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What Your Body is Saying

Ever talked to someone who just rubbed you the wrong way? They may have looked fine and been perfectly courteous, but you just felt like they had no interest in talking with you. Most likely you picked up on something that has nothing to what they were saying – their body language.

A wise drama teacher once said, “your body is your autobiography in motion”. It means that the the more impactful experiences we’ve had will express themselves in our personality, and our personality conveys itself through our body language.

As an introverted adult, I became fascinated by shows that used body language like Lie to Me, and read books from body language gurus, like ex-FBI agent Joe Navarro (his book, What Every Body is Saying, is the inspiration for this blog title). Here’s a few things I’ve learned that can help you make friends and influence people.

The feet are the most honest part of the body. Our lizard brain heavily invests in our legs, as the most important part of our “fight or flight” response:

  1. The feet face whichever direction they want to take the body, so wrap up your conversation if the toes of the person in front of you face the nearest exit.
  2. Crossed legs can be a sign that the person is on the defensive – they are literally hiding their private parts. Legs side-by-side indicate they are feeling more open and relaxed.

The chest is the window to our heart. Our chest contains our vital organs, so the first thing a threatened individual will do is put barriers in front of them:

  1. That includes crossed arms, holding the side of one arm with another, carrying a backpack or purse, or even a raised glass.
  2. The more barriers are up, the more uncomfortable the person is becoming.
  3. An open chest with arms at the sides conveys relaxed confidence, so try and use this whenever you talk with someone off the dance floor.

Your hands are one of your most powerful tools for communication. Politicians often use hand gestures to convey subliminal messages to their audience. An open hand or clenched fist can speak volumes:

  1. Open palms historically meant you had no concealed weapons, but in todays urban jungle, it symbolizes honesty, generosity, and trustworthiness.
  2. By contrast, a pointed finger looks aggressive, like a demand is being made. People are more likely to dig in your heels if you point fingers a lot.
  3. In general, gestures that are further from the body looks more comfortable and authentic than constrained arm movements.

Notice that I didn’t include the face? Two reasons for that: First, the face is VERY expressive, and covering the different nuances of expression would require an entire blog post at least. Second, we tend to learn early on to mask our expressions, making the face the LEAST reliable indicator of what that person is feeling.

All this is not to say you should assume someone doesn’t want to talk to you because they crossed their legs or raised a glass – but if you see similar movements emerging in their body language, it can indicate whether to stay on the present conversation, or change it ASAP.

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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