How to Read People
Posted May 27, 2011on:
In order to interpret body language accurately you have to notice it first. If you think this sounds pretty obvious, you’re right. And yet some people just don’t pay enough attention to how someone else is behaving. Then they’re surprised when the person tells them he’s unhappy, he’s angry, or he’s packing up and leaving home. ‘But you never told me’, is the response. ‘If you’d paid attention, you’d have realised’, comes the reply.
Noticing how people behave is the first step towards understanding. After that you can begin to interpret what their behaviour means. Be careful at this point. The experience observer knows that it takes more than one gesture to convey a message.
Think of body language in the same way as you do the spoken word. If you want to communicate a concept you have to speak several words, or even a few sentences, to express what you mean. Body language works the same way. One gesture doesn’t tell the whole story. It takes several actions, working together, to signal a person’s feelings, thoughts and attitudes.
When people are wrapped up in themselves, they often don’t notice how someone else is behaving. Big mistake. By failing to spot the signs, you edit out valuable information. The way a person behaves can complement, supplement, and even supersede what he’s saying.
By observing people’s body language, you’re on the inside track to knowing what’s going on between them. Whether you’re observing participants in a business meeting, a family negotiation, or watching a couple in a restaurant, by being aware of how the people position and move their bodies, you may end up understanding more about their relationship then they do.
Here’s a list of the telltale, mainly facial, expressions for different emotions:
- Happiness: Lower eyelids are slightly raised, crinkling around the outer edges of the eyes, eyes sometimes narrow; the corners of the lips move up and out and lips may part to expose upper teeth; cheeks are raised with an apple-like bulge; C-like wrinkles pull up from corners or raised lips to the sides of the nose. Body is open and forward moving.
- Surprise: The eyebrows zoom upwards in a curve, wrinkles spread across the forehead; eyes open wide showing their whites; jaw drops; mouth slackens. Head hunches into raised shoulders.
- Sadness: Inner ends of the eyebrows rise; eyes appear moist; mouth drops at the corners and the face appears limp; lips may quiver. Shoulders hunch forward; body is slack.
- Fear: Similar to surprise with subtle differences. Raised eyebrows are pulled together [not as much curve in the brow as in surprise]. Forehead furrows in centre [when surprised, furrow carries across the brow]. Whites of the eyes show; lips are pulled back; mouth is slightly opened. Shoulders are hunched, with a backward movement to the body.
- Anger: Eyebrows are pulled down and inward; vertical crease between the brows; eyes narrow and take on a hard, staring look. Lips close tightly, and turn down at the corners; nostrils may flare. Hands are clenched, body is forward moving.
Tip: Be subtle when watching other people. If they feel they’re being scrutinised, they may become antagonistic toward you.
Note: In order to read body language signals accurately you have to consider the combination of gestures, whether they match what the person’s sayin, and the context in which you’re seeing them.
For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com
And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher