The ability to accurately interpret body language is a tricky business. A shrug could mean a person doesn’t know what’s going on, or it could mean they don’t care. When someone crosses their arms, it could mean that they are shutting you out of the conversation or that they are cold and wish you would turn up the heat.
Understanding the nuances of body language plays an important part in your ability to judge how you come across to others. Just as important, however, is your ability to get a read on other people.
Most of us focus on verbal skills but never forget that there are always two conversations going on when we interact with another person. The first conversation is the one where words are used to convey information; while the second one broadcasts thoughts, attitudes, and emotions through the body. If we’re unaware of the non-verbal messages we’re sending, the second conversation could undermine the first one.
As an FBI agent, it didn’t take me long to realize that people can peddle bullshit by the bucket with an honest and open face if it serves their purpose. Teenagers, ex-spouses, and terrorists are excellent examples of how non-verbal communication can tell us more than the words they use when answering a question or trying to get to the bottom of a problem.
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Often, it’s the things people don’t say that convey the true emotion or thought. Researchers estimate that body language may account for a whopping 65% of all communication.
Here are 10 tips to help you interpret body language:
1: Body Reactions Are Honest
The limbic system is the part of the brain that reacts to events around us — in real-time and without thought.
These reactions are genuine and are considered to be the “honest” part of our brain. The limbic brain enlists the body to send messages about what it is feeling. The body will signal stress and discomfort or excitement and pleasure in a variety of ways, and how we interpret these behaviors is known as body language.