If you want to improve the way you communicate with others, learning how to read body language will give you the edge.
The importance of body language, eye contact and other non verbal communication signals has been well researched.
Ideally this takes place in person.
Here are two key points to remember regarding body language:
1. View the whole picture, not just one aspect of body language, if you want to read it accurately.
2. Be aware of the body language signals that you send to others. For example, you might be standing with your arms folded across your chest just because it feels comfortable. The person you are talking to might think you are angry with them!
Here are some of the signals you might send and receive; the whole picture has to be taken into consideration for more accuracy.
If you want to know how to read body language when you are talking to someone, be aware of all the signals they are sending. If they have their arms folded AND this is coupled with: a head thats pointing slightly downwards, a tight-lipped mouth and their body not turned to face you, be worried!
Arms or legs crossed can also be a sign of nervousness. The man in the sketch on the left is sending mixed signals; crossed arms indicating that he is nervous, masked by a smiling face intended to show confidence.
The man in the sketch on the right is in the open, competitive position (hands behind head) but at the same time is keeping his legs crossed, indicating that he might be on the defence.
Although in each of these poses, the hand is on the face, they are all sending different body language signals. The position of the hand on the face, together with facial gestures, builds a picture. Can you spot which poses signify boredom, interest, questioning and making a decision?
In the pose below, the man is rubbing his eye and has raised eyebrows. He is looking down and away from the person he is talking to. His tight lipped smile adds to the picture of negativity or possible deceit.
In contrast, the man in the sketch below shows open body language. The turned up palms of his hands and spread fingers may signify submission.
In the sketch below, the two people on the outside are mirroring each other's body language. That is a sure sign of interest and empathy. If you watch people in public places such as restaurants and coffee shops, you will soon know how to read body language that displays the mirroring technique. You can see this very clearly. When one person shifts position, the other follows.
Take another look at the photo at the top of this page. See the mirroring of the two people on the outside, and the fact that the woman in the centre is leaning towards the man on her right, showing a clear sign of interest. Her facial expressions also back this up.
If you want to come across as approachable, friendly and trustworthy, your body language should reflect:
When you want to develop rapport with someone, see if matching their body language signals makes a difference and helps you connect at a deeper level.
Thanks to Cian Hogan for the sketches on this How to Read Body Language page.
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