Learn to Understand Body Language with These Five Simple Steps

Learn to Understand Body Language with These Five Simple Steps

The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes once said, “You see, but you do not observe.” And you know what? He was absolutely correct regarding most people. This can cause myriad problems for those uninformed about the skill of reading a person’s body language. 

A person can relay numerous silent clues without uttering a single word; deciphering these can be advantageous in multiple scenarios. From avoiding a sucker punch to successfully negotiating a business deal to understanding if your new love interest is actually “into” you. The benefits of body language interpretation are almost endless.

However, like most anything else, reading a person’s body language takes time, practice, and a well-honed mind. Nevertheless, with the tips of observation below, you can start your journey toward taking advantage of people’s unspoken cues to guide you both through your day and throughout your life.

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Become a Master of Body Language

While it is true that someone who is enraged will show obvious outward signs of possibly wanting to harm others physically, there are also individuals who, although they may appear quite docile, might suddenly “explode” without notice. This is when interpreting body language comes in very handy. 

Your first clue will be the person’s muscle reactions. By this, I am not talking about the obvious flexing of muscles, like the biceps, but rather subtle muscle movements in key body areas. A clenched jaw or a protruding chin illustrate anger, and these can give you a sense of what might be going on beneath the surface of an otherwise calm and collected individual. Flared nostrils also demonstrate a person’s readiness to fight as they invite more oxygen into the lungs in preparation for a physical confrontation. 

Likewise, an expanded or “puffed” chest may be visible, which makes a person appear larger and more imposing. Furthermore, seemingly calm people may reposition their bodies to be less of a target and tighten their muscles in preparation for a counterattack. Finally, clenched fists signal a readiness to strike.  

By being aware of these signals, which will be quite obvious with some practice, you can avoid an emergency room visit and get home safely. 

Learn to Detect Love Connections

Females, especially, can give mixed signals when interacting with men, which can be troublesome for men in many ways. One way to detect if she is genuinely interested in you is to ignore her words. Don’t ignore her; don’t take what she says at face value and instead focus on her actions. 

If her body is oriented physically toward yours, there is a chance that love is in the air. She will likely point her feet in your direction. This is a good sign. If her feet are angled away from you or her head is turned in a slightly different direction, these are subtle, unconscious signs that she wants out and will be ready to “take off” at the earliest possible moment. 

Additionally, if your date or person of interest constantly touches your arm or shoulder when talking to you, this is a fairly reliable sign that she is interested. Also, if your gentle touches to her hand or cheek cause her to blush or giggle, she most likely feels comfortable with you, which is an excellent place for you to be. 

Furthermore, if she likes you, her energy level will mirror yours and will exhibit similar characteristics. Finally, if she frequently primps her hair or makeup, that is a sign of slight nervousness on her part. It shows she is interested in you and wants to look her best. 

A big miss can occur during an intense business deal if you don’t read the silent signs of your opposition in negotiations.
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Obtain Future Employment

If you have the best résumé of the bunch but keep losing out on landing the best positions, this may be directly caused by your body language during the interview process. Posture is key. Always sit upright in your chair (without appearing tense) and lean slightly forward to indicate engagement. This demonstrates confidence to the interviewers immediately upon the start of your discussion. During the interview, show your palms and speak using hand movements. Doing so illustrates both trust and outward, positive energy.  

Also, focus on the people interviewing you by looking at the entirety of their faces and not just their eyes whenever you or they speak. Maintaining constant eye contact is unnerving for interviewers and can cause your interview to go south fast. 

Finally, as you leave the interview walk with your shoulders pulled back and your neck elongated. Keep your stride consistent and your head up instead of looking at the floor, which demonstrates nervousness or a lack of confidence. 

Securing The Deal 

A big miss can occur during an intense business deal if you don’t read the silent signs of your opposition. This is accomplished through two steps. First, you need to recognize how this person acts under normal circumstances. This will give you a baseline by which you can judge anything out of the ordinary. 

Next, begin your observations of both engagement traits and stress-related traits. Engagement clues include:

  • Making eye contact.
  • Nodding the head in agreement.
  • Leaning inward while talking.
  • Smiling.

Stress-related signs, boredom, or other defensive traits can appear as leaning back in a chair, constant face touching, or a raised tone when speaking. 

It is important to note that noticing only one or two signals doesn’t equate to your “opponent” lying to you or, conversely, being totally honest with you during bargaining. Only through adding up all the signals you have observed can you create an overall impression of that person’s true intentions. 

Trust The Actions, Not The Words

Reading body language is not an exact science. Sometimes, you will misjudge a person due to a particular tick, habit, or personality trait they display. However, all it takes is practice to become proficient, and luckily, there are plenty of people to observe daily. Try it today with a friend, family member, or complete stranger. The better you get, the less likely you will be fooled by someone who speaks volumes through everything but their words. 

5 Tips To Master Body Language

Don’t Just See, Observe!

Before you work on your body language interpretation skills, you need to learn how to make great observations, and these tips can set you on the right path.

Trust Your Instincts 

No matter what your brain or your heart may tell you, don’t trust them. They can be misleading. However, you can trust your instincts. Human instincts about judging the trustworthiness and intentions of others have adapted over countless generations to notice things that “don’t feel right.” Trust your instincts; they won’t steer you wrong. 

Ask Intelligent Questions

If you ask the right questions, many things become more apparent, and you can make wiser judgments. Direct, simple questions with definitive answers always help you to reach better results more quickly.

Ditch All Distractions

You can’t concentrate if you are multitasking, no matter how much you think you can. Music, television, and constant cellphone swiping only distract you from seeing the complete picture. Instead, “unplug” when you can to allow yourself total immersion into the situation.

You Have Five Senses—Use Them!

Don’t rely solely on what you see to form an opinion about another person or situation. Instead, use some of your other senses too. Smelling, hearing, and touching (and, more rarely, taste) can help to paint a clearer picture than just sight alone. Indicators, such as a particular scent of perfume or small talk occurring nearby, can help you decipher what is going on.

These professionals question suspects and witnesses to crimes to determine if they are telling the truth, lying, confused, or merely unreliable.
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These Professions Use Body Language Skills Daily

Criminal Investigator/Detective

These professionals question suspects and witnesses to crimes to determine if they are telling the truth, lying, confused, or merely unreliable. Additionally, they often have to judge the body language of suspects to assess if they are ready to become violent. 

Special Education Teacher

Children and young adults with special needs may not always be able to say directly what they want, think, or feel, but special educators are trained to read these students’ nonverbal cues and body language. This allows these teachers to help those who can’t communicate clearly to learn and to have better lives. 

Mental Health Counselor

Similar to a special education teacher, these professionals use cues from their client’s body language to assist them in managing or resolving the psychological issues they face. 


Having a complete picture helps make the best translation. Good interpreters make this happen by analyzing both verbal and nonverbal communication. Facial movements, body positioning, and slight gestures can aid in making the most precise conversion to English of the words of a foreign-language speaker. 

This article was originally published in the Skillset Fall 2021 issue. Purchase this issue in print or digital at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

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Source link: https://www.athlonoutdoors.com/article/master-body-language/ by Michael D’Angona at www.athlonoutdoors.com