I am a firm believer that a good understanding and awareness of body language is probably the closest we can come to actually reading the minds of those around you. It’s a pretty common statement that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone, and 7% is verbal- while that’s not exactly the case all the time, it’s still important to acknowledge just how much of our interactions come down to body language. Without further ado, here are five easy body language secrets that you can use in your everyday life:
Everybody Cut Footloose
As a rule of thumb, the further you get away from the head, the harder it is to lie with that part of the body. Because of that, feet almost never lie. Now, about 90% of the population is right side dominant, which means if you look at their right foot, you can figure out what they’re interested in. The dominant foot generally points towards the object of a person’s current interest, and the angle between the feet indicate the scope of that interest. If both feet are angled apart widely, the person is likely interested in what’s going on around them, or perhaps inviting others to the conversation. However, if both feet are parallel, they’re almost exclusively interested in whoever they’re pointing at.
When you’re thinking about body language, it helps to take it all somewhat literally. If someone has their arms or legs crossed, imagine that they’re putting up a wall between themself and the outside world. Now, there are a few exceptions (if it’s cold, or if the leg crossing is related to modesty,) but regardless, you’re going to have a hard time convincing someone of anything if they have a wall between the two of you. One way around this is to put something into the hands of the person you’re talking to- this is why they give out pamphlets at lectures, by the way. If you’re going to get someone to let you in, first break down the walls between you.
On The Other Hand…
Hands are probably the most expressive parts of the body after the face- and there are a ton of different possible meanings behind the many, many gestures they’re capable of. A large number of our hand gestures are related to whether or not the hands are concealing a weapon. This is partially why people seem less trustworthy with their hands in their pockets- maybe they have a knife? On the other hand, arms held out with the palms facing up looks welcoming and trustworthy- it says, “I have nothing to hide.” On top of that, a downward facing palm is more intimidating than an upward facing one- think of the difference between Jesus holding his arms out, palms up versus Hitler holding his arm out, palm down.
The Eyes Have It
Eye contact is such an important indicator of trust- nobody likes someone with shifty eyes, or a person who won’t look you in the eye when they’re talking to you. It’s a matter of respect- because it shows that you see “eye to eye.” If there’s someone who you’re looking to piss off, try looking just above the center of their eyebrows- it will make them very uncomfortable because it comes across as condescending. If you have trouble making eye contact, try looking at the bridge of the person’s nose, they can’t tell the difference. If you end up catching a person looking from one of your eyes to the other, then down to your mouth, they just might want you to kiss them (it’s called the triangular gaze.) Whatever you do, watch the eyes- they’re the windows to the soul for a reason.
Keep Your Head in the Game
You might not think about it too much, but there are a number of things that people tend to do with their heads that can let you know what they’re not saying out loud. Because it takes quite a bit of energy to hold up, we’ll tend to support our heads when we’re tired or bored. Make sure you don’t confuse the thinking hand on the chin for the “please let me leave” hand on the face. Keeping your head steady and upright, on the contrary, is a signal of authority and dominance. If you speak to someone without moving your head, you indicate that you’re calm, controlled, and in a position of power. Touching the top of the head can be a self-comforting signal (because our parents patted our heads as children to calm us down.)
That’s all for now, but if you liked this article, let us know with comments here or on Facebook and I’ll get more in depth with the series. Now go peoplewatch and practice until you’re a master of body language!