Body Language 89 Clusters

August 3, 2020

I have been studying body language since my wife bought me a book on it in 1979.
There is still much to learn, and I will never can know it all.

We sometimes get fooled when observing another person’s body language. That can happen for a number of reasons. Here are a few of them:

1. The person may be from a different culture or background from us.
2. We fail to take into account what is happening around the BL signal – the context.
3. We rely on a single gesture to imply full meaning rather than clusters.
4. The gestures we are seeing are not consistent with the words the person is using.

The third point is the topic of this article. Looking at a single gesture and applying meaning has a significant danger for misinterpretation.

If you are observing another person making three or more gestures that are all consistent, then your chances of accurately decoding the emotion being conveyed are greatly increased.

For example, If I see a person with raised eyebrows, I might interpret it as worry or anxiety. That may or may not be true. People raise their eyebrows for a number of reasons.

However, if I witness a person who is shuffling weight from one foot to the other while putting a finger in his collar and moving it back and forth while simultaneously showing a frown with the mouth and raised eyebrows, I can be quite certain this person is experiencing anxiety.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose I see a woman whose eyebrows are furrowed. I may assume she is angry, and that could be the case. But, if I also witness her with flared nostrils, hands on her hips, shoulders back, chin jutting forward, I had better get ready to do some serious groveling.

Another trick is to observe the fleeting gestures, also called “micro expressions.” These gestures happen so quickly we might miss them if we are not on the alert.

A micro expression may be as short as 1/30th of a second. Observing a series of micro expressions that all point in the same direction is a great way to improve the accuracy of reading the body language signals.

I will share an example of a micro expression using myself as the guinea pig. Here is a link to a short (10 minute) video I once did on “Planting a Seed of Trust in the First 10 Seconds.

Note: The material on shaking hands in this video no longer applies until conditions with COVID-19 change, but you can see a great example of a micro expression at 4 minutes and 46 seconds into the video.

At that point in the video, I am talking about ways to show your eagerness to meet the other person.

I first describe your body language if you are really positive and have a good feeling when approaching the other person. I then go on to explain the negative side, if you are not particularly happy about meeting this person.

Just before going with the negative side, I pull my mouth tight and to the side. It is only for a fraction of a second, but that gesture is a micro expression that signals that I am moving from a positive frame of mind to a negative one.

When I was making the video, I had no knowledge that I was making a micro expression. It was only when I reviewed the video later that I saw the gesture.

It is typical that we are conscious of only a tiny fraction of the body language signals we are sending to others. Observing all of the body language signals that are coming in, including the micro expressions will enhance your ability to detect a cluster.

You also need to consider that a person can be experiencing multiple emotions at the same time. For example, a person may be feeling embarrassed with a hint or regret or even grief. That would allow for multiple signals to be sent simultaneously. The permutations are countless.

Get in the habit of looking for auxiliary clues when witnessing emotions expressed through body language. If you make a conscious effort to look for multiple signals, you will gain strength in this important life skill.


This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”


Body Language 26 The Nose

May 4, 2019

Unless your name is Pinochio, your nose does not contain a lot of body language information by itself, but when you interact with your nose, how you do it can mean a lot of different things.

Of course, the most obvious body language with the nose is when we pinch it between our thumb and index finger. This gesture is always done in response to some situation or action, and it means “this stinks.”

According to M. Farouk Radwan, touching the nose is often a sign of a person having a negative reaction or feeling. It is often done without the person even being aware of it, since the gesture is done subconsciously.

When a person touches his or her nose while making a response to a question, it is usually a sign that the person is exaggerating or lying. Lawyers in the court room are quick to pick up on this signal if they see someone on the witness stand touch his nose while answering a specific question.

I never realized the connection myself until I once viewed a video tape of myself giving a presentation. All of a sudden, I was touching my nose as I answered a question from a participant.

Looking objectively at my response, while I was not telling a lie, I was not totally transparent with my answer either. There was another aspect that I could have discussed but chose to withhold in order to avoid going off on a tangent. I was pressed for time.

The curious thing is that I had no recollection of touching my nose at all. It was only when I reviewed the video that I saw myself making the gesture. Even though I gave myself a pass on truncating my reply because of the time constraint, my body knew there was more to the story.

As a general rule, only a small fraction of the body language signals we make are done consciously. That is why it is difficult to conceal emotions. Other people can see the small gestures that we are not conscious of making. Of course, most people are not well schooled on the various meanings of gestures.

That is why this series of articles can be a big benefit to you. The more you know, the more accurately you can interpret the signals other people make and the more you can be conscious of your own signals.

Sometimes you will encounter a person showing flared nostrils. This is an obvious gesture of displeasure. Physiologically, the person is trying to increase the air flow into the lungs. He may be preparing for either fight or flight.

Wrinkling of the nose is another gesture that signifies a negative reaction. It may be that what was just said does not pass the smell test, or it may be your reaction upon viewing your child’s poor report card. The implication is “this stinks.”

If you do not have a cold, sniffing is another nose gesture that has a negative connotation. You may be trying to “sniff out the truth,” or you may be on a fishing expedition to see what the other person knows.

It is dangerous to ascribe meaning to a single gesture of the nose. The mucus membranes inside the nostrils are highly sensitive, and there is no way you will be able to feel what is going on inside of another person’s nose. The best way to interpret meaning from gestures that include the nose is to look for patterns or clusters of different signals that all point in one direction.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.TheTrust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 600 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763