Packages and Gestures

Carrying contraband or carrying something hazardous to public safety will be different than how a person carries routine items or packages. The differences we look for are very clear and very obvious once you know what they are.

by Dr. Robert Rail

Packages – we see them around us every day. Some large, some small, different colors, different shapes and sizes, from the beginning of our day to the end of our day we see them around us constantly. Often, we try to determine what’s in these packages. Could it contain a threat to public safety or some other form of contraband? How can we tell what’s inside all of these packages?

It’s not the package we need to know about! It’s understanding the person who is carrying the package. We can’t read minds, but we can read and understand the body gestures of the person who has the package. Reading the gestures of the person carrying the package helps us determine the contents of the package.
Think back for a second – every day you see how people handle things they carry. Think about a supermarket. Think about a person reaching into a cooler area and taking out a container of eggs. How do they handle the eggs? Is it different than how they handle a case of soft drinks? Of course there is a difference. Everyone handles different contents in a different way. We need to look closely at the body gestures of the person handling the contents.

In that same supermarket you will notice a great difference between a person handling a bag of potatoes and a small child. The child will, hopefully, be handled with great caution and care while being placed in and out of the shopping cart seat. Do we think a bag of potatoes will be handled with the same amount of care? This is all human nature. It is the way we all are. You do not have to know the contents of a package to see how the package is being handled. It is the body gestures being displayed by the person who does know what is in the package that are important. How the package is being picked up, carried around, and put down will tell us what is in it.

Carrying contraband or carrying something hazardous to public safety will be different than how a person carries routine items or packages. The differences we look for are very clear and very obvious once you know what they are.

A common way contraband is carried is called “dissociation”. In other words, they are going to carry the package as if they don’t want the package to be part of them. They are not comfortable with it. They’re walking and moving with the package uncomfortably away from their body. It’s like setting a powerful, spring loaded trap and holding it in the palm of your hand. You wouldn’t carry this device close to your body. You’d carry it out and away from yourself in case it snapped. It’s not a bag or a box swinging at your side.

You will also notice that when they put the package down they carefully place it down with a high level of caution. Many times as they set it down they will look at their surroundings and not look at the package. You will see their body posture leaning away from the package. You will also see how they maintain distance away from other people and the package. When people walk near their package they will stand between them and the package or even move the package away from others. If they are in an open area they may stand over the package to guard it. As they are dissociative with the package, they also want others to be physically dissociative with the package.

Another common way suspicious packages are carried is “parental gestures”. This is being literally wrapped around the package. You will observe the body posture curve protectively around the package as if it is a child or small pet. This item is of great importance to them. They aren’t just holding it at their side as they walk. They have it up in their arms and are holding it against their chest or stomach, shielding it from the world around them. Whatever they are doing, you will notice that they do not relinquish their hold on this package. It constantly remains in their parental type of control. If you are standing near them or approach them, you will notice that they hold the package even tighter and closer. If that package is so important to them then it should also be of great importance to you!

Another type of body gestures an individual with packages can exhibit is “mechanical”. With mechanical body gestures the person’s appearance is stiff and almost mechanized. They appear to move very deliberately in an almost robotic method. They turn, then they walk forward. Their movements are stiff and lack flexibility. All of their motion appears to be under total control at all times. The eye gestures are also very robotic. When the head turns left the eyes look left. When the head turns right the eyes look right. The head turns and moves with the movement of the body in a very rigid format. All of the body gestures become literally “locked” together. They will have the appearance of being devoid of emotion and of being more of a transport device than a human being. They will exhibit stiff rigid posture and will walk consistently at one speed. Their voice will be an emotionless monotone.

One very interesting thing about all three types of “carriers” is that before they have the package or after they relinquish control of the package they exhibit normal body signs. Look for the difference. Look for the changes that package causes the person to exhibit.

Remember that body gestures and knowing their meaning is like understanding a language. One body sign is just a few words and a compound gesture become a sentence. This means that the more you observe, the more you will understand of this language. The more body signs and gestures you are able to compile, the more accurate your understanding of the person will be.

We don’t want to draw opinions from a very short story, and we don’t want to draw conclusions from only one or two body signs. We want to watch, and gather in as many body signs as possible so that this language breaks down into many paragraphs, which will lead us to a clearer, better, understanding of what we are seeing happening before us.

Dr. Robert R. Rail is recognized internationally as one of the foremost experts on managing interpersonal relations. He has taught his “understanding body language” techniques and methods to people from more than 60 countries.  He is the author of four books including The Unspoken Dialogue: Understanding Body Language and Controlling Interviews and Negotiations from which this article was developed.  He can be contacted at [email protected]


Image courtesy of Dudley

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About Michael Nossaman 39 Articles
Michael Nossaman is the Protective Security Council founder.

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