Tag Archive for Gestures

The Rule Of Four

Are there enough cues to justify a conclusion in this case?

Are there enough cues to justify a conclusion in this case?

The rule of four, and it’s an important one, says that you can’t attach meaning to a single gesture and accurately judge a person. The rule of four calls on us to read cues alongside other cues commonly referred to as “cue clusters” before drawing conclusions. The more cues that appear in association with other cues, the more accurate one can be about the underlying meaning. It isn’t impossible to see cue clusters in the six’s and sevens or higher. However, most agree that four independent signals is enough to positively identify true meaning.

Sitting with arms tightly pressed against the chest can mean that a person is uncomfortable, but it can also mean that a person is cold! Scratching the nose or face can mean that a person is lying or it could actually have an obvious purpose; to alleviate an itch! However, touching the nose, wiping the mouth in a down-stroke, avoiding eye contact and fidgeting tells us that something dishonest is probably going on. Another example of a cue cluster is as follows: crossing the legs by bringing one foot over the opposite leg (the figure-four leg cross), fingers interlinked together (steepling), leaning back in the chair, and tilting the head back and looking down through the nose at others. This cluster shows arrogance and superiority. However, just the figure four, which is a mild crotch display on its own, means very little. The figure-four-leg-cross only tells us that the crotch has been put on display, but does not necessarily attach meaning to the gesture and indicate arrogance. To some, this posture might not even mean that, it just may be a comfortable way for them to sit.

In all cases, gestures are just gestures and nothing more. It is our targets, the creators, who, knowingly or accidentally, attach meaning or emotions to gestures; it is the senders who are in charge of the delivery phase, and we, as readers, who are in charge of the deciphering phase of the transaction. In other words, it is the sender who is responsible for the message and the meaning entirely, the reader is a passive entity that should never project meaning, especially from that which is not present. That’s not to say that a reader would try to create emotions inaccurately, as this would be counterproductive, but rather that it would be a mistake to bring a gestures to the consciousness of a target and then try to persuade them that their intentions are different from that which is actually true. In many cases, however, you may find that targets won’t be aware of their true emotions anyway and will generally be uncomfortable to be made aware of their subconscious gestures, so reads are best kept to one’s self. Just like you wouldn’t show your cards in poker game, you shouldn’t actively show off your body language skills. Reads, and the skills in this book, are much more powerful if kept a secret.

Not all body movement has hidden meaning either. Sometimes our bodies are quiet and do no talking at all. It is normal for novice readers of body language to immediately begin to see body language cues creep into consciousness, but it’s a mistake to assume that all gestures suddenly have hidden meaning and get carried away with reckless diagnosis.

Let’s take another cue cluster: arms crossed tightly over the chest, legs crossed, head down and shoulders pulled inward. Our conclusion here is that our target is uncomfortable and is closing off the outside world. As signals are removed from this cluster we can be less certain of their emotional origins. Legs crossed with head down can mean just about anything, but even if we add in shoulders pulled inward, it does not provide solid evidence of anything underlying. What we really need here is the fourth, the arms pulled in tight against the body, to really give us enough information to justify a conclusion. The other cues by themselves are closed body postures, but they can be due to other factors. Leg crossing can sometimes even demonstrate interest, as is the case when they are crossed toward a girlfriend or boyfriend (rather then away) for example. The rule-of-four says that we need a “preponderance of evidence”, a term borrowed from the civil judiciary system. We have preponderance of evidence, not when we have achieved absolute unquestionable or irrefutable data, but instead, happens when we have superior weight in our favour and in this case, four independent cues is plenty of weight.

This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, or that we shouldn’t read people who only exhibit one or two cues. Reason being that the damage that might occur from an inaccurate read is likely very small so long as we keep it internalized. We can still make educated guesses or employ “working hypothesis” that can change with additional information as it is collected. One or two cues is sometimes all we get. Older people, who naturally have more controlled and subtle affect, and people learned at controlling their body language, such as public figures, only emit very subtle, fleeting or few nonverbal cues. In this subset of very controlled and practiced people, we often only see cues that are accidentally leaked, which in and of themselves are important, perhaps even more so then complete cue clusters in regular people. The caution here is to avoid premature conclusions on weak data especially when the stakes are high and that sometimes a gesture isn’t anything more than a gesture.

The Five Cardinal Rules Of Body Language

Is she cold, or angry?

Is she cold, or angry?

Single gestures by themselves can not reveal the true meaning of the situation. There are many more factors that play into reading people then just identifying single cues. When people move, they are fluid and changing, so too are their moods and context. One must use the full picture to discover the story. The ‘rule of four’, congruency, context, baselining, and intuition are the five cardinal rules that any body language master must abide by and we cover them next.

Why We Should Picture People Naked!

How does this posture appear fully nude?

How does this posture appear fully nude?

My final thought in this opening chapter should keep your imagination in full gear because I am about to recommend that you do something naughty to become more proficient at reading body language. I’m instructing you to picture your body language subjects as if they were totally nude! Body language cues came about over our evolutionary history, so it naturally follows that they developed without clothing or coverings. Imagine, for example, a full body steeple where the arms are placed behind the head and the body leans back with the legs spread wide open – a crotch display! It is the way a proud (or arrogant) man sits to put his full package on display. True, it is slightly less offensive with clothing on, but it still carries the exact same meaning since its true intentions were delivered as if the clothing were absent. Picturing people naked helps us to think about not just the message, but also the route behind the message. Men who hold their legs spread wide open are perceived as arrogant but women who hold the exact same posture will be thought of as sexually open or “easy.” While each party might not specifically intend to deliver this message, it matters little to how others subconsciously perceive them.

What is her body saying with it's "openness."

What is her body saying with it’s “openness.”

Arrogance and sexual openness are not the only gestures that are made more salient by picturing people naked but they are the most dramatic. We can also picture meek gestures in the same way. Women that place their hands over their laps are doing so for just the opposite reason as do women who spread their legs, they do so to hide or protect their genitals for view or from access. The same intention is obvious when women fold their arms over their chest. They are trying to hide and protect their breasts since someone or something has made them withdraw and has made them insecure. Naturally, their arms fold, one over the other, and they hide from view something important to them. There will be times though, when protection isn’t the reason, arm crossing due to being cold is one of them. We will discuss the importance of context in this regard in more detail later. There are other times still, when women put themselves on full display. Women do so by walking with their hips forward and chest back. This is called the parade and her intension is to have men and subordinate women take notice. If you have trouble visualizing this, put it in the context of the local nightclub. Suddenly you see that it follows naturally, and next time at a bar, you might actually notice it in an authentic context.

While we are on the subject of nudity, think about how and where we hold our possessions. A handbag can be held to our sides, but equally, it can be placed on our laps or held to our chest. Handbags therefore, can have a protective shielding purpose, as do other objects in our environment and some women will even admit this as fact by tell you that they feel naked without one! Desks can be used as barricades to block ourselves from view and chairs with backs can be used in full on assault by turning them backwards and straddling them, putting the “boys” or “girls”, on full display. Then from the security of our seated position we can toss verbal arrows and spears. People who sit in this way are obviously aware of being fully clothed and most certainly wouldn’t sit this way while naked, but that’s not the point. The point is that people continue to sit this way despite holding the evolutionary hardwiring telling them that the way they are sitting is offensive. Someone that is defensive, on the other hand, will use desks, walls, doors, or other barriers to protect and hide themselves rather than flaunt. You can think of shields such as handbags or jackets like towels, objects that we use fresh out of the shower to block our private areas from view and appropriately conceal our modesty. An excellent example of a real life “towel” and one that is very commonly used during presentations is the podium. Most would say that it is a great place to store our notes and an area to place the microphone, and nothing more, but in reality it’s a place of refuge that public speakers us to escape full view of the crowd. Only the most confident speakers who are accustomed to being exposed in front of large audiences will move about a stage for everyone to see.

So in summary, do as any amateur public speaker is recommended to do, when in doubt, and to make the points expressed in this book more salient, picture your targets naked!

Using Body Language To Get The Results You Want!

A confident posture includes having the shoulders back and upright, head up and level and a well balances body. Confident people move freely without hesitation, make appropriate gestures, and hold smiles often. People that lack confidence will walk with a hunched back, they will be careless with their arm gestures, will sulk and frown, and their head will droop. They often appear sad or tired and the frown lines in their face will depend with time producing permanent wrinkles. Often they aren’t much fun to be around and seem to be taking every chance to drag you others around them down. However, far from acting consciously, people who lack confidence are acting out of habit and routine.

Subconscious facial expressions can make people think you don't like them which might be opposite to what you intend.  In this case, we see scorn when perhaps what was intended was deep thought.

Subconscious facial expressions can make people think you don’t like them which might be opposite to what you intend. In this case, we see ‘scorn.’

Part of the power behind body language stems from its direct connection to someone’s overall disposition, how life has treated them, and also how they treat life in return. Since all people face challenges confident body language tells others if a person actively takes control of their life or lets life push them around.

If you meet a “Not OK” person you will subconsciously feel uneasy or suspicious. Sometimes people put on a good temporary show but within a few minutes their bodies relax only to revert back to their natural dispositions. We instinctively know this and read it, but don’t always bring it to our active consciousness to process it. Have you ever asked others what your body language portrays? Do you hold certain gestures that make you look unapproachable or negative?

One of my wife’s friends consistently receives negative comments about her scowls despite being an extremely kind hearted person. However her natural face appears ‘bitchy’, so much so that it’s her defining feature and one that is joked about by those that really know her. This example raises an important point. Our bodies leak information without our consent and when we aren’t receiving the results we want, we should do something proactive about it. From an outside perspective, people think that her face really shows inner turmoil and then discount her kindheartedness even on a first impression. It is her facial expressions that set the tone with others, even before she has the chance to speak. She then must work extra diligently to reverse the first impression she creates. People naturally perceive those that hold negative facial expressions and body language to be holding a grudge. This story outlines the importance of monitoring our gestures and facial expressions to convey the types of feelings we wish to show the world and achieve the results we desire. Thus, while I don’t know this person well enough to explain this trait to her without offending her, others have, but with only mediocre results. At least now she is aware of what impression she makes, so she can resolve matters more quickly if she senses negativity from others. With just a modest change she could reap immense results.

The point here is that if you hold negative body language, it’s not yet too late to fix things so hold your head up high and watch people around you begin to treat you better. Sit more upright, swing your arms, smile more and despite inner feelings, start acting happy. Body language is a great way to ‘fake it until you make it’. Holding confident body language makes us feel confident so let’s use our bodies to change the patterns in our brains.