Can you think of a socially awkward person, the sort everyone tries to avoid by ducking into the nearest doorway as soon as they sees them coming?How about the person who doesn’t know when to stop talking or flirting, who can’t seem to get the idea that someone just wants to be left alone? You ‘re sure to be picturing some a specific person.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a way to deal with such people as soon as you see them approaching? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to improve your skills at getting rid of such annoyances? When one learns to read body language they can do just that. They can deal with nuisances head on without feeling one bit guilty.
Learning to understand body language is crucial. The skill of observing nonverbal cues will help us understand others’ true intentions. Awareness and control of one’s own body language will allow one to make sure their point is conveyed as intended. Combining our body language with our words will assure effective communication.
It’s important to understand that not all body language signals are 100% accurate. Take care to observe and note a cluster of body language signals rather than relying on only one or two. A cluster of body signals will give a more accurate view of a person’s real intentions in any situation.
Let’s take a look at people’s personal bubbles. A personal bubble is the space one feels necessary to keep between them and another person.. How close we stand to one another, and how that is reflected, says a lot about us. This personal bubble can be illustrated in four distinct personal-zone examples.
Intimate Zone: This is by far the most sacred of all personal zones. Most people guard this zone as their private property and only allow in the most intimate friends and family. Although personal space varies from culture to culture, in North America, the average range for this zone is from 6 to 18 inches apart. If this zone is invaded, a person will feel very defensive and uncomfortable, and will tend to show this by clear and emphatic body signals.
Personal Zone: This zone is the distance that people would stand from one another at an office party, social gathering or similar event. The average range for this zone is 18 to 48 inches. This is reserved for those that we know and with whom we get along. Invasion of this space by a stranger will usually cause us to become visibly uncomfortable.
Social Zone: This is the normal distance that someone would stand from a stranger, a shop keeper, a new coworker or and people they don’t know well. The average range for this zone is between 4 and 12 feet.
Public Zone: Public speakers use this zone. This is the zone that they use as a buffer between themselves and their audience. This zone is, on average, 12 feet.
Whenever someone enters our personal zone we automatically have a reaction whether we are aware of it or not. The appropriateness or inappropriateness of our reactions when we are the ones invading someone’s space will say a lot about how good we are at interpreting body language.
When invading someone’s personal zone it’s important not to stand or approach aggressively or defensively. An aggressive posture is standing with legs slightly apart as if about to lunge. A defensive posture is standing with arms, feet or ankles crossed as if to protect one’s body.
Either of these postures communicates fear and anger. Take a step or two back from someone in an aggressive or defensive posture and you will likely see their body language open up with uncrossed arms, legs and ankles. They will be likely to appear more relaxed instead of ready to lunge forward in combat.
Have you ever noticed someone who won’t look at you, someone who puts their hand to their mouth or appears as if about to walk away from you when you are speaking to them? These signals indicate that the person is probably lying outright or being somewhat dishonest about wanting you around. If you really need to get your point across to them and want to be sure they are listening to you, use a pen or pointer device to attract their eyes and their attention or have them sit down so that they can’t run away so easily.
In other situations when you see someone averting their eyes or covering their mouth when they are talking to you, it is a pretty good bet that they are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. When such a person is forced to think about what they are saying, they will usually give themselves away. A good way to handle such a situation is to ask them to restate something that they just said and see if they look away or change their story when repeating it.
Looking for this cluster of body language signals will enable you to connect the entire cluster to the behavior rather than relying on just one signal. Reading someone’s body language is always more reliable when observing an entire cluster of nonverbal communication.
Many body-language signals will tell us if the person is truly interested in what we are saying or just trying to appear polite. These signals, again, must be read in clusters. It’s easy to misinterpret if we rely on one or two of a person’s mannerisms. Put them all together to get the entire picture.
When someone cups their face in the palm of their hand, you can be quite certain that they are bored stiff. By contrast, if a person is interested, they might have their hands on their face but they will not be cupping their chin in the palm of the hand. Instead they will may have their index finger pointed to the top of their head as if thinking about what’s being said. If their hand slips down to cup their chin, you’ve lost your audience.
Eye contact is another important indicator of keeping attention. When you talk to someone, notice whether they are observing with interest or looking around trying to find something else to do? Combining your observation of this indicator with the “hand-to-chin” sign, will help you discern whether you are reaching your intended audience.
Observing head position will say a lot about what another person is thinking.. Are they sitting with their head down toward their chest? If so, this person doesn’t approve of the subject at hand. It could even mean that they are being critical or judgmental. Is their head tilted? Are their eyes focused on you? This indicates interest and agreement. If the person’s head is in a neutral position they’re remaining neutral or evaluating just what side of the conversation they should take.
It’s important to remember to watch for clusters of signals rather than relying upon only one or two. Sometimes people will be briefly distracted from a conversation but their attention will quickly return. If we don’t verify our impression with the whole cluster of body language, we will misinterpret signals.
With time and practice, anyone can learn to read body language with a high degree of accuracy.