Day 17 – Read my body, not my words

Body language can reveal so much about how someone feels, what they might be thinking, who they really are… despite what they share verbally.  It is an incredibly effective tool in counseling, it’s used in jury selection and other jobs, as well as in everyday life.

 

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Have you heard of the show “Lie to Me”? It’s based on the work of a consulting firm that gets hired by individuals, investigators, the government etc. to determine whether people are telling the truth. The firm uses body language to identify key inconsistencies in people’s stories in order to help solve crimes or other issues they are hired for. It is fascinating!

But here’s the thing…

You can’t make assumptions. There is no one size fits all approach to reading people.

Here are some things to consider before you determine that someone’s incessant yawning must mean you’re an absolute bore:

  1. Consider context. Do you have any background information about what could be going on with the person? Using the yawning example: Did the person stay up late the night before? Do they have a physical condition? Did they just start a new medication? The answers to these questions not only reveals some great info about them but it’s also helpful for you. If you tend to think the worst about people/situations, the truth is… whatever is going on with the person probably has nothing to do with you!
  2. Remember culture. Some cultures feel it is disrespectful to look people right in the eyes. So a lack of eye contact may not indicate discomfort or lack of honesty, as many assume. Some cultures speak in softer voices to show respect, while others speak in louder voices. Some handshakes are firm while others are loose, or physical touch may even be avoided all together.
  3. Take gender into account. We all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus. So it’s safe to assume that we are not only going to think, talk and act differently… but that our body language is going to vary as well.
  4. Don’t forget the public persona. We all, to some degree, put up a facade and allow people to see the aspects of ourselves that we want them to see. Some of us do this more than others of course… Don’t automatically assume people are being fake but just remember, we all want to come across as more perfect, more sweet, kind, beautiful etc. than we believe we are. It’s kind of like when you go to someone’s house and on the outside it is totally pristine but on the inside it’s a pigsty. There’s an image displayed to the community that does not line up with what’s really on the inside. We do the same thing.

Tomorrow I’ll get into some guidelines on how to pick up on nonverbal cues. There is no perfect equation to reading people though. We are complicated… every single one of us! So keep that in mind.

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