Body language: Non verbal cues
Have you ever been involved in a conversation that took a turn that you didn't quite expect? The clues might have been there all along. Humans—and many other animals—communicate regularly through body language.
A person's body language can tell you a lot. In this article, I'll discuss common non-verbal cues that can give you insight into what the person in front of you is thinking, feeling and saying.
What non-verbal cues tell us
Non-verbal cues can tell us everything that a person isn't saying, which is why so many professionals—athletes, game players, and CEOs alike—spend time learning how to read body language and control their own. You can see when someone is upset, when someone is being dishonest and when someone in the room is just plain uncomfortable.
Understanding these cues will give you powerful insights into the dynamics in every room you walk into.
Speaking, and the words that we share, are one form of communication, but we say a lot more with our bodies than we ever say out loud. If you know what to look for, you can understand communication and better accommodate the person you are speaking with. In many ways, looking for these signs can help you to be a more active listener see.
Most of us do not think about how we move our heads when we interact, but the way someone holds their head can play a major role in what they are saying. When someone holds their head straight and tall, it can convey confidence; when someone tilts their head, it can convey confusion or a lack of confidence.
There is a time and place for both, but consider what these actions share in different circumstances. A head tilt might be an indication to keep explaining what you are saying, but it might also mean you are accidentally telling someone that you are not qualified to be in a meeting. Context really matters here.
The eyes have it
Eyes are often said to betray our true feelings, but the reality is that the way we use our eyes is what tells on us. When you maintain eye contact with someone, it shows that you are interested and engaged. If you let your eyes drift to a corner of the room and never leave, you are telling the person you aren't interested and are completely checking out of the situation.
Someone who maintains fleeting eye contact might appear nervous or show that they are being dishonest about something. Once again, context matters. Indeed, too much eye contact might come off as too intense or inappropriate see.
Hand in hand
Some people speak with their hands intentionally, but most of us speak with our hands whether we realize it or not. Hand motions can be used to emphasize what we are saying or demonstrate a passionate interest. Those are the obvious messages.
Hands also can be a great insight into a person's comfort level. Someone who wrings their hands or keeps their hands coupled together in their lap is likely conveying that they are uncomfortable in a situation. People commonly press their hands together to ground themselves, so it is a good behavior tell.
Historically, posture is one of the primary focuses in personal presentation. Although individual posture may be affected by a person's strength and flexibility see, the fact is that posture is also a key indicator of how someone feels in a given situation—and it might tell you quite a bit about how they feel in general.
When someone is upright and sturdy, it gives the indication that they are confident and feel at ease in the situation they are in. It can also demonstrate that a person is ready and engaged. A wilting posture or poor posture can show anything from a lack of interest to a lack of self- confidence see. Either way, the message it sends shows that the person is likely unsure or uncommitted to the situation. Space out Personal space is a natural barrier that we each create for ourselves see. Most of the time, we don't realize that we are modifying our personal space range unless it is for an obvious reason, like stepping out of someone's way before you collide. However, the personal space that we keep can tell an interesting story about who we are and how we feel in a given situation.
People who are truly comfortable have a tendency to close the gap in personal space, but this is not a one-sided effort. When it is, it tends to create discomfort. However, two people can communicate through personal space in a way that highlights the dynamic between them.
If you move closer to someone and they move back, it tells you they are not that comfortable with you. If you share a close space and find yourself getting closer in communication, it might show that a bond has formed or trust has been established.
Body of work
We communicate with different parts of our bodies, but sometimes what we really feel is spelled out in every motion we make. For example, clear tension in the body says a lot. Stiff shoulders, a rigid spine and unmoving hands might convey anger or discomfort.
Casual movements, particularly those that are loose and relaxed, can show a lot about someone's comfort level in a situation. As we get more comfortable, we tend to loosen up physically and feel more free to move in the moment.
The real deal
We can't all be mind readers, but understanding body language can communicate more than someone's words alone can offer. Paying attention to the subconscious signals a person shares can help you to recognize their discomfort, gauge their preparedness and better understand them as a whole.