Have you ever been in a situation where you wished you had telepathic powers and could read the other person’s mind? I’m sure everyone can relate. Perhaps this happened to you at a job interview, or on a first date. We all wish we knew how the person across from us really felt at that time. Although the ability to read minds is impossible, we can do the second-best thing, read body language.
Having spent 25 years as an FBI counterintelligence special agent and supervisor specializing in nonverbal communications, Joe Navarro provides an insightful book on how to read body language.
Here is some advice from Navarro’s book “What Every Body Is Saying.”
1) Establish Baseline Behavior
One of the first lessons that Joe teaches is to establish a baseline behavior of the person you’re observing. This is important because if you don’t have a baseline, it becomes quite easy to misinterpret the person's body language.
Imagine you’re having a conversation with a close friend and you ask him about his relationship with his spouse, he reacts by rubbing his eyes. This signal can mean several different things. It’s possible he’s having problems in his relationship, or perhaps your friend has allergies, or maybe his eyes are tired from spending all day looking at a computer screen.
If the friend has been rubbing their eyes and sneezing, it's safe to assume that he has allergies. If he's been rubbing his eyes the whole conversation, it's possible he is tired from work.
2) Look at The Distance
One nonverbal cue that is easy to read, is the distance between two individuals. In almost all scenarios, the closer two individuals are to each other, the more comfortable they are with one another.
When you’re talking and walking with your best friend, you’ll often notice that you rub shoulders or bump into each other now and then.
However, when two people aren’t fond of each other, they will keep their distance from the person.
This applies also to strangers. Look at how people sit on a public train or bus; two strangers are going to lean away from each other, while two friends usually lean towards one another.
People may also lean away from each other when they disagree while discussing business.
3) Focus on The Legs
Most people assume that the face is most likely to reveal a person’s true intentions and that this the prime place to look for nonverbal signals that reflect what the person is thinking. However, that is incorrect. The feet, along with the legs, is the most honest body part.
Since childhood, all of us have learned to lie with our words and our faces. When we see a relative we don’t like at an annual family gathering, we smile and tell them that it’s nice to see him or her, even though we despise them.
The same goes for poker matches. People learn to hide their facial expressions and talk in a neutral tone.
However, people rarely remember to hide their nonverbal behavior involving their feet and legs.
When an individual is wiggling and bouncing their feet and legs this is described as happy feet. This is a high-confidence tell that signals that a person is in an advantageous position or is getting what he wants.
Feet can also indicate a negative emotion since we tend to turn away from things that we don’t like or disagree with.
Feet can also tell us when it’s time to leave. If you’re having a conversation with someone and the person starts to turn one foot away or pointing it towards the door, it is a sign that the person wants to leave.
4) Signs of Dominance
In most cases, people who want to demonstrate dominance do so by spreading out and claiming territory. This can include spreading one’s arms apart on a surface or having your arm spread out on a chair.
Poses of dominance usually leave the individual open and not covering vital organs including the heart and genitals.
5) Facial Expressions
The face has the ability to display a variety of feelings, both positive and negative, and even fake emotions.
When someone hears something they don’t like or are angry, they will often squint their eyes. The more negative the news or event, the tighter one’s eyes compress.
When a person hears information they don’t believe, they may “roll their eyes” or move their eyes to the corner.
On the flip side, when a person is excited or filled with positive emotions, their eyes open up completely and look directly at the other person while smiling.
Navarro points out that a real smile forces the corners of the mouth up toward the eyes, while a fake smile moves the corners of the mouth toward the ears.
Body language is a fascinating form of communication that not many people are able to read. However, to completely understand what each body is saying, one must observe individuals and practice often.
Joe Navarro’s book is incredibly insightful and complete with images to help you better understand nonverbal cues. To learn more get the book by clicking the link below!