Body language is a funny thing…it is like a whole little secret world of communication that few people take the time to understand. You probably don’t realize how much you are influenced by it every day, and how much you are influencing others. What we do with our hands, eyes, expressions, and even our feet can say a number of different things. We may be inadvertently sending the wrong messages, so it’s a pretty useful social skill to understand (very little of human communication is verbal).
This one is a bit long winded, but these are important skills to know. A word to the wise: try not to over think every signal you receive, but simply be aware of them. Take some time to learn the language (you already subconsciously know it anyway) and you’ll be surprised how much your communication skills will improve.
Eyes: Any psychologist, philosopher or body language expert will tell you: the eyes are a window into the soul….pfff, and all this time I thought professional poker players were just too cool for school. I don’t know about you but I’m going to be having some serious stare downs.
- Pupil size: When you get happy, your pupils can dilate up to four times their usual size, and conversely when you are about to throw a tantrum your pupils will contract.
- Eye contact: This one is pretty iffy as it varies from culture to culture. Some cultures consider eye contact to be disrespectful, while others consider consistent eye contact to be a sign of respect. In any case, try not to be too intense with eye contact, it freaks people out…which is sometimes fun. On the same note, make sure you aren’t constantly averting eye contact, as this is pretty off-putting as well.
- If a person is making eye contact yet fiddling with an object, it may mean their mind is elsewhere.
- Squinted eyes and low eyebrows can indicate a person is trying to understand you, but it usually means they are skeptical.
- Constantly gazing towards the floor is an indication of shyness.
- Liars and nervous nellies have a habit of looking to the side a lot.
- A person that looks away from a speaker may be an indication of shyness, submissiveness, or disinterest.
Posture: If you carry yourself well (shoulders back, head straight) you tell a much different story than if you are slouchy. Your posture can reflect how open you are, your interest level and attention span, as well as your social standing.
What are their arms and hands doing?
- Crossed arms can indicate a person is closed off and is putting up a barrier (or maybe it’s just really cold).
- Hands positioned behind a person’s head is a sign they are open to receive ideas.
- I know from personal experience because I do it all the time: if a person’s hands are on their hips it means they have an attitude about what’s going on.
- Good communicators often let their hands do a lot of the talking…use hand gestures. Not obnoxious ones if you can help yourself.
- A person with clenched hands may be feeling uneasy.
Feet: Unless someone has ADHD, you can actually get a good reading on a person by what they are doing with their feet.
- Weight shifting or rapid foot tapping/movement can indicate a person is nervous, impatient, excited or freaked out.
- People will generally point their feet in the direction of the person or object they are interested in.
- While standing, if feet are close together this could mean a person is trying to look proper.
- If a person is sitting with their feet crossed at the ankle, this usually means they are calm.
- If they touch your foot to yours (playing footsies) they are feeling flirtatious.
Mirroring: Mirroring is an easy trick you can use to get on someone’s good side. Simply copy someone’s body language…it works because we automatically feel more comfortable with people we feel are like us. Try and pick up on if someone is mirroring you by changing body positions now and then. If they are copying you, it’s a good sign.
Head Position: I learned this one from my dog. A tilted head is a sign of playfulness and/or trying to figure out what the heck you are doing. A lowered head can mean a person (or dog of course) is ashamed or trying to hide something.
Space: Pay attention to how close a person is when they speak to you. The closer they are to you, the warmer the feeling. If you move a bit closer, and they do the same or do not back away, this means they are receptive. If they back away, they are not interested…or maybe you need a tic-tac.