for their action, they’re less guarded, but they may still be harboring something.

Averting Eyes:

When you were younger and saw a scary movie, you averted your eyes to prevent seeing what alarmed you. That’s a natural instinctive reaction. Thus, when someone averts their eyes, they’re sending a signal indicating they don’t wish to engage at that moment. The degree of aversion depends on the culture and other social factors relevant to one’s geographical location.

By noting when someone averts their eyes, you can gain insight into what they may not wish to discuss. And, by signaling that such matters are topics they’d like to stay away from, they’re drawing attention to the fact that there may be something for you to probe. Assess if you should.

Uncovering Lies:

You can use a combination of the insights mentioned to assist in uncovering lies. Observing the rate of swallowing, when someone averts their eyes, the degree they stammer, and how they sit in a chair, can be clues signaling you to pursue your current direction. It can also indicate that it’s time to change tactics.

The body wants to stay in a state of comfort. Thus, when someone’s body lacks tranquility, it emits signals indicating its efforts to return to a state of calm. Therefore, when someone lies, they display gestures that call attention to their efforts to prevent the truth from coming forward. Once you sense you’re on the trail of a lie, decide if it’s worth pursuing. But always take note of how the person reacted when they sensed that you were on to their untruthfulness.


To understand someone’s body language, you must understand their baseline behavior. The way to gather that insight is to observe how they behave when they’re not in a state of stress. Based on that behavior, you’ll have something to compare their current actions.

Absent baseline information, compare ongoing interactions to what’s typical for the environment. Only then will you be able to accurately determine what causes them to act and react in the manner they do. And keep in mind that most people respond differently to feeling awkward than they do when they’re trying to conceal secrets. When the latter is crucial for you to uncover, be more observant of those signals.

To protect yourself better, be more observant of the signals others emit when they’re in your presence. In some cases, the clues they give off should set off alarms. In other situations, such messages may be an outreach for assistance. In either case, the more aware you are of them, the higher the sense of direction you’ll have. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

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