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.