Monday, August 13, 2012

Body Language - Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

Yippeeee! My plane didn't crash.
I was in Dallas all last week, Sunday through Saturday (although I was supposed to come home Friday night). In fact, Friday was my daughter's birthday, and yes, I did miss it on account of my plane having a mechanical issue. Seriously, when I smelled that weird stench that something was burning, I knew we were doomed. Apparently, some kind of electrical mechanism burned out, so we had to wait for a new plane.

Anyhoo, I was in Dallas for some sales training. Yeah, hee-haw! The first day focused on presentation skills. I rolled my eyes too, but in the end, it was very interesting. Since I'm in sales, I rely on reading body language quite a bit, and I even studied it in college. I'm not sure about the 93% of communication being non-verbal stat you hear quoted a bunch, but we can all agree that it's often how you say something that tells the REAL truth.

Here are my tidbits of body language that you can keep an eye out for when you're at work or heck, even on a date!

Hands Clenched. Ever see someone at a meeting that looks like they're praying. Their hands are clenched together, fingers interlaced, palms touching. This is not to be confused with the "steeple" gesture. Scientists say that the hands clenched gesture shows frustration. The person doing the clenching is hiding negative feelings. Experts also say that how high the clenched hands indicates just how negative they are.

So if the clenched hands are up (elbows on the table) near his face, they're more negative. If they're on the table, even with the elbows, less negative, and then others might have their clenched hands down near or below their waist, showing even less negative attitudes.

I got the power!
The Steeple. I also call this the spider and its shadow. With this gesture, the person it touching their fingers, but their palms are not touching. If they raise this "steeple," it shows confidence - even arrogance. You will see managers and people in positions of power often perform this gesture. This is so true. While in training, we had a district manager with us, and when he spoke, he did the steeple a lot, keeping it near his face. It shows a know-it-all attitude, and this guy was definitely a know-it-all.

However, if you lower the steeple down to your waist, however, experts say that shows someone is listening keenly. It shows confidence too, but a more open kind of confidence.

Hand-to-Mouth Combat. Also called the "mouth guard." When someone is trying to deceive you with their words, they will put their hand to their mouth. The brain is trying to suppress the lies. Often, liars will even do a fake cough and then cover their mouths. LIAR! If the speaker does the mouth guard, he's lying.

If the person listening does the mouth guard, guess what - they think YOU are the liar.

Nose touching and eye rubbing are variations of the mouth guard. Not good signs that the person you're speaking with is being honest with you. By the way, if a person's nose is itchy, they will scratch the damn thing. If they're lying, they will lightly touch or brush their nose. You know that's not going to satisfy an itch!

Interesting Dating Gestures. This is where we separate the boys from the girls. The following is only for heterosexual folks only, although I'm pretty sure many of the gestures also somewhat follow similar patterns with those that are homosexual. The sexes all have separate gestures indicating how attracted they are to someone. Men will hook their thumbs (think cowboys in Western movies) into their waist or belts to show how virile they are.

Hubba hubba!
Women will often point with their knee towards the guy they're interested in. The shoe fondle is also a pretty obvious signal. A female will have one knee tucked under the pointing leg, and then they will slip their shoe on and off. Use your imagination as to what that means, you dirty birdie.

When men enter a big social gathering where women are present, they will pretty much seek to make eye contact with just about every single woman there. If the women returns the gesture, that means (at least) some initial interest or attraction. Basically, men are looking for one thing: willingness.

Women are a little different, they will scan the room, seeking out the attractive men. But they zero-in on their man of choice. Women are much more picky and discriminating in such a social setting.

Finally, Eye Contact. Don't stare into someone's eyes for longer than five seconds. Otherwise, it creeps people out. I hate it when people stare into my eyes - especially in business settings. It's like they're trying to dive into my soul. 3-5 seconds, and then break the gaze. Obviously, you can return to looking into someone's eyes (and if there's attraction, go for it). But in a more professional and non-dating situation, watch the eyeball lock!

But there are also cultural differences at work with eye gazes. For example, Japanese people look at a person's neck instead of their face while having a conversation.

If you're speaking with someone, in order to build rapport, make sure you match the other person's gaze 60-70% of the time. Anything over that, you might come off as too aggressive or a damn stalker.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good information there! Didn't know about the heel point. Need to watch my wife's feet more often.
And sorry you missed your daughter's birthday.

Julie Dao said...

GREAT information. I hate people who hold eye contact for too long, it's so damn creepy. I should also pay attention to where my knees are pointing from now on. Thanks for the tips, Jay!

Emily R. King said...

I like to use eye contact to freak people out. I used to do that as a kid. I'd sit in my classes and stare at my teachers until they squirmed. It was fun! :)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

How much of that body language comes naturally, and how much is conditioned by "experts" who teach these kinds of things and then people behave in that manner?

Jay Noel said...

Alex: I made it up for it on Saturday!

Julie: Don't want to send the wrong message.

Emily: Ever do that with someone who's back is turned to you? I've tried it, and eventually, they can "feel" my staring at the back of my head.

Michael: It's all very natural. As someone who makes a living from working with people from all over, I see this body language stuff all the time. Despite becoming more knowledgeable about this - we STILL do it in a normal setting. I spent six hours at the airport on Friday - you can see lots of it just people watching.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent stuff! Bodies say so much. I'm big on keeping eye contact with people. Usually that ends up with people looking directly at me if we're in a group. I've always been told keeping eye contact shows you're listening.

Phats said...

Interesting post I have actually heard that about the steeple. I like the dating advice haha

Happy belated birthday to your daughter

DEZMOND said...

it's true, you can read tones based on body language. As a psychologist, I love to use it in real life too :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I love these body language tips. I'm going to bookmark this post.

I know the Apache don't make eye contact either.

The Desert Rocks said...

I love learning about body language and the steeple is one I didn't really know about.

Jennifer Forbes said...

Love all these body language tips, very useful stuff. I think the eyes usually give most everything away! But it never hurts to be prepared...

M Pax said...

Bummer you missed your daughter's birthday. Some interesting information. Body language is useful to convey emotions, etc ... in writing, too.

Samantha said...

This is some good stuff! I agree with you on the staring into my eyes thing. It totally creeps me out O_o

The Golden Eagle said...

I'm sorry to hear your flight was delayed.

Interesting post on body language! I've bookmarked this for future reference.

Rusty Webb said...

Great stuff. I read recently that the 'arms-crossed-means-listener-is-not-receptive' is a myth. Either way, all those non verbal cues are great.

angel, jr. said...

Definitely get creeped out when someone stares into my eyes for too long....

And some people do need to learn body language, like "hey cut this meeting short, I'm bored". I am sure it reads on my face. I could never hide my emotions.

Kelley Lynn said...

So sorry about missing your daughter's birthday. My 'I'm gonna get stuck here place' is Detroit. That Best Western knows me too well.

Martin Willoughby said...

I never knew that about the clench and the steeple, though I do it makes perfect sense...and I LOVE the picture of Blair doing it. That man was arrogant.

Ciara said...

I'm so sorry that you missed your daughters birthday. That stinks.
I think it is interesting how men an women behave different when scanning a room in social situations.

Vero said...

LOL! All valid interpretations of bodylanguage, Jay. Great post.

You know, I actually do stare people in the eye more than the average person, but I've so far only used that to see how they react (sorry, creepy girls got to have fun too :P) or to sorta intimidate them into getting to the point. I hate it when people beat about the bush at work. :D

nutschell said...

oooh! I loove this post. I can see it being helpful as I revise my novel. Will definitely be bookmarking this.


Mr. Shife said...

Interesting stuff, Jay. Thanks for sharing. I did not have my hands clenched at any point while I was reading.

Jay Noel said...

Christine: Also pay attention to belly buttons - which way they're facing.

Phats: Thanks man!

Dez: It helps me gauge my clients.

Carol: Really? I didn't know the Apache don't do that.

Jay Noel said...

Eve: I see lots of managers doing the steeple maneuver all the time.

Jennifer: Eyes help, but it's what we do with our bodies that tells us the truth.

Mary: Yup. You can incorporate this into your writing for sure.

Samantha: When it lingers past that 5 sec. mark, it gets creepy.

Jay Noel said...

Eagle: Cool!

Rusty: Arms or even legs crossed.

angel: Yup. I can see that one from a mile away too.

Kelley: I've been stuck in Detroit too!

Martin: Oh yeah, he is pretty arrogant.

Ciara: It's okay. I made up for it on Saturday.

Vero: I bet the receiver has to look away!

Nutty: I'm glad I could help.

Callie Leuck said...

My first vivid memory of someone steepling their hands was that weird older bad guy in Beauty and the Beast. The one who carted Belle's dad off to the crazy house, I think? Ever since then, I've tended to associate that gesture (steepled hands up near the eyes) with evil and arrogance. Haven't seen anyone do that in the office yet, thank God -- I'd probably start laughing uncontrollably.

Regarding the slipping the shoes off -- I dislike wearing shoes in general and tend to take my shoes off as much as possible. Although perhaps that is different from what you were talking about.

Michael - I think most of this is natural. People told me I "mirrored" a lot, then I looked it up and now whenever I do it, I notice myself doing it but it's not me trying to manipulate people -- I just tend to mirror body language. Although it does make me feel creepy sometimes when I realize I'm doing it.

Matthew MacNish said...

Fascinating stuff, Jay! Thanks for sharing.

Jay Noel said...

Callie: You bring up an interesting point. Scientists watched the body language of subordinates and their bosses, and they saw the employees mirroring their boss' body language. It was crazy to watch the video.

Matthew: Thanks man!

Melissa Bradley said...

Very interesting. I have to say that I have never heard a woman ascribe that particular meaning to the knee point. It usually has to do with how uncomfortable the seat and how tight the skirt. LOL And I know I don't put my leg up like that. Why? It puts your leg to sleep and makes your knee hurt within 3 seconds. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Wow, this was really interesting. I have to watch doing that frustrated hands folded in front of my face at faculty meetings.

Phats said...

Did I just read you reply to someone by saying pay attention to belly buttons?? haha that made me laugh.

Who you got in the Open??

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I know I already commented on this thread, but there was a fascinating video on Yahoo with a professional poker player. It was all about body language and "telling" and it reminded me of your blog post. I guess there really is something to all of this. He said that he can tell exactly what kind of hand a person has simply by the position their feet are in, or where they place their hands. I was blown away. But the dude is rich. He says 100% of poker is skill (over the long haul). That's just crazy.

Miranda Hardy said...

I didn't know all of this. I'll be on the lookout now at work. Lol

Cynthia said...

I'd make sure to remember to do the steeple if I ever do a live pitch to an editor or agent at a conference.

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