Payoff: the fastest, easiest and most accurate way to read ‘body language’
Investment: 3 minutes
Hands up who likes being misinterpreted, judged and then treated inappropriately?
OK, what about……hands up who likes reading people’s body language, then forming a half-baked opinion about what that person is really thinking, as if you’ve cracked their secret?
Ahhh, I can hear plenty of hands going up. (Or were you all just stretching? It’s hard to tell.)
Body language: it’s easy to misunderstand
Let’s face it, ‘body language’ has got to be one of the hardest languages to learn fluently. I, for one, have no idea what the person in the picture above is trying to tell us. Perhaps they fell badly. Regardless, there are plenty of books and articles on body language, and it’s often covered in corporate training sessions. But really, I wonder if the only tangible output of all of this is that there are now billions of people roaming the earth misinterpreting the hell out of each other?
“They looked up and to the right which means they’re lying! No, hang on, they’re telling the truth, no, which is it again, it’s different for left-handers I’m sure, oh hang on they’ve walked off.”
“Hey, their arms are crossed, they’re obviously closed and don’t want to talk!” (said most often in a cold room where everyone is trying to keep warm.)
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s real – I know it’s ‘a thing’. My problem isn’t with body language itself, but with the room for misinterpretation and the potential damage that causes in professional and perhaps personal relationships.
So, my suggestion is that we should adopt a more practical and realistic approach. I’ve created one for you that I think works better:
Here are my 7 rules to managing and reading body language
Rule 1: Clarify your intent for your conversation or situation.
(Are you trying to persuade? Listen? Educate? Relax? Be direct?)
Rule 2: Don’t try to be clever trying to read or make sense of other people’s body language.
Rule 3: Be aware of your own. Because that, you can control. And amateur body language detectives are probably trying to read you right now, so don’t encourage them.
Rule 4: Mirror their body language (or parts of it) subtly.
Because apart from increasing rapport, and minimising obvious differences between you, it helps you to consciously notice something that I believe is much more important to the outcome of your conversation than body language…
Rule 5: Energy! Notice their energy in the current moment (and yours if you’re in rapport with them).
If they’re energised (volume, pace, movement) they’re emotionalised. The conversation has its own pulse or heartbeat. And you’re probably doing something right in relation to your intent.
So notice their energy rather than their body language. It’s easier to notice and interpret correctly.
Rule 6: Do your best job in line with your intent.
Rule 7: Just gently ensure that your body language supports your intent.
The problem though with this sort of thing is that it’s challenging to retain and recall all these steps in the moment unless you go ahead and memorise them! So let’s pull out the short version…
The short version? The fastest, easiest and most accurate way to read someone’s body language is to not bother at all. Just notice their energy, build rapport, align your own body language with your intent, and do a great job.
See what happens, and let me know how you get on in the comments below.
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