Though there are many tools for success that must be employed for any sort of social interaction, few are as powerful as the ability to read non-verbal communication signs. Our senses are attuned to another person when they are speaking to us, and we interpret those signals subconsciously. Being able to respond in an encouraging manner, to tell the other person without having to say so, that they should continue or that we are interested is an art. The study of body language has been prevalent in everything from business deals being cemented, head-hunting for top jobs in fortune 500 companies, and even in criminal justice careers like investigation, profiling, and attorneys specializing in defense. By knowing how to read a person through what they’re NOT saying, you increase your ability to effectively communicate, and get what you want out of the encounter.
UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian stated back in 1971 the “7-38-55 rule” which says that 55 percent of what you convey when you speak comes from body language, 38 percent from the tone of your voice, and only 7 percent from word choice. Because we unintentionally pick up these signals, we don’t always accurately figure out what the other person is trying to say without their verbal cues. Within a setting like a restaurant, or a busy bar or pub, where there is a significant amount of noise, it becomes ever more important to learn how to pick up on these non-verbal cues and more accurately divine what the other person’s intent is. A group dedicated to non-verbal communication, appropriately named “The Nonverbal Group” has made available some short videos that address the matter with some quick tips you can watch for.
To speak to the areas of the body at length, for a bit more introspection into body language, we’ll start with the head. The hair on your head actually speaks volumes about you, not just in general, but also in regard to what sort of day you’re having. If someone is stressed, their hair will be tousled from running their hands through it, and people will see it as a sign that the person doesn’t have it all together. Messy hair signifies a disorganized personality, or someone who is impulsive by nature. Alternately, a well groomed appearance communicates the opposite, that the person has life in control, and more importantly, that they place value on how they look. People will interpret this as a sign that they will place equal care in all aspects of their life with things or people they care for.
Going further, there’s your face which is a mine-field for potential signals that you can interpret if you know what to watch for. Oddly enough, the most important expressions are also the smallest. Centered around the eyes and corners of the mouth, these minute expressions are called “micro expressions” and are the only depictor sometimes of whether someone is being completely genuine. When a person conveys a true smile, they do so with their entire face. Their eyes may twinkle, their smile will be broad, and certainly those micro expressions will be in full swing. The corners of the lips are turned upward and the corners of the eyes are crinkled. Someone who tells a white lie to save their friend’s pride and tells him that his suit looks great on him may be hiding a slight grimace by pulling the corners of his lips back slightly, or raising eyebrows, which is a sign of discomfort.
The eyes are often said to be the windows into the soul. That might be true if only people knew what to look for, but most believe they can determine whether a person is hiding behind a mask, or trying to deceive them; when tested, they’re surprised to find they’re inaccurate. There’s a fine balance between maintaining eye contact to show interest and outright staring which can cause extreme discomfort or signal aggression. This is as true with mankind as it is with animals, and dogs who get aggressive with children commonly do so due to the pervasive stare that small children treat dogs to as they try to figure out such an amazing furry creature with their growing minds. Dogs take the intent stare as a sign of dominance and challenge. People are no less sensitive to this. It is particularly important when you’re just getting to know someone, because you don’t want to come on too strong immediately. Once the rapport has been established, but especially after physical cues have formed, gazing into her eyes can stimulate serious arousal and be interpreted as a sexual invitation. Alternately, staring into someone’s eyes who you’ve just met can also be a sign of deceit, as does a lack of blinking. If a woman blinks rapidly, it is a sure sign she is into you. Winking is only a good idea through texts or on social media, in person it comes across as too casual, and sometimes even pretentious.
Further along the body, your neck and your chin may not be the most mobile of the body, but they can communicate certain things very clearly. Obstinacy and stubbornness are often communicated by a raised chin, and depending on what your eyes are doing, can also be interpreted as snobbishness. By using your neck as it was intended, to hold your head high, you promote your own self confidence out loud for the world to see, and that’s a sign of poise and a high attractant.
This short 26 minute video from the car company Renault delves into physical attraction, and what makes a person attracted to another on first sight. What verbal and non verbal cues do the participants show each other in this experiment on human behavior?
Be sure to catch Body Language – What Every Man Must Know (Part II)