Learning the basics of Body Language is highly recommended for everyone. These simple and effective techniques can benefit you in a multitude of ways, including business, relationships and anywhere you encounter people. And other animals too!
Correctly interpreting someone’s body language is an incredibly important part of my show and aspects of this skill are applied to most of the demonstrations I present. Sometimes that process is very clear and direct. For example, one demonstration in my show involves 5 spectators, one of whom is holding an object in their hand. The other 4 people are empty-handed and it is my task to determine the one person holding the object, simply by asking each person the same question and correctly interpreting their response to be the truth – or a lie. That is a very basic application of the skill and as my show progresses, the difficulty level increases very dramatically (pun intended) to the point where there appears to be no possible way to use such techniques. And that’s where my MIND MAGIC kicks into another gear and things get REALLY interesting. However…
The following Flags, Tells and Signs cover a fair bit of ground and contain a few “classics”, some basic common sense, and a couple of “that really makes sense!” moments.
The thing to keep in mind with these “clues” is that while some of them seem pretty obvious, others are manifest in extremely subtle ways. Remember that Body Language is simply an interpretation of what exists – information accessible to anyone with vision. Some people have better vision than others. And some have telescopes…
Throughout history, the ability to Read another human being was not just a handy skill – it was utterly essential and without those skills you simply weren’t likely to live very long. Don’t forget: non-human animals, both domestic and in the wild, all display and react to body language.
It’s important to keep in mind that it is VERY easy to misinterpret the data you believe is being conveyed by your subject. So don’t jump too quickly to conclusions. Body Language Interpretation is a very valuable communication tool but like any other, it is the user, the craftsman, who gives it it’s true value.
Let’s start at the top, shall we?
The “Fake Smile” is a good place to start and describes an attempt to produce a physical smile which ultimately appears insincere. It’s easy to spot in people we know well, and not very difficult in others either. The person tends to be tense, and as a result, their movements appear strained and contrived. When someone is uncomfortable, they also frequently tend to purse their lips tightly. This is also a “closing up” mechanism, with the body saying “I am not feeling at ease here.”
It’s well known, and quite often accurate, that when a person scratches their nose while talking to you, there’s a good chance that they are lying to you – or embellishing their story.
Someone who has their arms crossed can indicate a person who is feeling very defensive, and is in a sense cutting themselves off from the world. It can also be the sign of someone who is comforting themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
OR, the person could be just plain cold.
It really is necessary to try to interpret the body’s signals in the context of the environment from which they arise. Everything is interconnected and nothing exists in a vacuum.
In terms of “pretty much guaranteed accurate”, a person who stands with their feet widely separated, with their hands on hips, universally convey confidence, assertiveness, and a belief that they are in a position of power.
Alternatively, when someone drops their shoulders unconsciously, it usually indicates a sadness, often a feeling of loss.
And the total opposite is referred to as “gravity defying” gestures. This includes raising one’s arms, holding the chin high, and taken to extreme would include someone jumping repeatedly in the air. These types of movements show a person who is happy and free of cares, at least for the moment. Go to any sporting event to see these spontaneous movements in action.
First, and obvious to most people, is the chewing of fingernails. This is pretty much universally understood as being a sign of unease or nervousness.
Many people “talk” with their hands, some from excitedness and others in an attempt to physically intimidate. Holding both hands palm up while speaking often indicates trustworthiness or honesty.
Watch where a person’s legs and feet are pointing. Usually, that shows the direction of their immediate interest. If you are the only one sitting with them, and their feet are pointed at a sharp angle away from you? Sorry, but they are probably waiting for an opportunity to leave.
When standing, crossed legs indicate a willing vulnerability, as well as a strong desire to stay where they are, with whom they are connected.
And last, and very coolest of all… They have existed for over 540 million years. They are possibly a human being’s most valuable tool. Certainly the one upon which we are most dependent.
Crying. The first thought when we see a person crying, is that they are experiencing sadness. This is often the case, but it can also be the complete opposite, the proverbial “tears of joy”. Such a radical difference illustrates the need to examine the data you are receiving within the context of the greater whole. The Big Picture.
Another very common situation is where someone consciously avoids eye contact. Quite often it can indicate a person in the act of lying. It can also simply show that the person is uncomfortable or embarrassed. Conversely, persistent eye contact often indicates aggression, or an attempt to intimidate. A lot of cases of dogs attacking children involves the child not understanding that animals also find prolonged eye contact to be aggressive behavior.
Blinking: excessive blinking ( 6+ times per minute) towards someone usually indicates affection. Any owner of cats will recognize this as a standard form of feline “kisses”.
Where the eyes are looking can tell you a lot about what a person is actively thinking. Someone looking to their Left tells you they are trying to remember something – they are accessing memory. Looking to their Right indicates creativity – which in some circumstances can point towards someone fabricating an untruth.
And for a very clear example of the body “giving away” our true thoughts, we finally visit The Pupils. Pupils contract and expand regularly, depending on the stimulus. If you want to know if a person likes what they see, or is thinking about something they enjoy, look at their pupils. If the pupils are dilated (grow in size) it is a very clear indicator that the person is pleased with the thought – it is something very positive to them. Needless to say, watching a person’s pupils in a business setting can be extremely handy, especially determining if a colleague or client is actually as pleased and/or interested as they are saying.
The body language interpretation is a practical and very valuable skill to develop. It’s also very easy to practice – anywhere you go. I wish you luck with your explorations, and would love to hear your interpretations and experiences.