Body Language 29 Verifying What You See

May 25, 2019

Interpreting Body Language accurately is not an exact science. It is more of an art.

Since there are numerous conflicting signals, and many of them are culturally specific, it is rather easy to make an incorrect diagnosis of what the other person is feeling or thinking.

There is no 100% certain identification of body language signals, but as the number of consistent signals at the same time increases, your chance of getting the right interpretation goes up asymptotically.

What does a cluster look like? Well, suppose I see you sitting in a chair with your hands on the table before you, but you are wringing your hands. In addition, the look on your face is that of a person who is not feeling at all secure.

Your forehead is raised and wrinkled and there are some tiny beads of sweat forming. Your posture is rigid and you are shuffling your feet on the floor.

With this set of signals, I can be sure you are anxious about something. The cluster of 6 classic signs of anxiety make the diagnosis rather easy. Just observing any one of the signals, might be an indication of anxiety, but I would need more data to be sure.

How to verify what you see

Depending on the circumstance and your relationship with the other person, you can usually find a way to ask if your observations are correct. It might sound like this: “You seem to be annoyed with your boss today. Am I reading that right?”

Such a direct approach might not be the most politic thing with this individual, so you might still notice the body language but soften the inquiry to gather more data.

You might say, “Sometimes I find it hard to read Fred (your boss). He seems to come on strong without having a reason. Have you noticed that?”

Another technique is to make a conscious mental note that something is brewing, but not say anything until you see more signals. In this case, it is critical to stay objective and not talk yourself into seeing things that aren’t really there.

You might also ask a third party if he or she has observed some body language that is indicative of a potential problem. If two or three people notice an uncharacteristic set of body language, then the accuracy of interpretation goes up.

You must be extremely careful about who you ask and how you do it, lest you become a kind of “political player” who goes around trying to stir up dirt to undermine other people. The test here is to make sure your intent is to be helpful rather than destructive

Changes are most significant

Keep in mind that changes in body language are more significant than consistent behavior. If you know a person well and recognize that he rarely bites his nails, it is a significant sign that he starts biting his nails when the budget is being discussed.

Whereas, if the person commonly does that gesture, then you should be more guarded with your observation.

Another example might be a student in the classroom. If she habitually sits holding her head up with her hand, then that is simply her way.

But if she never does this, and all of a sudden she starts propping up her chin, you might suspect your lecture is particularly boring or maybe, since other class members are alert, that she was up all night writing her paper. You might call a brief break for the class and have a short chat with her during the break time.

Put body language on the agenda

Simply discussing your observations about body language (as long as you are not obnoxious about it) will serve to make the topic more conscious in your circle of friends or workers. That habit will allow all your friends to become more aware of how to read signals accurately.

Having the skill to interpret body language correctly deepens the understanding within a group and can be an important way to build higher trust between people as long as the ideas are presented in a constructive way. If people begin to feel like they are being psychoanalyzed all the time, you have gone too far. The whole area is a balancing act where just the right amount of analysis is helpful, but going overboard can actually lower trust.

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


Body Language 22 The Forehead

April 6, 2019

The forehead is an interesting area of body language. This area of the body is not as expressive as the eyes or mouth, and yet knowing how to interpret certain signals can be very helpful when you are trying to piece together a cluster of gestures into a strong signal.

A wrinkled forehead is always seen in conjunction with raised eyebrows. If you try to wrinkle your forehead without raising your eyebrows, you will see it is difficult or impossible to do. The normal interpretation of wrinkled forehead is surprise or skepticism. It is physically possible to wrinkle only one side of the forehead, but it takes so much effort that you rarely see that gesture. However, just as it is possible to lift one eyebrow more than the other, so too is it possible to have more wrinkles on one side of the face.

To catch the proper interpretation of a raised forehead, look at the mouth. If the mouth is wide open in the shape of an “O” then you can be sure the forehead is signaling surprise. If the lips are pursed or clenched, then the forehead is projecting skepticism or anger.

Hitting the forehead with open palm usually is a sign of exasperation, normally with one’s self. The gesture means “how stupid of me,” or “how could I have missed that before?” This gesture is the subtle form of banging your head against the wall to knock some sense into it.

The forehead is often the first visible area of the body that sweats when a person is overwrought, worried, or otherwise overheated. In negotiations, I used to watch my opponent for tiny beads of sweat on the forehead. It was one indication the other party was under stress and ready to make a concession.

Some hair styles for both women and men obscure the forehead from view. If a person’s bangs hang down to the tops of the eyebrows, you are not going to read forehead signals. You can infer a raised forehead when the bottom of the bangs is lowered into the region of the pupils.

Touching the forehead with the tips of the fingers can have two different meanings depending on the position of the hand. If the hand is straight and the index finger touches the forehead, it is a greeting sign, like a salute. If the first three fingers touch the forehead at the same time, It means the person is in deep thought. This gesture is often accompanied by closed eyes in an attempt to shut out distracting sights.

Rubbing of the forehead or temples is a sign of a person in deep thought. Generally the person’s thumb will be planted on one side of the forehead and the other fingers will slide back and forth in a linear or circular pattern. This person wants to be left alone to work on his or her problem.

The forehead is but one of the countless signals in body language. The important skill is to be able to piece together a mosaic of the many different parts of the face and body to come up with an accurate way to figure out the true meaning. The more you can practice this skill the more adept you will be at being able to read others accurately.

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.The Trust 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