This article is part of our cues guide. Click here for more.
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In the last few years, many of Britney Spears’s fans began to worry about her—Is she safe? Why has her behavior changed so much? What does her body language mean?
In this article, we’re going to answer these questions! You’ll learn:
- why people are worried about Britney Spears
- what red flags Britney Spears’s body language is showing
- how we can use the body language cues we see to read people better
Body Language Red Flags
Body language red flags are verbal or nonverbal signals that show an incongruence where we should dig deeper. They don’t always mean that someone is guilty or showing a negative emotion; however, they may be good indicators in some cases.
Let’s dive in and see what red flags Britney Spears displays.
Cue #1: Fear Microexpression
Take a look at the following clip and see if you can spot the fear cue:
Take a look at the area around her eyes. This is a fear microexpression. A microexpression is a very brief involuntary facial expression that we make when we feel an intense emotion. Fear is indicated here in the interview when she widens her eyes—you can even see the whites of her eyes showing here.
What’s really interesting is that this was happening as the conservatorship was beginning to progress behind the scenes. In the clip, Spears literally says, “I’m afraid that those things are being taken away from me” and then flashes a fear microexpression.
She was pinning her problems mostly on the press, but her microexpression indicates there might have been a deeper fear lurking underneath the surface.
Cue #2: Self-Soothing Behavior
A self-soothing behavior is any behavior a person uses to regulate their emotional state. For example, one self-soothing cue is rubbing one’s hands together. This might seem odd, but when born, babies often receive all sorts of rubs from their parents, and adults learn to adopt a similar self-massage.
I talk about many self-soothing cues in my book Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication. Spears shows a big one.
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Here’s an interview segment where you can see Spears rubbing her hand up and down her leg:
Other self-soothing gestures you might notice from Spears include mouth-soothing gestures. We adapt this behavior as adults because of our tendency to suck our fingers or a pacifier to calm ourselves as babies:
You might also notice Spears lowering her speaking volume. All of a sudden, when she is asked a question, she lowers her volume as if she’s more reserved. We sometimes lower our volume when we lack confidence or feel afraid.
Want to speak confidently? Check out this article: How to Speak with Confidence and Sound Better.
Cue #3: Distancing Behavior
A distancing behavior signifies a person’s desire to separate themselves from something uncomfortable. When people don’t like something, you might notice them physically leaning back or creating distance between them and the disturbing thing.
In the interview, you can see Spears distancing herself by pulling her head back suddenly when responding to the interviewer:
Cue #4: Vocal Drop & Vocal Fry
When people are anxious or nervous, they tend to take more air into their lungs due to a fight-or-flight response.
As you can notice in the start of this clip, Britney Spears takes a sudden deep breath in while she answers a question:
You might even notice her going into a vocal fry during the clip. A vocal fry occurs when a person’s voice starts sounding like sizzling bacon on a pan—in Spears’s case, she might’ve been anxious and running out of oxygen as a result.
Want to learn more about vocal fry and why it happens? Check out the article here: Vocal Fry: What It Is and How to Get Rid of It.
Cue #5: The Double Leg Rub
When the interviewer asks Britney Spears a question about her then-husband Kevin Federline, she can be seen rubbing her legs with not one but two hands. This is a self-soothing cue that indicates even higher anxiety than a single-hand leg rub.
And it makes sense when you realize that shortly after this interview, the couple filed for divorce.
Cue #6: Rapid Eye Blinking
Rapid eye blinking is a form of eye blocking, which is what people do when they don’t want to see, hear, or feel something. When people hear bad news, for example, the first thing they might do is close their eyes to try to “block out” what they heard.
You can even see Spears rapid eye blinking when asked the question about Kevin:
Cue #7: Volume Drop And Tone Shift
At the end of her response, you might notice Britney’s words sound almost forced. Her speaking volume drops and the tone of her words starts shifting more negatively.
Cue #8: Sadness Microexpression
One way a person might show a sadness microexpression is by pinching the inner corners of their eyebrows together and pouting their lips. Britney actually makes this face, making it seem as if she was forced to lie during this interview.
This is especially concerning as she flashes the sadness microexpression when she claims she’s very happy in her marriage. As we know, a few months later they split.
Cue #9: Incongruent Nodding and Head Shaking
When people agree, they might nod their head vertically to say yes, and when they disagree, they may shake horizontally to say no. This rule might be different in different cultures, but this is generally true in the Western cultures.
In this part of the clip, you can see Britney Spears nods incongruently. She says no, yet ends up nodding her head yes anyway. Take a look at the clip:
This could signal an internal conflict within her—on one hand, she wants to say no, but internally, she is saying yes.
Cue #10: Fake Vocal Cues
If you take a look at Britney Spears’s interviews and Instagram account, you can see she sounds different from interview to interview and from Instagram story to Instagram story—especially in this clip:View this post on Instagram
In particular, you might notice 2 things:
- “I’m fine.” This response doesn’t feel believable. People who are genuinely happy and in a good emotional state usually sound happier.
- She lacks vocal expressiveness. In earlier clips from before her conservatorship, you might see Spears acting freely in her interviews; in this short clip, you can see she lacks a lot of that expressiveness.
Cue #11: Lifeless Eyes
Here’s a picture from an Instagram clip posted by Britney Spears that had some of her fans seriously wondering, “Is she okay?”
As you can see in the photo, her eyes appear “lifeless.” Why? When people make facial expressions, you’ll usually see tension in their eyes and facial muscles. It appears as if Britney Spears has no emotions at all—which is especially odd in a dance video.
In this case, we worry when we notice a lack of emotion.
Cue #12: Fake Smiles
Take a look at the following picture:
Is it a genuine smile? Or a fake one?
Genuine smiles are smiles that engulf the entire face, from the mouth to the eyes. They are characterized by the wrinkles in the corners of the eyes called “crow’s feet.”
Since you don’t see any in the photo, when she says, “I’m enjoying my life right now,” you might feel like she’s not telling the truth.
Britney Spears Body Language Cues Takeaway
To summarize, take note of these important cues:
- Self-soothing cues. Britney Spears rubbing her leg with either one hand or both hands tends to indicate anxiety when answering questions.
- Fear cues. Britney Spears can be seen widening her eyes in a fear microexpression, indicating her fear at the beginning of the conservatorship.
- Distancing. Britney physically moves her head back suddenly. This shows her discomfort and desire to distance herself from the conversation.
- Verbal changes. Dropping the tone of her voice and having vocal fry are characteristic of anxiety.
- Signs of lying. Verbally saying no while shaking her head yes shows a conflict between what she says and what she’s subconsciously thinking.
- Lack of expressiveness. Britney Spears’s eyes can often be described as lifeless, and her voice isn’t very expressive when she tries to appear happy.
Hopefully, you’ve learned to read body language cues with this helpful guide! For further reading, take a look at another amazing body language breakdown: Why Princess Diana’s Hidden Body Language Cues are So Intriguing.