by Mike Lally
Determining exactly what the body language of a person is revealing requires an awareness of the characteristics the person being observed normally exhibits.
This is often referred to in body language circles as a “general cluster” and is idiosyncratic of the person specifically being judged.
It is unfortunately relatively simple to overlook these core attributes when assessing a person’s body language and concluding what is meant. This is why many people jump to the wrong conclusions when assessing the signals on show.
What is body language and how can it be successfully intrepreted? Determining exactly what the body language of a person is revealing requires an awareness of the characteristics the person being observed normally exhibits.
This is often referred to in body language circles as a “general cluster” and is idiosyncratic of the person specifically being judged. It is unfortunately relatively simple to overlook these core attributes when assessing a person’s body language and coming to an erroneous conclusion.
This is why many people jump to the wrong conclusions when assessing the body language signals on show. A solitary gesture should not be interpreted in isolation and used as proof of a specific intent.
Body language interpretation is not the same as mind-reading! The psychology of success often means changing your mind set. To read body language successfully requires awareness and a different mind set.
Certain gestures are interpreted in a consistent manner and frequently occur across cultures. Even so it is dangerous to assume a similar meaning applies to all observations. For example, folding ones arms does not necessarily mean the person is against something, or closed down, negative and unhappy.
They could quite easily be a little cold, or just feel comfortable using this physical expression. So, to read body language accurately an effort needs to be made to collect a number of cues before deriving a specific meaning.
This can be accomplished quite quickly and done outside of a person’s awareness. The aim is to collect every piece of information available before making a considered decision. Remember we want to scrutinize a general cluster of facts.
A man scratching his head may mean he is uncertain or forgetful, or he could even be lying, and then again it just might indicate that he needs a quick visit to the supermarket to purchase a “Head and Shoulders” type product to overcome an irritating bout of dandruff!
Another cue that falls into this category is the well-known and frowned upon “limp-wrist” handshake. Yes, it could well be a person having a less than confident nature, but what if they had a rather painful arthritic wrist or tennis elbow?
What is the best way to eliminate making simple, yet understandable mistakes when reading body language? Well, it is important to avoid second-guessing and to apply a little patience.
A cluster of gestures means assessing a number of body language signals that tends to occur simultaneously. A nice way to think about gestures is to use the analogy of words in a sentence. When words and punctuation are combined in a sentence they obviously give rise to what the sentence actually means.
A word by itself, even a commonly understood word, can have several meanings and be open to subjective meaning. This is why words behave like anchors. It is the act of combining words, punctuation, and gestures that properly constitutes what is fully meant.
Commonly understood words have a range of meanings and are often interpreted according to the listener’s personal experiences. What does the word “love” mean to you? Probably different to what it means to me – at least I hope so!
It is only when words are arranged into a completed sentence that meaning becomes clear, and even then this is not always the case. Meaning is subjective and reading body language properly has similar characteristics.
The trick when assessing and reading body language is to match the words spoken to the non-verbal gestures on show. This provides significant and often foolproof information.
It does require using your senses fully to home in on several cues simultaneously. The watchful observer will overtime notice some rather peculiar behaviours which quickly provide a clear insight to how a person really thinks and feels.
This includes seeing a person shake their heads while agreeing with what you are saying! Watch the whole body carefully, but be careful to do this without looking weird! Do not stare!
In the same way that rapport is established, it is a subtle process and it must be done outside of a person’s knowledge. Use your peripheral vision to accomplish this. Change your mindset, ignore single signals, and watch carefully.