by Mike Lally
Consider this: we all read body language reasonably well. It is hard-wired and consistent with the evolution of the human species. It is nothing short of a survival mechanism.
How accurate the information interpreted will depend upon the individual concerned, but it is fair to say we have an in-built, almost instinctual ability to read, review, analyze and then make decisions about what we are consciously and unconsciously observing.
However, we often fail to pay attention to the rather deft, shrewd, indirect, implied or inferred signals that occur around us.
In fact, we sometimes miss the blatantly obvious.
Frequently the “obvious” is extraordinarily elusive.
Why does this happen?
Well, there is an over reliance on logic.
However, to interpret bodily information accurately requires the use of perception.
Basically perception is a skill that resides at the unconscious or subconscious level.
Logic alone is not sufficient.
Advanced communication ability lies in observing, understanding and managing both conscious and unconscious neurological processing. Words alone fail to meet these criteria.
Too often we seem to confuse words with reality and spend far too much time mind reading what is going on around us.
Mind reading can be inaccurate because of our own biased thinking.
Before long we end up personalizing everything.
We become judgmental, and if we are not careful it can quickly lead to prejudice.
So, where should your primary focus lie?
Non-verbal communication holds all the aces.
Spotting the emotions and messages that people are actually sending is done through the primitive brain, sometimes known as the reptilian brain.
This is the subconscious instinctive mind at work.
Astute communication experts train themselves to detect the elusive obvious – those telling and fluctuating variables in tone, gesture and mannerism an individual is constantly demonstrating.
Of course, once you know how to identify these characteristics you are in a position to compare them to a baseline of behaviours a person normally and openly displays.
Once a person has been observed in a relatively relaxed state it becomes much simpler to notice the changes in body language that are expressed in any other context.
The objective is not to spend time observing the gestures everybody makes – the normal virtually universal gestures that are common and ubiquitous in all of us.
The key is to see what else lies outside these hard-wired symbols.
A key strategy to employ when observing others is to avoid personalizing what is being observed. It’s not about you!
Keeping a personal distance between what is taking place and your own projections is important.
Just keep in mind that a single piece of information from a body language perspective means very little and should be ignored. It is mistaken to draw any hard and fast conclusion about anybody unless a baseline has been established.
Which brings me to the main point of this article:
How is the foundation for a baseline devised?
Perhaps the quickest and possibly smartest way is to ask simple questions.
However, it is vital that the questions do not result in quick “yes/no” responses.
In the NLP world, this means avoiding conversational postulates – questions that lead to a response based on a direction.
Part of what you are attempting to achieve is to force a person to move their eyes into various quadrants. In other words up, down, to the left and to the right eye movements.
This causes a person to enter the visual, auditory and emotional areas of their brain with the result that both hemispheres of the brain become activated.
While watching this information, calibrate whether the words uttered and the body language expressed are congruent. Are they aligned?
This does require intuition to complement the witnessed evidence.
Always remember that context plays a significant role in all of this.
Do not judge, simply accept that the behaviour observed should be applied strictly to the existing context only.
Attempt to hold off making assumptions when you gather information.
Stay aloof and refrain from being judgmental.
Keep in mind that we are all unique individuals with our own experiential model of the world. This needs to be respected.
When you are establishing a baseline stay emotionally neutral.
Be aware that what you are seeing and hearing belongs solely to the one person in the particular context and no-one else.
Stay focused and objective.