Social skills, we all know, are essential to successful outcomes, in both our business and personal lives.
We've also learned that one if not the hardest social indicator to understand is body language. Yet doing so with sufficient accuracy can make or break a social or business situation.
Body language is not an exact science, but rather a combination of tenets from which one can draw the most accurate conclusion.
So, just for our savvy listeners, we've uncovered the latest, and most accurate, body language dictionary gleaned through the key elements of former FBI interrogator and expert in body language analysis Joe Navarro's research, found in his best-selling book
What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People.
Observing how comfortable a person is in a particular context can give you important clues - ex: when conducting a job interview and the applicant seems comfortable and confident during the process, but gets fidgety and nervous when you ask if they've stolen from previous employers, it might be something to inquire about further. With all others to follow here, keep in mind the comfort/ discomfort paradigm and always start by assessing someone's outward signs of comfort (all the obvious ones...eye contact, lack of fidgeting, facing you directly, OK with a slight touch on the arm/back, etc.).
Keeping in mind that facial expressions are not always the most honest - we are trained from a very young age that certain facial expressions and actions are appropriate for certain occasions, whether we feel them or not - there are still some cues you can glean from someone's face.
Determining the fake smile: fake smiles—the kind we make because we're supposed to—are most often done with just the mouth. We know to raise the corners of our mouths to smile. Be aware of how eyes are involved in a real smile - eyebrows, eyelids, and sometimes even the whole head turns upwards along with the corners of the mouth
Pursed lips: are another way to tell when someone is drifting over to the discomfort side of the spectrum. Most often, the lip pursing results from a half, or partial truth, or that there's more to the story than they're willing to say.
Gravity-defying gestures, in any part of the body, are generally seen as positive. When we're happy, excited, or interested, we raise our heads or our chin, our arms go up, even our legs and feet start to point skyward or bounce if we're sitting. On the other end of that spectrum, succumbing to gravity indicates the opposite, that we're "feeling down" about a situation/subject, literally and figuratively (the pic is the most obvious version of this...often it's not so obvious so stay alert). Intended gestures may be helpful for communicating conscious thoughts, but when it comes to gauging the subconscious mood or comfort level of a person, gravity is where it's at.
The torso—comprised of shoulders, chest, and belly—has throughout human evolution been vital to survival as we instinctively protect vital organs. Thus, humans are well trained to protect this part of the body without thinking about it or even realizing we're doing it. More importantly, we allow access to our torso when we're comfortable. This is because when comfortable, our limbic system lowers its defenses so we respond in kind. We protect or deny access to our torso when we're around unpleasant things. Naturally, the converse is usually true. If we're readily leaving our chests and abdomen open, even voluntarily pointing them towards a person, it probably means we feel happy and safe with what's going on.
The legs and feet, suggests Navarro, are where the real honesty lies. After all, we're trained throughout most of our life to smile for the camera, stop making faces, and to pretend to have a good time. However, millions of years of evolution have taught us that our legs need to be ready to escape. One key way to detect the leg's intention is to notice where the feet and legs are pointing. Similar to the way we point our chests, our lower extremities tend to lean or point in the direction of where we'd like to go or to what we have the most interest.
By responding more accurately to the body cues folks are sending, you can change your strategy during that sales pitch or supervisor meeting, have better social outcomes, and overall see a clear & positive difference in the way you're perceived.
You have been officially alerted.