There was an interesting UCLA research conducted that revealed how only 7% of human communication takes place verbally. That means the words that we think contribute to most to the way we communicate actually matter less than we think. Especially when 55% of our communication, according to the research, comes from our body language while the remaining 38% is based on the tone of voice that we use. Which means that if you could learn to decipher that 55% that goes unspoken, you’re going to have a significant advantage over everyone else when it comes to interpersonal communication.
TalentSmart, a premier provider of emotional intelligence resources, conducted a test which involved approximately more than a million people. The results from those findings were intriguing, revealing that those who fell with the ranks of the upper echelons where the top performers resided were made of those who had high levels of emotional intelligence. 90% of them to be precise. Among the many key skills that landed them in that position was the knowledge that they had to understand, decipher and read all the unspoken cues and signals that take place during the communication process since they knew how to read these clues appropriately.
Before you begin jumping into the 7 strategies to analyze people and read body language from head to toe, there’s one thing that you need to keep in mind. Avoid focusing too hard to looking for cues that you become too intense and analytical. Remember, your body language can give you away as much as everyone else. Stay calm and relaxed, be natural and simply observe without being too critical and overthinking all the cues you’re receiving.
To decipher the secret emotions that others are keeping hidden, here are the 7 strategies you want to employ:
Strategy #1 – Appearance.
A person’s appearance is perhaps the most obvious giveaway and immediate clue you want to pay attention to when you meet them. Do they have a power suit on with freshly shined shoes? Are they dressed for success, ready to make a powerful impression? Are they dressed for casual comfort indicating they feel relaxed and comfortable? Are they dressed seductively on a first date purposely trying to get your attention? Do they have an accessory on them which indicates they might be religious? Like a cross pendant perhaps? There’s a lot you can take away from there by just observing the way they look.
Strategy #2 – Posture.
Is the person you’re talking to holding their head up high in confidence? Or are their shoulders slightly hunched, indicating that they might be feeling insecure or uncomfortable? Are they walking in a way which might indicate their feeling indecisive? When gathered in a crowded room, who are strutting about with their chest puffed out, making it known they’ve got confidence and perhaps a big ego to accompany that? What about the person that’s trying to hide away in the corner hoping to blend in or that no one would notice them? In a conversation, observe whether the person is leaning towards you or trying to distance themselves from you. In general, we tend to subconsciously lean towards a person if we like them or are comfortable in their presence, and we try to place some distance when we don’t like someone. Crossing the arms in front of the chest is the easiest body posture to spot, but the toes should be paid attention to as well. If you notice someone’s toes or the top of their leg pointing towards you, that’s an indication that they feel comfortable around you. Besides watching for the way that they sit or stand, keep an eye out for hand placement when you’re trying to read body language. Someone who has their hands either in their pockets, placed behind their back or in their laps (if they’re sitting down) could suggest that there’s something they’re trying to keep hidden
Strategy #3 – Face.
Out of all the other physical parts of the human body, nothing gives away how a person’s is feeling more than their facial expressions. The emotions which are etched across our faces are more powerful than anything we could say. The deep frown that creases the forehead. The pursed, thin lips. The crinkles around the eyes that often accompany a genuine smile. A clenched jaw. These are all indicators that signal the emotions which could be coursing through a person’s body at the time you observe them, and if there ever was a place where you looked for mismatched cues and signals, the facial expressions would be it. A verbal “yes” which is accompanied by pursed lips, a clenched jaw and a subtle frown between the brows sends a clear signal about how reluctant and unhappy this person is about having to say “yes”. A smile that doesn’t quite reach the eyes and make it “crinkle” in the way that only a real smile could let you know that this person is plastering on a fake smile on their face for good measure when in reality, they wouldn’t be smiling at all if they could get away with it.
Strategy #4 – Eyes.
How often have you heard the phrase “look me in the eye and tell me the truth”? We operate based on the assumption that when a person is lying, it becomes harder for them to maintain eye contact. There is some truth to that, to a certain extent, but skillful liars who want to purposely cover up the lies that they tell will deliberately maintain eye contact, but this is also where they tend to slip up and the most. By overcompensating for the fact that they’re lying by holding onto eye contact for longer than they need to until it becomes uncomfortable. On average, a person will maintain eye contact for anywhere from 7 to 10 seconds, slightly longer if they were listening intently to the speaker. When a person is staring at you with a gaze that makes you uncomfortable, especially if it is accompanied by barely any blinking and perfectly still body positions, that’s your cue that something might not be right and this person could be lying to your face.
Strategy #5 – Tone.
Remember the other 38% that comes from the tone of voice being used? That’s strategy number four to help you get a read on how to analyze the person in front of you. The tone and general volume that is being used during a conversation can provide an insight into a person’s emotions. Is the tone being used soothing, low and comforting? Making you feel completely relaxed and comfortable talking to this person? Or is it short, sharp, abrasive and clipped, which then makes you feel decidedly uncomfortable because it’s giving you the impression that this person is less than thrilled to be having a conversation with you. The tone and sound frequencies that we use to convey speech creates vibrations, and the tone that a person uses has a way of affecting the way that you feel, even though you may not be thinking twice about it. Much like the facial expression, if some said “yes” but it was accompanied by a clipped, short tone, you know that “yes” is not the real answer that they wanted to give at all.
Strategy #6 – Torso
– We’ve always been told to stand up straight, keep our back straight, stand tall and maintain good posture. There’s a good reason for that advice. Not only is it good for your posture in general, but it signals to others that you’re feeling confident and in control. A highly emotional person would have a hard time thinking straight, let alone be focused on standing up straight. If you observe someone who happens to have a chronically saggy posture, accompanied by other indicators that they’re feeling uncomfortable when in the presence of others, it’s a pretty good indication that they’re suffering from low self-esteem. Hunched shoulders are a classic sign when someone prefers to avoid attention.
– Legs. The way a person’s legs are positioned when they’re either standing or sitting down is important indicators as to what they’re thinking and feeling. Having them tightly crossed (not in a relaxed manner) while they’re sitting down indicates that feeling “closed off” towards the other person. When a person is not feeling particularly comfortable, relaxed or at ease during a conversation, it tends to show. For example, if a woman is wearing a skirt that perhaps turned out to be a little shorter than she anticipated when she sat down, being worried about a possible wardrobe malfunction is going to translate over into the rest of her body language because that’s what her mind is preoccupied with. The conversation can rapidly deteriorate when her apparent discomfort becomes obvious, and if the other people who are present during the conversation misread the signals. People who deal with anxiety can unconsciously translate these messages through their feet in the form of foottapping or leg-shaking, which sends a very loud and clear message to everyone else around them that they’re either feeling anxious, irritated or both. Given that a person’s legs are the largest limbs we have, it’s pretty hard not to notice when excessive movement is taking place.