Article – Making body language your first language


Published: 19 Jul 2018

Body Language

Understanding body language changes lives, has the ability to revitalise relationships that are all but dead, and improve every area of your life that involves people. So unless you are living in a cave, alone, by choice – this is for you.

If you’ve always had a sneaky feeling that you’re missing something when you are engaging with someone, that’s because you’re right. Talking makes up only 7% of all communication. The other 93% is non-verbal.

Recognising, and being able to de-code what you are looking at in peoples’ body language effectively gives people ‘super powers’ – in human communication, interaction, and engagement with others, across all areas of life. So whether those relationships are at work, at home, with your partner, your children, your friends, knowing about body language is a game-changer in life.

Although I have had ‘formal’ training in body language (non-verbal communication) it was merely the catalyst for me. My techniques, theories, and understanding about how body language works has ultimately been honed by working with, watching, and studying thousands of people over the past few years and relating causal features of what I have seen.

Ok, first thing to understand – body language (what your body parts do) in response to certain stimuli, always comes from the sub-conscious brain, not your sensible brain. What you are looking at when you recognise and de-code someone’s body language is not merely what they are THINKING, which would be awesome enough in its own right, yeah?  It’s even better than that – you are looking at what they are FEELING!

Stop and think about that for a second. It’s like you are actually inside their head. You ask a question, or drop a certain action on them and you know how they feel about it… instantly. Imagine then following this ‘inside information’ up with a ‘next obvious question’. You are left in no doubt what is happening. You are left with no unresolved issues. You can respond at the time appropriately, not hours later, when one or the other of you is left wondering, disillusioned, disappointed, hurt, confused.. shall I go on?

We all deserve exceptional relationships across all areas of our life, and yes, there may be denominators beyond our control, but using these two techniques together should give you an edge in life.

We all surely know that life is short, and for some shorter than others. Why do you hold back from telling people things you want to tell them? For some people it is confidence (or lack of it), for some people it is indifference (they don’t actually care), for many it is complacency (you believe you have all the time in the world to say it/do it), and for the vast majority it is because…you MISS the clues.

Every day we let opportunities pass us by, let pivotal moments go and regret it instantly, leave things, important things, unsaid. Imagine. Truly stop and imagine what your life could be like if you didn’t. If you noticed more, listened more, and was more in-tune with what was happening in every single human interaction throughout your day. Your happiness level would go up exponentially, your stress level would go down radically, your confidence level in situations improved, your self-worth at its highest ever, as people respond to you differently when they know how you feel and you them.

  • How do I know if I’m irritating my partner?
  • How can I break through my teenagers ‘shell’?
  • Why does it all go wrong when I meet someone for the first time from online dating sites?
  • How do I know what an employer is thinking when they interview me?
  • How can I sell more?
  • How can I assess and deal with conflict?
  • How can I counteract negative body language towards me?

De-coding someone’s body language and interpreting properly what is going on is a real game-changer in life. Imagine if you knew what someone was really thinking or saying. Having some knowledge into the basics of nonverbal communication can enhance all types of relationships, help you to network, break through cliques at events, land that dream job, sell more, and deal with conflict better.

It has been estimated that at least 50% and as much as 98% of what we communicate is non-verbal. If this is true, then it is as important, if not more important than what we say out loud.

I believe it can change dependant on the depth and range of emotions involved at the time. The deeper the emotion connected to the event or moment, the harder it may be to ‘squelch’ the emotion.

Some people also have natural baselines that ‘defy’ the common perceptions and myths of body language. That is why it is so important to baseline someone before making a snap judgement on them. This could simply mean observing someone for a few minutes at an event before you approach them, to watch what they are sending out and what people around them are doing. If it is someone you live with, it is much easier to baseline them, as you know how they usually sit, stand, what their faces look like when they are worried, sad, annoyed, even if it isn’t a ‘standard’ interpretation of those emotions.

I must re-emphasise the fact that body language is rarely self-contained and done with forethought. More often than not what you see in someone is linked to an emotion. The stronger the emotion felt i.e. fear, awkwardness, worry, self-consciousness, the more outward displays will be apparent.

These non-verbal traits are known as manipulators. Manipulators often show at times of discomfort, but can also be seen in happiness, excitement, physical attraction and general feel good emotions.

Manipulators are any way you touch yourself, such as twisting hair, picking or scratching your skin, playing with ears, nose, mouth, putting fingers in or on the mouth etc.

In general as a summing up of body language (of the body parts – hands, legs, feet) if something is pointing towards you – it’s good. If something is pointing away from you – not so good. If something is crossed, protection in some form is there, if something is ‘hugged’ again comfort/protection. If something is over extended, raised or amplified – it could mean arrogance, or a fake it ‘til you make it confidence gesture. If something is rubbed together – palms, fingers – its hope/anticipation.

In facial expressions, it’s a bit more difficult, but again in general if the face and eyebrows move up, it’s good. If it moves down, not-so-good. If it’s wrinkled in some way, it’s contempt/disgust. If it’s stretched, fear or uncertainty. And remember that people can ‘squelch’ expressions – which means they are trying to hide their emotions and feelings either consciously or unconsciously.

I encourage people to do three things while they are learning:

  • Watch TV with the sound off once in a while and see if you still get a feel for what is happening or being ‘said’.
  • Watch what happens when you are in a ‘target rich environment’. If you want to be more unobtrusive – just watch legs and feet. This is my favourite part.
  • Baseline all of the important people in your life so you instantly recognise something out of the ordinary.

Space – Look for where the space is between people. Where the space isn’t? Whether they are leaning in or out, backwards or forwards. Wherever the lean is towards is where they want to be.

Think “head shoulders, knees, and toes”. Observe each area and note what you see.

Baselining – Baseline everyone important to you in your life. If you know what they normally look like, then you’ll notice more when something changes (good or bad)

4.5 second rule (or 8.2)  It takes at least 4.5 seconds to create a connection with a person, so don’t look away too soon, the nearer you get to 8.2 seconds, attraction of a different kind is there!

The clock face – hands and arms

Where the emphasis is – The emphasis is in the way the hands are held. Cupped/soft hands read as “please do this/I hope you do this.” Straight hands read as “Do this”. Straight hands with open fingers read more as exasperation.

The clock face – Look where the hands are positioned on the clock face. The nearer to 6 the less of an issue it is. When you get to positioning at 3 and 9, read as “I want you to notice”. At 12 read as “Do this now/STOP!”

If the hands are below the 3 and 9 line on the clock face it’s still a request, if they are above, it’s a demand.

Look out for:

The steeple – hands and fingers raised in a steeple. Usually the most powerful person in the room (for real or in their head).

Hands together in ‘prayer’ – if static hope/hoping you deliver on a promise. If rubbed together anticipation of something good happening.

Hands in fists – frustration of some sort is there

Cupped hands – around chin – thoughtfulness/happy surprise. Around neck – severe emotional trauma that may be the final straw.

Thumb displays – thumbs up/out are a sign of power/dominance or wishful thinking/wannabe/fake it to you make it.

Where the feet want to be – feet and legs

Show me the way – The feet are ALWAYS exactly where they want to be.

If only feet could talk? But, they can. Read people from the ground up.

Why are they so important? Because they are the first indicator of what is happening in a situation.

Look out for feet facing one way and upper body facing another. The top will be ‘faking’ it, the feet never lie.

If someone’s feet are in a V when you approach them they are welcoming you into their space.

Legs crossed at ankles – comfortable. Ankles pulled under the chair – uncomfortable. Figure of four crossed leg – ‘fake it till you fake it/feigning confidence – however men sitting next to their wife will often sit like this with their lead (top) leg/foot facing their wife. I believe that this is a gesture of ‘ownership’ a signal to others.

Toes facing in – lack of confidence/disturbed. Toes facing out – over confidence. One foot leaning right into persons space – usually a sign of attraction. It’s a way to move the other person’s body stance from facing forward to leaning into them with their opposite leg, hence being closer.

Let’s face it – facial expressions

Universal expressions – happy, sad, disgust, fear, contempt, surprise, anger. Look at the authenticity of an expression and where the lines have formed on a persons’ face. Where the lines are, are where they have showed the most frequent emotions. Look also for ‘squelched’ emotions where the full emotion doesn’t show, but nevertheless you know what they are now thinking/feeling.

Body talk – emblems, speech illustrators and manipulators

Emblems – Where speech is replaced completely by a signal i.e. a thumbs up. Emblems are often used when the noise level is high, in work contexts for safety reasons, but can also be used as a way to avoid interaction and communication with someone.

Speech Illustrators – Where speech is ‘backed up’ by a signal i.e. holding hands out wide to say, “The fish was this big.”  Speech illustrators should not be overlooked. It is the body’s way of saying, “notice this/look at me/this is important”.

Manipulators – Anytime the hands touch the face or head. Common sign of discomfort (good or bad).

Chin = thought/thinking. Fist on chin – not having a voice/despondent.

Mouth = Rubbing with fingers or cupped hand – thinking/considering something. Finger over the mouth – wanting to say something but thinking better of it (especially if a pointy finger is pointing at someone too).

Nose = intrigue/piqued interest

Ears =listening if lobe is pulled. Not wanting to listen/hear something if top of ear is scratched, especially behind the ear

Eyes = sweep into the eye between the nose with the middle finger “I can’t see that happening/ that is NOT going to happen.”

Forehead = side of forehead – minor exasperation/irritation. Side /next to middle severe frustration/annoyance. Middle of the forehead (especially with the flat of the palm of the hand) = disbelief/can’t believe this happened/ I got myself in this mess.

Deception revelations

Myths and legends – You speed up if you are lying or look away

The facts – Yes that is true in a low level lie, the bigger the lie though, the more the body language slows down. It is very difficult for an average person to lie and think about their body language so clues always seep out.

Enjoy your new skill, practice constantly, add it to your language bank, and think about every single human interaction you have with people, what you are seeing, and what that person is feeling.

Look for ‘clusters’ of activity to put together the whole picture, try not to make assumptions, look for the evidence, keep it in context, and have fun!

© 2017 Elemental Potential Ltd

Published by Elemental Potential Ltd  | First Edition

This article is copyright. Except for the purpose of fair review, no part may be stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording or storage in any information retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. No reproduction may be made, whether by photocopying or any other means, unless a licence has been obtained from the publisher.

Let us know what you found out by understanding body language more – leave a comment.


Leave a Reply