What You Need to Know about Body LanguageFebruary 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Posted in body-language | 2 Comments
Tags: body language, body language skills, interpreting body language, laughter, non-verbal, reading, smiles
I am the world’s worst at reading body language and trying to understand what people are thinking, so I decided to do some research, and I am sharing what I learned. If you are like me and need some training in “reading people,” you may find this information useful for both your personal and professional lives. From the three books and five web resources I studied, I learned that I knew next to nothing about perceiving and interpreting body language. In this post, I tried to summarize three general areas that all eight of my references described for learning to read and understand body language. In the event that this post does not give you the information you need to improve your “body language skills,” I’ve attached links to my references at the bottom of the page so you can explore body language further.
Being able to read body language requires one to be both observant of the environment and perceptive of others’ body language skills. In The Definitive Book of Body Language, Pease and Pease instruct to increase awareness to improve the ability to read body language. In particular, the authors say to examine others and learn to be more observant of others’ body signals. In Reading People, Dimitrius indicates that people need to look and listen to everything going on as well as be patient and attentive to the people in their environment. Perception requires using the senses to evaluate the environment, and the Peases define perception of body language as the contradictions between verbal and non-verbal cues.
Smiles & Laughter
Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. ~ Mother Teresa
Most of the authors agreed that smiles and laughter are very important forms of positive body language because they convey submissiveness or a non-threatening attitude. Genuine smiles feature crows’ feet at the corners of the eyes, elevated cheeks, and teeth. Dr. Jack Brown at Body Language Success says that a joyful subconscious will show on the face as a genuine smile. In contrast, Dr. Brown indicates that an asymmetrical smile with only one eye wrinkled, is a sign of insincerity. Laughter is important to humans because it heals and bonds. Tension is released with laughter. The Peases indicate that laughter plays an important role in social situations.
Using Body Language Effectively
In The Definitive Book of Body Language, the Peases summarize what they call the Seven Secrets of Attractive Body Language. For the head, face, and eyes, they recommend nodding when talking, tilting the head when listening, and smiling (showing teeth) regularly. When gesturing, be open and expressive but not too expressive. With postures, lean into the conversation when listening, and stand up when talking. Also, make sure the personal space is comfortable, and try to mirror the body language of the person(s) in the conversation.
In Reading People, Dimitrius describes a quick way to size up a situation: reading with S.P.E.E.D.
- Scan the environment with emphasis on the environment’s (a) general elements (background) then (b) specific elements (people).
- Pare down the specific elements to the most important handful.
- Enlarge the handful of specific elements and examine the body language of the people.
- Evaluate the scene for anything out-of-the-ordinary.
- Decide what action to take, if any.
Dimitrius says that one should be able to S.P.E.E.D. read in a very limited amount of time, which means that while this is a quick-and-dirty evaluation, it is not as valid and reliable as a patient analysis of all factors. In other words, this method of analysis should be used in particular situations such as the perceived (and later confirmed) convenience store robbery that she describes seeing in the book.
Admittedly, I have had many problems throughout my life with reading body language and trying to understand what people are thinking. Not being able to skillfully interpret body language bothers me, so I decided to do some research, and I am sharing what I learned from my research. If you are like me and need some training in “reading people,” you may find this information useful in both your personal and professional lives. In this post, I tried to summarize three general areas that the three books and five web references all discussed about body language. Please see the links to my references below so that you can explore body language further.
The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work
Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior – Anytime, Anyplace
The Definitive Book of Body Language
Body Language Success
Changing Minds – Using Body Language
Body Language @ Wikipedia
Perception @ Wikipedia
Laughter @ Wikipedia