A Crash Course in Body Language, Part 1

To be truly persuasive, you need to have full control over all three channels of human communication. Verbal language is just one channel – although many people believe that we express ourselves solely through words.

While it is true that verbal language has proven to be efficient in conveying statistics, knowledge and facts, it still remains that we use three different channels of communication when we interact with other people. When it comes to face to face interactions, you need to be aware of what your body is communicating because that is what people are really paying attention to.

Body language matters

According to studies in linguistics and anthropology, body language constitutes 50% to 70% of the entire message when a person communicates with another person. Our body language may not seem much at all when we are talking but we are actually sending a bigger message through our facial expressions, gestures and other physical expressions.

The human mind is hardwired to be observant of physical expressions and our brains are also extra efficient in processing and decoding the various signals sent out through nonverbal language. It doesn’t really matter if you are talking to a person from another culture; we have an instinctual awareness and understanding of what body language signals are and what they convey.

Sure, verbal language allows you to intelligently express your ideas but in the final analysis, your persuasiveness and influential power are greatly affected by what people see when you are trying to intelligently express yourself. For example, did you know that placing your arms and hands at your sides when you are talking in front of a group of people is actually a message that you are either playing dead or you are about to fall asleep?

Putting your arms at the sides actually triggers a fight or flight response in the body because in ancient times, our ancestors had to play dead to avoid being eaten by larger animals. Playing dead was much more effective than trying to run away from a vicious, big-toothed animal.

This mentality and instinctual reaction has stayed with us even if we are no longer being chases by massive predators. And when your body language is communicating that you are playing dead, your spectators will think that you have already froze and you are not confident at all with what you are saying. To be influential, you need to get the trust of your audience.

They need to be confident that you know what you are saying and you know exactly what you want to convey. But when the arms drop to the sides, all chances of projecting your credibility crumbles instantly because your body language is not coinciding with your verbal language.

That’s another thing that you have to watch out for: your verbal language has to coincide with your nonverbal language because people tend to mistrust others if they detect cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when your verbal message does not match the message being sent out by your body.

The two channels must run parallel to each other (this applies to your verbal channel as well). If there is friction between the two channels, it is possible that your audience will think that you are telling a downright lie or you are hiding something from them.

Cognitive dissonance breeds mistrust and shatters harmony or rapport, so be very careful with your body language. One of the main reasons why people tend to say no is that the persuader is not showing the right body language. People can become extremely defensive when they think that the person in front of them is not being completely truthful to them.

Body language works both ways

Masters of influence must express the right body language and must also be aware of how to read body language correctly. There is a right way and wrong way of doing things; in the case of reading and understanding body language, you must learn to be observant and you must remember to always read body language in context and in clusters.

Let’s discuss all of these points so you would always be able to properly understand body language. The first requirement is that you become observant of the other person’s body language. You must be able to detect subtle changes in the expressions and gestures of the other person if you want to catch any changes in his thoughts and emotions.

For example, if you were having a good conversation with someone whom you are attracted to and he/she suddenly folds his/her arms, what might this mean? You have already been observant (you have noted the change in body language) but that is not enough. The next step in the process is to understand the context of the body language.

Ask yourself: why was there a change in the body language of the subject? Crossing the arms in front of the body is a sign of defensiveness and possibly anxiety. The person is protecting his vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, intestines, etc.) from possible attack; that is why he is placing his arms in front of him. But it is also possible that the person is crossing his arms because it is really cold. Do you see the difference?

Without any context, body language will not make any sense at all because you will end up making many false conclusions in the end. The next step is identifying the cluster of signs that will constitute the nonverbal statement. Individual gestures are only phrases.

You must be able to connect a single nonverbal phrase with another phrase to make sense of what is being expressed nonverbally. This is called the nonverbal cluster.

It is better to identify nonverbal clusters than to read individual expressions because individual gestures and expressions are often inadequate for any meaningful reading. If you can keep these three recommendations in mind when you are reading the body language of other people, you are well on your way to mastering how body language works.

Three Things You Should Know About The Mind

No matter how sophisticated and intelligent a person may be, he technically still has a primitive mind. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not calling anyone a caveman or anything like that. It’s just that every human being has access to a wealth of primitive instinctual tendencies.

These tendencies have been developed and passed down by our ancestors because they simply work in terms of helping a person stay alive. Survival is still a person’s biggest concern – it’s just that things have become more complicated in our era compared to the days when man led a simpler life that we don’t think about it as often.

But if we trace the real reasons behind our desires, aspirations and anxieties, I bet you’ll find survival at the very at the very root of all of those things.

Since man is secretly preoccupied with surviving, here are some things that you must always keep in mind when you are trying to influence someone:

1.) The human mind is wired to think pessimistically. This fact is often surprising to people since people were taught at a very early age that life is generally easier if you were a positive thinker.

I’m not trying to debate cultural norms here – I’m just trying to point out a scientific fact: our species survived this long because our ancestors were pessimists. Pessimists focused on the bad things that could happen, which actually helped family units survive in hostile environments.

Thousands of years ago, positive thinkers might have felt happier and calmer right before they slept, but that doesn’t mean that they have an edge over pessimists who were more alert to strange sounds and even the smallest changes in the environment.

To our ancestors, change is a cause for worrying and anxiety – and negative thinking helped our ancestors survive while other hominid species simply disappeared from the evolutionary map.

2.) To the primitive mind (as represented by the Reptilian Complex), there is no middle classification for a situation or object. If something is in front of you that can only mean that it’s either bad or good. There is no middle ground at all.

If something is not entirely good, then it’s probably bad and people should probably avoid it. That’s how people really perceive their own realities.

A person might justify how he doesn’t like another person on the account that he doesn’t ‘look like he can be trusted’ but in the end, the justification exists because of the primitive mind’s insistence on a fixed good/bad classification of things in general.

3.) When a person is under any kind of stress (and that includes being in the presence of a rather undesirable person), the sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight or flight response. This is still part of the instinctual package that our ancient ancestors have passed down to our current generation of homo sapiens.

How To Disable Power Players Without Saying A Word

The Challenge

Let's face it, power players exist in every sector of society. No matter what country you're in, what culture surrounds you or what kind of people you are dealing with, you're going to run into a power player at some point. And if you plan on influencing them, you better be ready because they can be a tough breed.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to subdue them without saying one single word.

It begins with their body language. You see, the one thing about power players is they are extremely easy to read because they're very predictable.

The Solutions

1.) The easiest way to disarm a power player is by countering each offending gesture/expression or movement with your own equalizing body language. Equalizing body language is actually more powerful than a power player’s choice of weapons because equalizing gestures and movements can actually help you gain other peoples’ trust and vote of confidence. Power players are universally disliked and rejected by other people.

2.) Power players usually reveal themselves through the handshake so be observant when a new person shakes your hand. You will be able to see and feel if a person is trying to dominate you because he has a habit of doing so.

3.) Learn to recognize the dominating handshake. A power player always shakes first. That doesn’t mean that every person who shakes first is a power player. It just means that there’s a possibility of detecting a power player when the other person shakes first. A power player will try his best to get your hand under his hand during the handshake. You can counter this easily by changing the angle of your hand so your hands would be more parallel (instead of having your hand under the other person’s hand). You can also use your other hand to slightly change the position of the power player’s hand (so your hands would be more equal) and then shake with both hands. Don’t try to outdo the other person by squeezing his hand too hard or shaking too hard. Equalizing gestures are always better and are best for disarming power players.

4.) Some people would also try to pull you in during a handshake. Don’t let the power player pull you in. If he tries to pull you in, try to extend your arm so that your personal space is preserved.

5.) Energy is important in social interactions. Power players usually try to take control of the whole floor by controlling the energy of the conversation or dialog. Counter this by regulating the energy of the conversation. If the power player is dragging down the energy, make gestures near the chest level to raise the energy strategically. If the power player is raising his energy to intimidate people, counter with gestures near the navel area to tone down the energy. It takes practice, but it works.

Benefits of the solution:

1.) You don’t to directly deal with the power player; the disarming process is indirect and through body language.

2.) You can easily change your tactics if the power player continues his power play.

3.) You won’t feel intimidated anymore when you are in the presence of known power players.

The Bottom Line:Power players will always be there to dominate people. We can’t do anything about that – but we can protect ourselves by playing the power player’s game. Power players can easily dominate people because their body language is aggressive and very straightforward. Knowing how to spot aggressive body language can help you spot a power player and this in turn will help you counter them at their own game.

Top Questions About Body Language

Question: Is body language even a real language?

Body language is as real as verbal language and vocal language, it has been studied around the world, people are still studying it right now. Politicians, business people and other sterling individuals are known to pay a large price just to learn how to express themselves properly through body language.

Question: Wouldn’t body language be limited to just one country or culture?

Body language is a universal language which means every person that has been born into this world knows how to express himself through movements, gestures and facial expressions. There are no exceptions.

Body language precedes culture and verbal language. People from different cultures can actually communicate with each other with the use of body language. Body language is just as important as verbal language; it may even be more important because it directly conveys what a person is really thinking and feeling at the moment.

Question: Do people use body language all the time?

People use body language all the time even if we don’t notice that we are constantly using body language.

Question: Is body language an insignificant part of human communication?

Body language is actually 60%-70% of human communication, which means that verbal language & vocal language (the sounds that we make) comprise just 30%-40% of what we say.

Question: Is verbal language more effective than body language?

People respond more readily to what they see as opposed to what they hear.

The human brain processes visual cues automatically. When someone receives input like words and sounds, the logic center of the brain is activated. That means more cognitive resources are required when a person tries to just listen to what the other person is saying. When a person uses the proper body language, he is facilitating what he is saying with gestures, movements and expressions that can be readily deciphered by the other person.

Question: Is body language effective?

We live in the visual age. People believe what they see more than what they just hear or read. Visual language now has more weight than ever in popular culture.

Body language can help excite or calm down 5 people or five thousand people. It doesn’t matter because the impact of one person can be the same to a single person or a large group of people.

Body language can be used in different social situations; name a situation and there is a proper gesture, expression or movement that you can use to win in that social situation.

Question: Is body language hard to learn?

Body language is as natural as breathing and moving about to get things done. Learning body language is just like learning how to breathe well – it takes practice but the whole process is enjoyable and you will gain a lot of benefits in the end.

There is a process involved when a person is learning about body language.

The easiest way to master body language is through observation and practice. The more you observe and the more you practice what you’ve learned, the better.

Handshaking 101

Contrary to what you may think, handshakes are not a modern invention. Tribes of olden times used it. The Romans used it. The Greeks used it. We use it today.

Simply put: the handshake has been there for as long as the human race remembers.

Since this gesture is not going away any time soon, we need to make sure that you understand the various nuances of this hand-pumping gesture. Back in the day, the Romans clasped the forearm whenever they wanted to greet someone.

There was a practical use for this somewhat odd gesture: people routinely checked if the other person was hiding a dagger or blade on his forearm. A single strong shake can help a person determine whether or not the other person is armed or not.

When the aristocracy rose and trade was booming, the handshake was transformed into a gesture that sealed business transactions. People shook hands when an agreement has been reached and goods/money was about to be traded between two or more people.

Some centuries ago, it was generally agreed that the handshake belonged to the male domain. But as the centuries wore on and cultural norms evolved, handshaking became part of the female domain as well. When this shift happened, everyone could shake hands whenever they wanted!

In modern times, the handshake is performed in the following conditions:

  1. When you meet someone new
  2. When you want to greet someone who has just arrived
  3. When someone is about leave, as a way of saying farewell
  4. When you need to greet several new individuals at a social gathering

You may be wondering: what about countries that are not descended from Western civilization? What about the other half of the world – the East?

I’m happy to report that although countries like Japan traditionally use different hand gestures and body movements to greet other people, foreigners can safely use the handshake when greeting and saying goodbye. This simply means that when you use the handshake elsewhere, you will not be committing any cultural faux pas at all.

Who Initiates the Shake?

In a perfect world with no social class, roles and hierarchies, we can all shake hands without fearing any repercussions. But we live in a not-so-ideal world and so we have to deal with all of these extraneous circumstances before we decide to shake hands.

Before you even shake hands with another person, consider first the following questions:

Are you really welcome in the place where you would be shaking hands?

Is the other person truly willing to shake hands with you or is he in a position that he cannot refuse to shake your hands?

Is it proper for me to shake hands first with this person, considering his position and stature?

Power and the Handshake

Handshakes are used to greet and bid people farewell – so they are by nature friendly… Right? Wrong. By nature, handshakes were meant to transmit a person’s stature and positionality within a given context or situation. Although handshakes are still considered friendly (generally), it doesn’t mean that handshakes are always equalizing.

Three types of messages can be transmitted through a handshake:

1. Superiority or dominance

2. Submission to the other person

3. Equality among peers

When a person gives a dominant handshake, the other person will choose to be cautious because you are openly showing authority or power. A powerful handshake will bring people into the defensive.

The submissive handshake on the other hand, will give the impression that you are of weak character and you can be dominated easily by other people. The third handshake (equalizing handshake) gives the other person a reason to trust you because you are neither weak nor strong – but an equal nevertheless.



The dominating handshake

A dominant handshake is characterized by the lead hand facing down on the other hand. You must come in from the left if you want to quickly establish a dominant handshake.

Firmly clasp the other person’s hand and shake. By shaking hands first and by placing your hand directly above the other person’s open palm, you are communicating dominance and authority. You are also communicating that it is your desire to take over the dialog, meeting, etc.

According to an independent research of over three hundred established executives in the United States, eighty-three percent of people who have a high position within a company or business choose to shake hands this way. As for the female respondents, thirty one percent still choose the dominant handshake even if the handshake itself projects masculinity.

In the same study, the researchers also discovered that although the dominant handshake was preferred by some women, a significant percentage of the female respondents chose not to appear dominant.

This was done to preserve the projection of femininity, which is traditionally associated with submissiveness. If the handshake was done in a friendlier setting (i.e. a club or bar), a softer handshake may have been appropriate since men are generally attracted to feminine women (because there are decidedly more dominant women who exhibit some masculine traits).

However, it should be noted that if you are a woman and you want to succeed in something that is business-related, you must use the dominant handshake because it equalizes the playing field for you.

It is not good at all to show people that you can be dominated in a business setting. You must always show that you are just as strong (or stronger) so people will take your words and ideas seriously.

Credibility is also highlighted by women who purposefully avoid clothing that implies that they are simply feminine women. For example, a woman who wishes to sell a big idea to a group of people would most likely fail to impress the bosses if she comes to a meeting in a very skimpy red skirt with matching glittery heels.

In a completely different study from researchers from the University of Alabama, researchers discovered that the dominant handshake was common in people who are generally extroverted (extroverts) while introverted and neurotic individuals (introverts) are more likely to show a more submissive handshake.

Rule of Thumb: Women should appear more dominant in business settings.



The handshake of submission

To the untrained eye, the dominant handshake and the submissive variation may look the same. But in reality, there is a world of difference between the two. With dominant handshake, the authoritative person reaches out first, which forces the other person to open his palm to receive the other hand.

The palms, which in ancient times is used to hold, use and conceal weapons, is considered a ‘vulnerable’ body part when it comes to shaking hands. That’s why a person who routinely just receives handshakes from people are more likely to be dominated by stronger personalities.

The submissive handshake allows the other person to clasp and shake the hand firmly. You can say that the hand on the left is submissive because most of the movement is coming from the right.

As we have discussed earlier, it is not enough for a person to base his analysis on the handshake alone. A submissive handshake does not automatically mean that the other person is truly submissive.

For example, a person who inflamed joints (gout) will rarely shake hands first because such individuals usually have sore finger joints. People who use their hands to earn a living would also avoid any hard hand-shaking for fear of damaging their most valuable tool.

And then there is the handshake of equal power. People of stature and individuals who have authority usually end up using an equalizing handshake. An equalizing handshake happens when both individuals try to dominate each other through the handshake. When two people try to perform the dominant handshake, the equalizing handshake manifests.

The equalizing handshake can be described as rigid and strong, because both individuals are trying to gain the upper hand. This handshake also tight, for the same reason.

When an equalizing handshake is made, both individuals become at ease with each other. Respect is immediately established because each would feel that the other is of equal stature and therefore, deserves mutual respect.

Palm Power: How To Reduce Resistance From Others With Your Hands

The open palm is a powerful expressive tool that can be used to communicate effectively to individuals and groups. Just observe individuals who are under public scrutiny. Most of these individuals would have their hands hidden in their pant pockets or coat pockets.

That single gesture alone means that the individual does not want to talk at all. It is a barrier gesture that sends a powerful visual message instantly.

Body language is much more effective than words or vocal language because once a person sees a non-verbal message he understand instantly. There is no delay between the transmission of the non-verbal message and the reception of the same.

Now, because the “open hands” pose or open palm gesture is so strong, pathological liars and con artists usually use such gestures to get the trust of other people.

But again we have to emphasize that the open palm gesture can only convey sincerity and truthfulness if all other signals within a cluster are congruent with each other. There has to be a clear parallel between the bigger gesture and the micro-signals (i.e. lips, cheeks, eyes, eye brows, etc.)

Experience con artists can learn to control their emotions and body language so much that they appear sincere and believable even if they really aren’t. Be careful when dealing with such individuals – be alert and always read the “body speak” even when you are convinced that the other person is telling the truth.

Let’s say you want to appear more sincere than you are now. What should you do? Easy – use the “open palm” pose more often.

People know that a person who exposes his palms is not hiding anything. However, I must warn you that when you get into the habit of using your open palms all the time you need to make sure that you are ready to tell the truth every time.

You see, the mind-body connection is so strong that when we consciously choose gestures like the open-palm pose we automatically associate the gesture with telling the truth. It’s a basic “cause and effect” relationship that the mind makes with the body language that we consciously choose to use. So again, be careful when you choose this particular strategy.

Body language has strong linkages to the way we express our emotions. Whether you are feeling happy, sad or defensive right now, there is a gesture or movement that will express what you are truly feeling.
That is the reason why it is extra difficult to tell a lie if you keep your hands open and exposed. Your body will react to the emotion and thoughts that you have as you perform the open hand gesture. Since physical responses to emotions are hard-wired, it’s pretty difficult to counter what comes instinctually to people.

Commands and Palm Gestures

Palm up

Palm down, fingers pointed

Palm down

It is very common for people to use their hands when they are trying to instruct or command someone to do something. There are three main gestures involved when a command is being given to another person:

The palm up gesture

The palm down gesture

The palm down, fingers pointed gesture

Let’s discuss the differences between these three gestures. The first one is the “palm up” gesture. A person who is making these gestures can be communicating any of the following:

I am pointing at the relevant item or location.

I am asking you to listen.

I am ready to listen to you.

I want to listen to you.

I am making a non-threatening request right now.

I am passing on important yet non-urgent instructions

I am politely ordering you to do something

The palm-up gesture may have different effects on people but mainly, this gesture means you are equalizing the playing field and you are not resorting to your position or role to get what you want.

People who see such a gesture will not normally feel that they are being threatened with the command and order and as such, the resistance to perform the desired action is minimized or completely eliminated.

The palm-down gesture on the other hand, immediately creates a power struggle between two individuals because this gesture signifies power. The downward movement (which naturally follows a palm down position) means you are directly commanding the other person to follow what you have just said.

If you used this gesture in an office environment and you gave the request or command to a fellow office worker who is of the same level as you, expect some degree of animosity to erupt between the two of you because you are telling the other person that you are superior to him as you do the gesture.

The third gesture (the palm down, fingers closed and pointed) is the most aggressive and dominant gesture of all.

The third gesture should only be used if you are really addressing subordinates who report directly to you and you will not suffer from any backlash by performing a direct power play on a person or group while you were given orders or instructions.

The third gesture is a little off limits because the movement generated by this pose is reminiscent of a weapon beating down on someone.

If you close fingers tightly as you give someone instructions, the tendency is for your entire arm to stiffen as you move your hand back and forth. This really creates the illusion that you are beating with something and therefore, you should be listened to.

Palm positions can also reveal the power play within a relationship. Traditionally, males are seen as the ‘de facto’ leaders in relationships. But we know this isn’t true. It’s different from couple to couple. Some couples have the woman at the lead while some couples have males at the lead.

You can easily see who is in charge when you check out how a couple walks in public. The ‘boss’ in the relationship will usually be walking first, followed by the more submissive partner.

The more dominant one in the relationship will have his palms facing the other partner while the other partner’s palm will be facing the dominant one’s palm. There will be a hand clasp involved, but still, the submissive partner’s hand will be ‘under’ the dominant one’s hand.

Side-oriented pointed finger

Bottom-oriented pointed finger

A fourth gesture exists: the pointed finger. There are two variations of the pointed finger. One is made with the palm partially exposed at the side. This gesture resembles a gun and when you make this gesture, it is as if you were ‘shooting’ orders at someone.

When you make this gesture, it is obvious that you want to subordinate the other person to follow what you want. Expect some animosity and resistance if you habitually use such a gesture.

The second variation of the pointed finger utilizes a palm-down position instead. The thumb is tucked in and the focal point of this gesture is the rigid, pointing index finger. The second variation of the pointed finger is much more offensive and aggressive than the first variation so never use it if you want a more harmonious relationship with people!

In some countries in Southeast Asia, using the index finger when talking to someone is considered a massive insult and you can easily incur the ire of some people as pointing itself is only used for inanimate objects and animals. Be careful with your habitual hand gestures when travelling to other countries!

Rule of Thumb: When giving commands or instructions, use an open palm together with gentle movements.

In a study that focused on audience feedback, a lecturer was asked to deliver just one lecture to three different groups of people. The only thing that changed when each of the three lectures was delivered was the hand gestures that were used during the lecture.

As expected, the palm up gesture was the most effective in grabbing the attention and trust of the audience. Eighty-five percent of individuals from the ‘palms up’ group reported that they liked the lecture.

In the second group, the lecturer reported the same lecture but he used the palms down gesture instead. The positive reports from the audience dropped to just fifty two percent positive reports.

In the third and final group, the lecturer predominantly used the pointed finger while he was delivering the lecture.

As expected, the crowd really despised the lecture. Only twenty three percent of the audience thought that it was a good lecture. In addition to this poor ‘report card’ some members of the audience had enough early on and left the lecture hall completely.

Using the pointed finger when talking to people can also reduce message retention. Since people are automatically on the alert when they see a pointed finger, they will focus more on the gesture than the message.

Instead of using the offensive gesture, why not opt for the ideal pose (the palm up gesture) or at least acceptable pose (the palm down gesture)? It takes time to develop a new body language-related habit, but it is possible. The trick is to watch your hands even for a few seconds just before you speak to check if your fingers are pointing again.

If your fingers are indeed pointing, just correct your gesture and move forward. People don’t usually mind when a person points a few times during a conversation. Pointing gestures can sometimes be helpful if you want to drive home an extremely important point or if you want to show that you are agitated about something. But don’t overdo it!

By correcting your hand gestures during a conversation, you can expect the following to happen:

People will be more open to your ideas.

Resistance to your ideas will be reduced.

You will actively contribute to a more relaxed and productive environment.

People will look at you as a credible speaker.

People will appreciate the way you talk to people.

What should you do if you want to appear authoritative when you are talking?

A good option if you want to appear authoritative (without incurring the ire of your audience) is to simply squeeze your index finger with your thumb. When you do this, all your other fingers are loosely closed and only your thumb and index finger are firm.

People who see this gesture think that they should listen to the speaker because he exudes confidence and authority – the good kind. The gesture is somewhat authoritarian in nature but it does not compare at all to the pointed finger.

The Mind Channel

Is there a ‘secret’ to reading body language?

There is: whenever you have to read the body language of another person, pay attention to how he moves and gesticulates but at the same time, you need to tie that up with what he is actually saying.

Obviously, no real communication can take place if you ignore the other person’s actual words so you still have to pay attention to his verbal language.

Non-verbal language is important but we have to take into account that during face-to-face dialogs, people may show body language that contrasts what they are actually saying.

For example, if a person says “I’m really happy to see you!” but his face and arms are sending off a negative message, it may mean several things:

The other person is not really happy to see you.

The other person has just talked to someone that he did not like.

The other person has just received news that made him unhappy.

The other person is in a bad mood

The other person might look sour as a habit and the body language may be a default preference for that person.

Rule of Thumb: Reading body language will allow you determine whether the other person is being truthful or not. Reading body language is a way validating the other person’s verbal and vocal communication.

Perceptiveness Defined

When a person is called “intuitive”, what does this intuitive person have that others don’t?

Intuitiveness or perceptiveness is actually the ability of a person to read and understand body language. An intuitive person will listen closely to what another person is saying but at the same time, the intuitive person will also pay attention to the other person’s body language.

Perceptive individuals are capable of ‘reading between the lines’ by analyzing all three levels of human communication: verbal, vocal and non-verbal. Some people just pay attention to verbal and vocal, while disregarding non-verbal. That’s like throwing away 70% of the total message!

Between the two sexes, scientists believe that women are naturally more perceptive than males.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t be perceptive, too. But as far as Western culture goes, women are expected to be more sensitive than men, so there is also a cultural component.

Regardless of this cultural component, both men and women should learn to be more intuitive because this has a massive positive impact on a person’s ability to truly understand other people and respond to other people’s needs.

What does an intuitive person look for when he talks to another person?

Simple: an intuitive person is interested in congruence more than anything. If the other person is saying that he is extremely happy, the body language should also show that he is extremely happy.

If the other person’s body language expresses something else then the intuitive person will see that immediately.

The incongruence between verbal language and non-verbal language is a trigger that makes the intuitive person more alert to what the other person is saying.

The intuitive person then starts analyzing why the other person is not sending out congruent signals. Is the other person actually lying?

Is he trying to cover something up? Is he trying to communicate something else? These are the questions that continually come to mind when a person when a person is naturally perceptive.

Perceptiveness may come naturally to some people but this doesn’t mean it cannot be learned. Like any other skill, being perceptive takes time and practice to master and eventually, you too can be as perceptive as you want when you are talking to people face to face.

When a person is perceptive, he knows how to observe his audience for signs that his message is not producing the speaker’s desired results (i.e. persuasion). Once a perceptive speaker begins noticing key signs that his message is ineffective, he must change what he is doing right now to avoid sliding down into complete ineffectiveness.

Perceptive people can still become ineffective speakers. But the big difference here is that when a person is perceptive he will be able to determine at the outset if something is amiss.

Once he is able to do this, he can change what he’s doing so he will become effective. A person who does not know much about people’s body language would most likely continue what he is doing, even if what he is doing right now is not producing the desired results.

Reading Kids vs. Adults

There is no doubt about it – kids are easier to read than adults. Here are some of the main reasons:

1. Kids are still very dependent on instinctual responses to situations.

2. Kids are very speedy when it comes to body language.

3. Kids show basic gestures and expressions when they try to communicate something to other people.

4. Kids have more muscle tone and muscle flexibility and therefore, they can easily express themselves through facial expressions and gestures.

These four main points are important because these present why adults are harder to read. Simply reverse the situation for adults:

1. Adults tend to be more careful about their body language.

2. There is generally a gap or delay when an adult says something and follows his verbal language with body language.

3. Adults may or may not show significant gestures when talking or expressing themselves.

4. Adults are not as keen on moving about and using facial expressions when talking. If an adult can keep it straightforward and simple, he will. Of course, this still varies from one person to another but

speaking, adults like to keep everything simple because excess movement and gestures can tire out an adult easily.

Do adults leave behind gestures and expressions that they have used when they were kids? Not entirely.

Of course, as adults we would have to refrain from performing gestures and movements that may be frowned upon by others (i.e. laughing giddily and loudly when we see someone we know) but that doesn‟t mean that we completely leave behind our expressions when we were kids.

Here‟s a great example of how gestures and physical expressions can „carry over‟ to adulthood. Have you ever seen a child tell a small lie?

What do you notice about the child, specifically his hands? 7 out of 10, the child that you have seen probably put his hand/s near his mouth, as if he was trying to cover up his mouth as he was telling the fib or lie.

Kids as young as four can use this gesture when they are either lying or they have been caught saying something that wasn‟t entirely true. This happens all the time and to kids, the hand-to-mouth movement is the most appropriate gesture for that situation.

But the question now is do adults actually use this gesture?

The answer, believe it or not, is yes. Adults still use a variation of the original gesture but there is usually a delay between the actual gesture and the lie.

The toned down version of this gesture is placing a finger near the mouth after a lie has been spoken. The perceived purpose of this gesture is the same with the perceived purpose of the basic gesture – to cover up the mouth which has spoken something deceitful.

Now you may have heard of people who actually fake body language to fool people into thinking that they are being sincere. Can this be done, at all? Fortunately, to a body language reader, any attempts at faking body language are futile.

The reason for this quite simple: the mind may instruct the body to lie, but the body is hard-wired to express what‟s in the mind.

So if a person is not being sincere, there might be one or two gesture that seem to be showing sincerity but there would be other gestures and expressions within the cluster that would be incongruent with what the other person is trying to project consciously.

For example, a person might consciously hold out his hands (palms exposed) to show passive acceptance or inability to understand but at the same time, his eyes might suddenly narrow or some parts of his body might become twitchy because he is trying to conceal what he truly thinks and feels.

As a master of body language, your first task is to separate fact from fiction. Verbal language, vocal language and non- verbal language (body language) can all be used equally to communicate truth and falsity.

A person who is bent on deceit can mimic the body language of a sincere person to hide his deceit. A master reader on the other hand, would be able to see through the guise of a faker and uncover what he truly feels and thinks.

Always remember that the hands are usually used to „fake‟ sincerity so pay close attention when a person makes use of his hands often to drive home a point, etc. The following cannot be consciously controlled:

1. Dilation and contraction of the pupils 2. Profuse sweating 3. Redness or paleness of the cheeks and face

If a person appears sincere but is suddenly sweating even if it‟s not hot, the person is probably trying to hide something.

And here‟s the thing about people who try to fake their body language – they can only go on for so long. Fakers usually don‟t have the energy to sustain the deceit for long periods of time.

For genuine sincere people on the other hand, it is easy to appear happy, grateful or sad at something because everything comes out naturally. They don‟t have to remember to do this or that – because they are being truthful to what they feel and think.

Fakers on the other hand, have to keep a close watch on what they say and what they show the other person so they can keep their guise up. Faking body language is like being thrown unto a theater stage where you have to act for the whole duration of the scene.

If Person A absolutely despised his boss but he has to talk to this person because he was called to a private meeting, he has to pretend that he wants to be there for the whole duration of the meeting. Doing this can be very exhausting, indeed!

Now, a master reader should also remember that he should also show positive body language when he is talking to people so he can get the right response from other people.

Positive body language helps build self-confidence and can also facilitate better communication between people.

Negative body language (i.e. aggressive body language) should be avoided at all cost because negative body language rarely produces desired results because people are usually more sensitive to negative body language.

Women Vs. Men: The Perceptiveness Test

Are women really more perceptive than men?

If I were to base my answer on an actual study, then my answer would be yes.

And this also confirms the age-old adage that women would always be more sensitive and perceptive than the guys. According to a Harvard study, women are generally better in being perceptive than men.

However, gay men and men who were into the arts (painting, writing, etc.) also showed perceptiveness/intuitiveness that was close to what women could offer.

Women were eighty seven percent more likely to understand the deeper nuances of a face to face conversation.

As for the males, it appears that we guys can only read body language correctly forty two percent of the time only. That’s a massive difference in perceptiveness if you ask me.

Now, within the group of women respondents those who already had children were more likely to be intuitive compared to women who were single and did not have children.

The increased intuitiveness is probably the result of having to care for infants and toddlers who did not have the ability to express themselves verbally and therefore, must be understood only though vocal communication (i.e. whining, laughing, gurgling, babbling, etc.) and non-verbal communication (gestures, facial expressions, movements, etc.)

Don’t think that researchers aren’t looking at the organic/biological basis of perceptiveness. According to research, women’s brains have more than ten dedicated areas used to study the behavior of other people. Men on the other hand, only utilize an average of six areas.

Here’s another striking difference between male brains and female brains: female brains were built for multi-tasking. A woman who is having a conversation can keep track of multiple topics at the same time.

A woman can also utilize several tones of voice to emphasize thoughts and emotions, unlike men who are generally more limited when it comes to modifying their vocal language during a conversation.

Now let’s take a short sojourn into an age-old debate regarding body language.

Is body language taught or is it something that is natural or intrinsic to people? And the answer to this question is open-ended: researchers now agree that some gestures are taught through culture while some appear to be transferred genetically.

For example, you won’t have to teach a child how to smile or laugh because a baby will already know how to smile or laugh in the first few months of life. You also do not have to teach a child how to scream or wail in frustration, anger or pain because those actions are also natural to children (and adults as well!).

Here are some more actions/gestures/expressions that are common throughout the world (that means culture barely plays a part when it comes to these body language signs):

Smiling (happiness)

Scowling (may signify depression, anger, anxiety, sadness)

Nodding the head (generally signifies an affirmative response)

Shaking the head from one side to another (generally signifies a negative response)

Shrugging the shoulders (generally signifies that the person does not fully comprehend what has been said or what is being discussed at that time

Researchers believe that the fourth item in our list is particularly innate to everyone. Here’s why: when an infant is being breastfed, he/she usually signifies that he does not want any more milk by moving his head to the side quickly.

This action unlatches the nipple from the child’s mouth. Toddlers also tend to shake their head from side to side so the adult who is spoon-feeding the child would no longer be able to give the child food.

You can imagine how this action can easily be used by a child later on in life to signify that he does not agree with something.

Both agreement and disagreement are easily learned even when a person has been born blind so we cannot fully argue at all that these gestures are simply mimicked or copied by infants/toddlers from their parents.

Four Simple Steps To Leverage Positioning

Positioning is the way you combine all of your knowledge of influence to actually influence others.

Because as you employ the various theories you have been learning so far, you chisel and sculpt the persona that you project outwardly to people. Think of positioning as the conscious effort to become a person of great influence.

Here are some tips to improve your ability to position yourself when you really need to influence others:

1. Take note of your mannerisms when you are talking to people. Avoid mannerisms that may mirror anxiety to other people. Some people are extremely inquisitive when it comes to other people‟s mannerisms and the best ones can detect if you are really confident or if you are just pretending to be confident.

2. Think genuine or authentic when you are positioning yourself as a person of power or influence. You need to walk and talk the part, literally, when the situation calls for it. You need to communicate that you must be believed. Live and breathe the persona that you want to convey through your body language and vocal communication.

3. Keep your hands moving along with the message – or keep them still. Unnecessary hand movements can also affect your final message. Use your hands to emphasize and wow your audience – not to annoy them because you don‟t care about how you look.

4. People often break bread when they want to talk about extremely important things. If you need to sell something to someone, you try to invite that person to dinner, etc.

If you do this often, make sure that your etiquette and table manners are nothing short of impeccable. If you have to sign up for a short etiquette course (yes, there are actually etiquette courses!), do it.