We, the human breed, generally learn to read body languages with time and experience. This is transpired by picking up cues during the years and observing the behavioural characteristics of people in person also known as the mystery characteristics. Further supported by the people’s ability to communicate, it is not restricted to verbal communications alone. The non-verbal communications are dependent upon our tone of voice, body language and behavioural characteristics. Learning how to become aware of, and to interpret that can give us an upper hand in our professional and personal life.
When we are working hard and doing all we can to achieve our goals, anything that can give us an edge is powerful and will streamline our path to success. This behavioural tendency lifts us to remarkable heights and sharpens our senses. In particular our observational skills.
So what are those observations that we ought to make? What are those characteristics or what are those tricks to read people and their body languages? So that, next time we are in a meeting (or even on a date), we watch for the following cues:
- Crossed arms and legs- it signals resistance to ideas. Crossed arms and legs are physical barriers that portray that your partner or the other person is not open to your thought or to what you’re saying. Even if they’re smiling and engaged in a pleasant conversation, their body language tells a different story. Psychologically, crossed legs or arms signal that a person is mental, emotionally, and physically blocked off from what’s in front of him/her. It’s not intentional, which is why it’s so revealing.
- Real smiles crinkle the eyes. When it comes to smiling, the lips can lie but not the
hipseyes. Well, they generally don’t. Genuine smiles reach the eyes, crinkling the skin to create crow’s feet around them. People often smile to hide what they’re really thinking and feeling. A perfect weapon to build a barrier around oneself obstructing someone’s advances without offending them. So the next time you want to know if someone’s smile is genuine, look for crinkles at the corners of their eyes. If they aren’t there, that smile is hiding something (not falling for the crankiness).
- Copying your body language is a good thing. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone and noticed that every time you cross or uncross your legs, they do the same? Or perhaps they lean their head the same way as yours when you’re talking? Drinking water at the same time when you extend your glass. Going on a coffee break because you specifically asked for it. These are good signs and representations. Mirroring body language is something we do unconsciously when we feel a bond with the other person. It’s a sign that the conversation is going well and that the other party is receptive to your message. This knowledge can be especially useful when you’re negotiating a transaction because it shows you what the other person is really thinking about the deal.
- Posture tells the story. Have you ever seen a person walk into a room, and immediately, you have known that they were the one in charge? Walking in with a confidence and an aura around them. Gleaming eyes, direct attention to the person’s forehead and piercing gaze. That effect is largely about body language, and often includes an erect posture, gestures made with the palms facing down, and open and expansive gestures in general. The brain is hardwired to equate power with the amount of space people take up. Standing up straight with your shoulders back is a power position; it appears to maximize the amount of space you fill. Slouching, on the other hand, is the result of collapsing your form; it appears to take up less space and projects less power. Maintaining good posture commands respect and promotes engagement, whether you’re a leader or not.
- Eyes that lie. Most of us probably grew up hearing this from our parents, “look up, face me when am talking to you!”. Our parents were operating under the assumption that it’s tough to hold someone’s gaze when they are lying. But that’s such common knowledge that people will often deliberately hold eye contact in an attempt to cover up the fact that they’re lying. The problem is that most of them overcompensate and hold eye contact to the point that it feels uncomfortable. On average, people hold eye contact for seven to ten seconds, longer when they are listening than when they are talking. If you’re talking with someone whose stare is making you squirm—especially if they’re very still and unblinking—probably time to check what the alma mater is up to.
- Raised eyebrows signal discomfort. The people communicate a lot using their eyebrows. Surprise or anger, the eyebrows reveal a lot. There are three main emotions that make your eyebrows go up: surprise, worry, and fear. Try raising your eyebrows when you’re having a relaxed casual conversation with a friend. Yes, it’s hard to do, isn’t it? If somebody who is talking to you raises their eyebrows and the topic isn’t one that would logically cause surprise, worry, or fear, there is something else going on. But remember, raising eyebrows in astonishment also reflects that you are listening to the person and is astonished at the person’s information. It can be routed in a positive manner unless you are in command of the meeting.
- Exaggerated nodding signals anxiety about approval. There’s always that person who is shaking his legs, hands or nodding uncontrollably during a conversation. This happens to such an extent that it becomes too irritating. When you’re telling someone something and they nod excessively, this means that they are worried about what you think of them or that they are too conscious of your presence or that you doubt their ability to follow your instructions or they are suffering from some sense of dilemma. It also reflects a sign of excessive thinking or failure to channel the focus on the task at hand.
- A clenched jaw signals stress. A clenched jaw, a tightened neck, or a furrowed brow are all signs of stress. Regardless of what the person is saying, these are signs of considerable discomfort. The conversation might be delving into something they’re anxious about, or their mind might be elsewhere and they’re focusing on the thing that’s stressing them out. The key is to watch for that mismatch between what the person says and what their tense body language is telling you.
Bringing it all together, the bottom line is that even if we can’t read a person’s exact thoughts, you can learn a lot from their body language, and that’s especially true when words and body language don’t match. So next time if you apprehend the above cues in someone, remember that you are not an orange head of a president, neither are you a bulging Kim-jack-o-fruit of a dictator. Think well and apprehend the cues well.