by Edward G. Brown
What is body language? It is a story told by your physical posture, deportment and gestures. Your body “speaks” even when you might think it’s silent.
It reveals you, and how you regard your situation, your companions or the task at hand.
A trained professional who understands body language can know in an instant if someone is or not: telling the truth; fascinated; uninterested; passionate; arrogant; detached; listening; polite; or bored.
By studying behavior expressions these professionals can discern intentions without listening to words. But is it only professionals who can read your body? How about your employees, your peers, your boss?
The eyes have it
Let’s start with one of the most interesting body language examples. It’s called eye contact.
Eye contact doesn’t mean staring down at a client, colleague or worker like a zombie. Eye contact should have flexibility. Zombies don’t have that. Zombies are scary. Your eyes and your face should move gracefully in relationship to what someone else is saying. They can close. They can open. But if you are telling a story and your eyes shift away from the other person, you look, well, shifty. You look as though you are lying, and the other person might well draw that conclusion.
It is said that the eyes are the mirrors of our soul. It is through these mirrors that we see ourselves and perceive our own personal incompetence and inadequacy, as well as our strengths.
A farewell to (folded) arms
Arms aren’t neutral or silent. Nothing scares a lecturer more than looking out at his audience and noticing arms folded across their chests. This body language is death. It means, “I don’t like you, I don’t trust you. I don’t believe a word that you are saying, and I don’t want to be here.”
Conversely, arms open, down, and/or to your side, means, “I’m listening. I’m open, I like you, I trust you.” While listening to others, keep in mind what your arms say about you.
And if you find yourself tapping your feet as you’re listening, it could be construed as a sign of impatience.
And the number one body language offense? That would be yawning. It openly conveys what polite people conceal—boredom or disdain.
Edward G. Brown, co-founder of Cohen Brown Management Group, is author of The Time Bandit Solution.