Sincerity is the way of heaven.
A guy and a duck cross the road. No, this is not the beginning of a joke. There really was a guy who walked past my car last night and gave me this intentional stare as if to ensure I was not going to edge forward. I realized why a moment later when I saw the duckling following at his heels. They walked and waddled safely through the intersection as if it was the most normal thing in the world. I have seen several people pass by with parrots on their shoulder. There was also once a neighborhood wide search for a missing three legged turtle. But this duckling was a first. So when they passed by again for their morning walk, I ran after them with questions. What’s the story with the duck?
Andrew sat down on my front porch while Ducka the duckling settled down next to him and waited for me to figure these two out. It seems he watched Ducka crack out of her egg and some paternal instinct kicked in. Now the duckling sleeps, eats, walks and waits on Andrew. He just likes ducks, he said with sincerity.
“But not as much as elephants. I am really into elephants,” he added.
What? Andrew is an unusual variety of onion. Just as I peeled one layer back, there was more, much, much, more. Andrew rebuilds vintage cars that run on lawn mower parts. He still lives with his parents and siblings on a family farm where they have their own plane strip and plane. He also lives part of the year in a tree house in Sri Lanka so he can get his elephant fix. I envisioned elephants roaming around Sri Lanka neighborhoods like outdoor cats do on our street. Andrew also spoke of elephant collectors here in the U.S. and another chapter in his life when he shared the same intimacy with a pachyderm that he now enjoys with Ducka.
Normally, the B.S. barometer would be ringing. Loudly. But I know just enough about the family that Andrew is visiting to know he is the real deal. I had heard about this Rennaisance man through the neighborhood grapevine. Even if I had not been privy to the good-natured gossip, I somehow just knew Andrew was being truthful and authentic. But how?
According to a University of California study, people can spot insincerity within twenty seconds of conversation. The same study also found a gene receptor that is commonly missing in untrustworthy people. The receptor regulates oxytocin, which controls a person’s ability to have compassion and empathy, which affects their ability to be sincere. Here are some scientifically proven non-verbal signs of whether a person is being honest and sincere.
Andrew’s smile was slow to fade. It matched a spark in his eyes. Fake smiles are quick to appear and quick to fade. They don’t always match the eyes.
Andrew looked me in the eye, but not too much. Research shows that if a person maintains too long of a gaze, they may be trying too hard to earn your trust.
Are they coughing and clearing their throat or covering their mouth? Hiding the mouth and they may be hiding something.
Talking too fast, clipping responses, sudden changes in their normal patterns and overly animated gestures are all suspicious traits.
If I was at all unsure of reading the “signs” while talking to this stranger, all I had to do was look at little Ducka. She patiently sat next to Andrew as we chatted. She wasn’t rattled by my large dog barking ferociously at the door or by my 4-year old daughter who wanted to pet her. Ducka had complete faith she was safe with her daddy.
How do you gauge sincerity?
For today's "Sky's the Limit" on what you can learn: Elephant sanctuaries. Did you know construction is underway for the National Elephant Center right here in Florida? The project is a collaboration of more than 70 zoos in Fellsmar, Florida. Also in Florida, the Center for Elephant Conservation is an elephant mating farm near Orlando run by Ringling Brothers Circus. Ringling Brothers also runs an elephant retirement farm in Ocala, Florida.