“The eyes are the window to the soul”- English Proverb
Imagine for a moment, having a conversation with someone while your eyes are closed. Think of how much you would miss in the conversation if you couldn’t see their facial expressions, body movements and especially their eyes.
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, facial expression and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously.
Experts estimate that between 60 and 75 percent of what we say is “spoken” with our bodies and that we are forming our first impressions of each other in roughly four seconds. Imagine having only four seconds to make a good first impression!
Gaining a better understanding of body language will help you learn how to read others and will enable you to project yourself in the best light. Let’s take a look at three distinct types of body language that will help you along this path: open vs. closed, deceptive, and romantic body language.
How open are you?
During your everyday conversations, your body sends out signals to others letting them know how interested you are in what they are saying. Attentive body language sends a strong signal of real and deep interest that is both flattering and likely to result in reciprocal attention. When you are “open and attentive” to others, you experience the most success at work, in relationships and generally lead a happier life. However, when your body language is “closed”, you’re more likely to struggle in professional and personal relationships. You may not even realize that you are sending out this type of non-verbal signal, so let’s compare open vs. closed body language.
• Body is open; arms are uncrossed while you wait for the other person to finish speaking before you respond.
• Eyes are attentive as your gaze is consistently focused on the other person. Blinking less conveys strong interest while frequent blinking can often signal nervousness.
• Regardless of the stimuli around you (other people, your cell phone going off) you ignore these distractions, which shows the other person you are fully interested.
• Your body movements are fairly still and you are leaning forward as if to say: “I want to hear everything you’re saying.”
- Arms are crossed (unless your arms are crossed because you are cold and shivering) when talking, which gives a strong signal that you are closed to what the person is saying.
- Your eyes frequently look down and away throughout the conversation.
- You are easily distracted by what is going on around you rather than keeping your interest on the person speaking to you.
- You’re focused on what you want to say rather than letting the other person get their point across.
Sometimes a person’s own self-esteem is the culprit for closed body language. It may not be that the person isn’t interested in you, but they may be uncomfortable in their own skin. It’s important to become more aware of the signals you may inadvertently be sending and how that may be affecting your relationship with others.
Are you being deceived?
A deceptive person is primarily concerned with being found out and this concern shows in their body language. Here are some of the things to look for if you suspect someone is lying to you:
- The person appears more anxious and tense, which is characterized by sweating and displaying sudden movements and minor twitches especially around the mouth and eyes.
- A person who is being deceitful will often talk faster, in a higher pitch, and sometimes share insignificant details as they try to convince you to believe them.
- They may be acting friendly, but their smile appears forced. They also appear distracted, as their brain needs to work harder to lie than to tell the truth.
- They may have unusual eye contact, for example, staring into your eyes for too long or barely making eye contact while looking down and to the left more often.
It’s important to keep in mind that these four examples do not qualify a person as being deceitful. Take into account all factors in the situation before trying to decide if they are lying.
Are you being admired?
There is a cluster of body movements that have to do with romance and signaling to a person that you are interested in partnering with them.
Here are some of the most obvious signs you can look for:
- It’s not a surprise that the eyes do much of the signaling. Notice how some people’s pupils actually dilate when you approach them. Whether you are up close or a distance away, a person may look at you for slightly longer than normal, then look away; then look back at you again for a longer period.
- Preening gestures are also common, especially in women. Tossing of the head, brushing hair away with your hand, stroking arms, legs or face and licking the lips are all ways to say: “I am making myself look good for you.”
- Openly displaying attractive parts of the body is also a good hint that someone is interested. Think cleavage or legs in women and a muscular torso or arms in men.
- When someone leans their body toward you or moves into your personal space they are saying: “I want to be closer to you,” signaling strong interest.
- Touching is a sure sign, which may begin as accidental brushing against you followed by touching of the arms or back.
Reading body language is a skill that we all should learn. It will help you “read between the lines” in conversations and create greater self-awareness of how your own body language affects your relationships with others. There are many great books that can serve as your guide.
Don’t forget to smile
If you change just one part of your body language it should be your smile. Try this experiment: for one-week smile at everyone you meet. Not just a half-hearted or polite smile, but a broad smile with good eye contact. Smiling makes you attractive, confident and draws people to you. People want to figure out just what you’re so happy about. And, it’s contagious…meaning your one simple smile can produce one million others and that’s body language we can all benefit from.