Sophie Halliday Zadeh on nonverbal communication, detecting lies and why Botox makes you unhappy (#7)

Did you know that most of our communication is non-verbal?

In fact some studies have found that the words we say can contribute as little as 7% compared to body language and voice tone.

Most non-verbal communication is sub-conscious, we don’t think about it. Imagine how much better you could understand  and be understood if you didn’t leave this layer of communication to chance. 

Today we talk to Sophie Halliday Zadeh about non-verbal communication. Sophie is a body language and non-verbal communication specialist. 

Sophie is the founder of My Alcomy where she works with leaders in government and industry giants, including Woodside, PwC, Rio Tinto and Alcoa.  She coaches public speakers and TEDx presenters to convey their message with impact.  Sophie has created an animated lesson for TED-Ed called Are There Universal Expressions of Emotion?. She has featured across a variety of news and media platforms, including ABC radio, The West Australian, The CEO magazine, Seven News Media and Foxtel Networks.  

Her blog was recently rated in the top five body language blogs on the web. We would highly recommend that you check out the blog on the My Alcomy website, especially if you are interested in the Netflix series, Making a Murderer, because in the blog Sophie deconstructs the body language of the people in the show. 

You can connect with Sophie via her website (, LinkedIn or the My Alcomy Facebook page

We hope you enjoy this insightful conversation with Sophie Halliday Zadeh. Listen on AppleGoogleSpotify or Simplecast.

Show Notes

2:18 – fear of public speaking to TEDx coach.
6:14 – public speaking anxiety.
7:37 – becoming a keen observer.
8:22 – impact of art on observation.
10:31 – nuances of facial expressions.
11:46 – hardest part of non-verbal communication is observation.
12:04 – the face gives so much information.
13:56 – being on to observe takes a lot of energy.
15:06 – micro-expressions and subtle cues.
16:37 – reading the hidden emotions.
17:34 – common misconceptions about reading body language.
19:32 – normal to lie.
21:00 – can you spot a liar?
21:49 – reading other parts of the body.
22:58 – using body language to identify when you’re lying to yourself.
25:06 – analysing celebrities and politicians.
26:45 – should I fold my arms?
29:47 – power poses.
32:57 – common tells.
36:31 – the feet are the most honest part of your body.
40:15 – non verbal communication is also voice tone.
44:45 – anxiety impacting your voice.
45:44 – using your voice more deliberately.
49:12 – virtual vs in person.
51:38 – don’t get Botox!
54:16 – thanks.


Making a Murderer 

“Art demands constant observation” – Vincent van Gogh 


Video of Sophie sculpting – Making Face: Creating the universal expression of happiness with clay  

Blocking Behaviours 

Power pose 

Body Brain Feedback Loop 

Stress Behaviours 


Key Quotes

“I was the kid at school who never spoke, I was so shy…I’d go out of my way to avoid speaking…” 

“Most people fear public speaking, for me it was an impossibility…once I was on stage I was so anxious, I lost the ability to read any notes I had.” 

“If I was going to present from the stage I had to memorise and have anti-anxiety methods…using hand gestures when rehearsing and also on stage helped me” 

“when I wasn’t speaking, I was observing people…I have always been an observer….this is important for non-verbal communication” ” 

“Art demands constant observation” – Vincent Van Gough 

“I was always gifted with art at school and you have to be a good observer to create art” 

“the face expresses emotional states…if you can read the face you can read peoples emotional state” 

“the hardest part of non-verbal communication is learning to observe” 

“the eyelid flutter…when we have reached emotional load or cognitive load” 

“high blink rate can tell you how stressed someone is” 

“If you really understand expressions, you can see very subtle cues” 

“all the movements of the face … they mean something” 

“one of the main misconceptions is that there is a single cue that tells us if someone is lying” 

“nose touching and ear touching people think are ques for people lying….no they are not….we touch our face all the time” 

“mismatch between what someone is saying and what there expressions are saying” 

“a lot of people who teach non-verbal communication are teaching myths” 

“it’s enlightening to be able to read non-verbal communication with yourself as well…..we lie to ourselves as well” 

“with micro-expressions its often concealed or a supressed emotion” 

“watching people on video, You Tube clips is a good way to study non-verbal communication” 

“crossing your arms is common……it’s a blocking and protecting behaviour……it’s a signal of discomfort….but it might be minor….its perceived to be negative….our body size is shrinking ” 

“what we do with our body can affect the way that we feel” 

“Emotions are contagious….” 

“I recommend the power pose when no one is looking…and the ant-anxiety breathing exercises” 

“discomfort is blocking behaviours and stress behaviours” 

“touch with hands…when people really love someone the touch with hands tends to be with palm of hand as opposed to finger tips….baseline is important” 

“in a healthy relationship there tends to be a lot of foot touching….” 

“touch release oxytocin in the body…and is healthy for relationship” 

“the feet indicate peoples intent…we just don’t know what people are thinking, where they have to be and why” 

“one statement can be delivered in many ways and have different meanings….” 

“when people are stresses their speech tends to speed up” 

“when we are nervous their a physiological changes in the body…self-touch more…vocal cords tighten..” 

“one of the biggest things I recommend is breathing exercises” 

“the most compelling evidence…Botox studies…Botox paralyses muscles people no longer can express their emotions in the same way….emotions are depressed” 

“Botox is a treatment for people with OCD and depression” 

“learn to love your crow’s feet…they signify happiness” 

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.