Monthly Archives: May 2008

How to Read Body Language to Understand People Better

body language is non-verbal communication, but is used along with verbal communication. Body language expresses our emotions, conveys our attitudes, demonstrates our personality traits and supports out verbal communications.  Everyone uses body language whenever we communicate to each other.

Many non-verbal behaviors, or body language, vary across cultures, such as the thumbs up to signify “way to go” or  “good job”. However, the six primary emotions, happiness, surprise, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust are common amongst all cultures. These six are instinctual and are not body language we are taught, but come from within us naturally. When we talk about body language coming from within us we mean it comes from the subconscious level. And because it comes from the subconscious it tells a great deal about the person we. Let’s look to fear for an example.

Fear is a natural human emotion and serves a purpose related to our safety and security.  But let us imagine a person who has witnessed a serious auto mobile accident, but rather than running to the aid of the injured; they run franticly in the opposite direction. This frantic running away is body language that certainly infers some kind of fear.  Specifically what that fears might be we cannot know without talking to the person. But it is obvious that the fear has nothing to do with immediate safety. Through this example you should be able to see how we can read another’s personality through the lens of his body language.

Here’s an experiment you can try at home to see just how much information people give about themselves through body language. While someone is talking to you observe the body language they use as they talk. After a few moments of observation, close your eyes while continually listening to the other person. You won’t be able to see their hand gestures, facial expressions, or other bodily movements.  Notice how much information is not available to you because your eyes are closed. It is very difficult to read and understand someone without seeing the body language that accompanies their verbal communication.

One sure-fire way to learn how to read someone’s body language is to observe and get to know your own. Remember, we all have six common kinds of instinctual body language.  Of course they vary in degree of expression, but we all have them. There are also non-verbal communications that are common among certain cultures, societies and families.  Because of this fact two different people can have very similar behaviors that are expressed through similar kinds of body language. By knowing your own body language you can read similar ones in others, and therefore give you insight into another person’s personality and who they are.

As you learn your own body language try to relate those behaviors to your subconscious thinking. Try to regulate or over analyze your subconscious thought though. The only goal here is to match those thoughts with the body language you use to express those thoughts. This not about judging yourself, but it’s about learning to read your body language so you can read the body language of others. You can use this information to improve your understanding of the many different interactions you will become involved with.

Now that you recognize some of your own body language you can begin to read people with more accuracy. When in conversation with someone you can identify such things like mixed messages. Mixed messages are identified when a person says one thing, but their body language says something else.  Good example is when someone lies to you. They tell you, “I didn’t do it!”, but the tone of voice, the looking away, and the slight nervousness lets you know that something is not quite right in what they are telling you. This conflict between verbal language and body language could signal deception. Mixed messages are most certainly related to insincerity and point to that person as having something to hide.

How To Use Body Language To Lead A Conversation

Body language is a form of human communication that everyone uses, whether they realize or not when they do use it. Body language is used in the business world; in relationships; in general conversations, and more. We actually use body language in every interaction that we have, regardless of how slight that use of body language might be.  Those who are deaf and use sign language to communicate with understand the communicating power of body language perhaps best, especially when communicating with someone who is not familiar with sign language.

Head movements, body positioning, hand signals, eye contact, lip gestures and leg motions all are used in sending messages to those we are communicating with. By becoming aware of how we use these methods of communicating and developing these skills, we can lead conversations and interactions into specific directions.

Let’s take, for an example, the job interview. Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but nervousness is not necessarily a good message to send the employer as it can indicate a lack of confidence or insecurity. As a body language nervousness can be noticeable and can lead the interviewer to asking more questions than you might want.

The best body language to use in a job interview is to calmly enter the interview room and slowly seat yourself in the chair. Sit straight in the chair and be sure feet are flat on the floor. As you are talking with the interviewer keep your posture straight. Be prepared to use hand gestures simultaneously with your verbal conversation as the interview proceeds.  However, you want to these gestures within the boundaries of your verbal language at all times.  You want to demonstrate professionalism, and body language can communicate this quite effectively.

Eye contact, as a body language, is a very important communicating strategy. Maintaining eye contact with the person you are communicating with lets the other know you are interested in what they have to say. If you let your eyes wander around too much this will indicate to the other that you are bored and not interested in what they have to say. This can be damaging to an interview, especially if you looking downward to the floor. Eye contact is not only an interview strategy, but it applies to practically every conversation you might have.

However, there is some balance that must be applied to eye contact as well. You don’t want to appear as if you are staring. For most people, especially for women, staring is disrespectful and has a tendency to make the other person nervous about your intentions. If you’re at a club or party for example, staring at other people could actually create some unfavorable situations for you.

Facial expressions are another body language that can make or break an interaction. A gradual, almost undetectable nod, infers to other person that you understand what they are saying. However, if your nod is more of hard jerky sort it can indicate that you are impatient with the other, or that you can’t wait to respond. This latter indication could send signals relating to control issues, which impatience does point to.

Combining the nod in a slight tilting way, with a gentle smile delivers the message that you are approachable. People like people who are approachable. However, the smile, for best results, should be sincere. An ongoing smile, or grin in many situations, can indicate that you are superficial and insincere. This could make you unapproachable.

Appropriate conversational question, along with the right body language, draws the other person deeper into the conversation. The right body language can send the message of your interest to the other and this interest is what can give you the ability to lead the conversation.

How To Use Body Language To Read A Person Like A Book

When we first meet new people, we all feel a little awkward and self-conscious until we feel hat we understand the other person a little. Until we can do that, we can’t work out what people think to us and that leaves us in an uncomfortable position of uncertainty. The key to getting our comfort back and in understanding other people, is in being able to read the other person’s key body language signals; believe it or not, this is possible even from the very first few seconds when you meet that new person.

Eye contact is very important in communication, especially with new people. Good use of eye contact, which does not avoid others, does not stare and does not linger on certain parts of the other’s anatomy inappropriately, is a crucial part of getting to understand new people. Appropriate eye contact shows respect and it shows that you are interested in interacting with the other person. How much eye contact to make differs between cultures but if you read the other person’s body signals correctly you will see how much eye contact to make.

Posture says a lot about a person’s personality and mood.  Slouching shoulders and a curved spine, as well as helping someone to develop round shoulders over time, says that they are depressed, down, and lacking confidence in themselves.  That kind of posture can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as it soon begins to affect a person’s mood negatively.

The tilt of a person’s head betrays their mood too. A head which is balanced both horizontally and vertically on the neck oozes confidence and self-esteem. You will find yourself more inclined to listen to a person who has this kind of posture when speaking.  When they want to speak or make a particular point, the authoritative, confident person will usually lean their head forward just a little bit, but without encroaching too much on the personal space of their listener. If they tilt their head to one side while you’re talking, you can be assured that they are listening to you attentively and that they will be likely to give you time to speak and say what you have to say. Of course, this position can change, and it should. No one position should be maintained for too long as that will seem unnatural and can be off-putting to the other person. If someone stays in one position and doesn’t speak for a long time, check: have they fallen asleep! That is the impression you would probably be left with!

The placement of a person’s arms says a lot about their personality and mood. Wild gesticulations will imply over-excitement or even aggression. You will feel most comfortable when you can see that the person you are speaking too is feeling comfortable too; therefore, look for arms that are held naturally at the sides of the body. They may also be held likely behind the back. Either posture implies an open personality, a person who is feeling confident and who is ready to face challenges. If you upset or offend someone, watch out for their arms being crossed over their chest defensively. That’s a real giveaway that they are feeling hurt.

Legs tell you a lot about the person you’re speaking with, even when you have just met them. It’s quite difficult to get your legs to do exactly what you want them to do, so they say a lot about a person’s innermost feelings, even when they are trying very hard to hide them. Leg swinging and rolling of the foot at the ankle, or especially foot tapping, shows that a person is feeling irritated or impatient. The faster the movement, the worse their mood!

You will probably be able to sense right away if someone is deliberately angling their body away from you, even if you don’t consciously process that thought. People tend to sit angled towards and even leaning towards, people they like.  This may not happen when you first meet someone, as they may wait a little while to gauge what you are like, but if they start to position themselves in your direction and lean in closer to you, then the chances are that they are beginning to like you.

So, even if you don’t know a person well, you can read their body language and adapt your communication with them accordingly.