Tag Archive for True Meaning

Leaning And Ready Language In The Office And Elsewhere

We show attentiveness and also readiness, meaning a preparedness to take action by leaning toward the speaker, or things we want to get closer to, and away from speakers, or things we want to avoid. “Things” in the sentence previous can mean anything from proposals, ideas, opinions, decisions or anything else for that matter. This “ready posture” is akin to the sprinters ready position at the starting blocks and is called an “intention movement” because it tells us what someone wishes to do. The hands are placed on the legs or knees and the body leans forward ready to spring up and close a deal, or any other action that is being presented. It can also be done by placing the hands on the chair, arm rest or hands on the knees. While standing, the ready position is taken up by placing the hands on the hips. The eyes can also play a role in ready language as they make frequent and repetitive ganders to where a person is thinking, or where they would like to be.

In a business meeting or on a sales call, the ready position indicates that it’s time to stop talking and time to start closing, and that any agreement related to the conversation previous is likely to be accepted. Leaning forward not only means readiness, it sometimes means general interest. For example, a conversation taking place between friends containing some juicy gossiping or with an enthralling storyline, will have each party up “at the edge of their seats” and engaged in the conversation seemingly hanging onto every word. Other times, leaning language means that someone is late and needs to leave, or is bored and ready to go. The opposite position, meaning backwards leaning shows the reverse. It shows a detachment from the topic or from the speaker but can also indicate a high degree of comfort or relaxation where someone wishes not to leave. To uncover the true meaning behind leaning it will be a matter of tracking down additional cues to produce a cluster, and then matching this cluster with the context. The torso, however, is a great place to look to uncover where someone wants to go; it usually points directly to it.

A final ready posture that tells us someone wants to leave happens by propping the body up and coiling the legs underneath in a seated position. Uncrossing the legs and getting them underneath the weight of the body, shows body language readers that someone is ready to pick themselves up. This type of body language is a “leading gesture” because it is a predictor of what is about to happen. The body can also be tensed up or fidget so as to ready itself even more, and be moving away from what would normally be perceived to be the centre of attention. When people want to leave, their body begins to lean toward the exit, but even if their torso’s don’t, their feet will betray them by being extended forward. Additional ready gestures include straightening clothing, arranging or organizing papers, grabbing bags and so forth. These last cues, like the others, indicate an effort to get things going.

Intuition Versus Perception In Body Language: Seeing What We Want To See

Research by Harvard Robert Rosenthal conducted in the 1960s showed how people see what they want to see, instead of what’s really happening. In his study, he had set up two groups of students with a maze constructed for their subjects – rats. One group of students were told that their rats where “dumb” and the other group was told that their rates were “smart”, specifically bred to run mazes better then the other rats. While both sets of rats performed equally as well, the students with the preconceived notion that their rats where dumb catalogued behaviours supporting their initial impressions. The students with the “dumb” rats found that they were lethargic and dull. The rats of the group who thought they had smart rats documented how bright, alert and efficient the rats where as they made their way through the maze. Clearly from this study, our preconceived notions are potent and misleading. The same pitfalls can arise during the analysis of body language. If we truly wish to see nervous, emotional or confident body language, we will. But if we open our minds, we might see something completely different from what we initially expected to see.

Can this shyster ever be trusted?

Can this shyster ever be trusted?

Intuition includes the processing of information that we’ve obtained by observing people. When someone says they have a “bad” feeling about someone or they feel “uneasy” or the salesman was “slimy” they are using their intuition. Sometimes though, our intuition becomes clouded by preconceived notions and new information is tainted or distorted. This is when reading people can backfire to hurt us and others. When reading people it is important to clean the slate continuously and read each cue separately. While the rule of fours says we need to add cues together to discover the true meaning, using proper intuition without distortion, means we need to read each cue on their own. It means we need to avoid looking for hints we can use to support our conclusion, they are either there or aren’t there. In fact, the conclusion needs not play into the equation at all when reading but rather be a formulated after we have analyzed all the available information.

Many optical illusions or visual tricks rely on the fact that our brains are constructed to find information we think should be there, rather than looking at information that is actually there.

It’s easy to silence our intuition and ignore it since that little voice inside our heads is always trying to speak out and it’s only right some of the time. Let’s take poker again as an example. We found that baselining an individual can help in many ways most notably to help us reference behaviour, however, it would be disastrous to continue to call or raise someone who normally bluffs just because we have a strong hand, say a full house. In this situation, we are ignoring the current behaviour of the individual in favour of preconceived notions about them. As the hand plays out, we find that this bluffer continues to call even on our strongest bets, we find that sometimes they even raise or re-raise pushing the stakes even higher. Naturally, they’ve caught a rare hand, four of a kind, and easily crushing our full house. We’ve missed all the signals. The clues given all along were consistent with a strong position but we failed to read it correctly because we ignored all the rules. The information coming told use to read his moves at face value instead of modifying it to suite our needs, but at every step we ignored this. Our filters are important in simplifying information since it’s impossible to analyze everything going on around us, but we shouldn’t throw aside good information.

Having a good intuition is often not enough though. A “funny feeling” or “having a sense” or being “uneasy” about someone or something has merit, but if you can’t support your intuition with support such as postures and signals or in the case of poker “tells”, then we can’t graduate into a full reader of body language.

When we describe our intuition to others, we also need the proper vocabulary to convey our feelings to them. But this isn’t the only time we need to use the proper language of nonverbal reading, in fact, we need to train the little voice inside our head to also talk us through as we read others. When I watch someone, I can say unequivocally, that I think they are a timid, or confident or lack confidence and use specific examples. By the end of this book and with a little bit of practice, you will be able to do the same. As you learn, don’t be afraid to review the information in your head. Every mind is built differently, and I have a gift (when I’m actively listening) to remember verbal dialogue that has transpired years previous whilst recalling specific sentences used, the context and the location. Unfortunately for others, and sometimes fortunately for me, this has made me a very powerful debater. I can remain one hundred percent consistent in my position and use inconsistencies across the short or long term, to point out errors in reasoning of others. I can also cite specific instances that lead me to modified my position on things which can later help should I change my defense. Your mind might have more visual strengths, or analytical skills, or something else to help you dissect the cues of others. The point here is to use your strength in reading people rather then to focus on your weaknesses. Regardless however, do be aware of your flaws as it will make you a stronger reader overall.

She really liked me, she was really showing skin...or is she just sweating to death?

She really liked me, she was really showing skin…or is she just sweating to death? It’s the sender that determines the intent of the message, not the body language reader.

Here are some final tips for reading via intuition. When in doubt, trust your gut as usually, but not always, it’s right and can be your saviour when we can’t pinpoint specific cues. Switch your mind back on and be more than just a casual observer of your environment. In the Sherlock Holmes book, A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes tells Watson that he knows there are seventeen steps leading up to Baker Street. Watson was impressed by his observations, but it didn’t happen through magic, it was not more than simple observation. While Watson had merely seen the steps, Holmes had actively observed them. In a study by Simons and Chabris in 1999 out of Harvard University, Cambridge it was shown just how poor people are as observers of their surroundings. In the study a man walked in front of a group of students dressed in a gorilla suit while other activities took place around them. Half of the students hadn’t even noticed the “gorilla in their midst” which aptly formed part of the title to the study! It just goes to show that passive watching and active observing are two very different things, and this is what will separate average body language readers that cover the material like anyone else, even recall it, but two weeks later, become half as effective or worse, from those who build on their skills daily on their way to mastery. Active observation is a key ingredient to reading people and it can’t be done walking around blindfolded, however, even with a keen eye there will still be signals that go unnoticed as body language is fluid, ever changing and sometimes never repeating, meaning you only get one shot to catch a signal before it’s gone forever. Life is rich in detail and complex, we’d be fools to think we could read everything, but even with minimal effort, we can still impress others, and even ourselves, with how much can be read.

Remember too that it is always your job to determine the true intent of the sender, whatever cues they give off. Once you’ve caught cues that you think matter, remember that it is the sender of the message that determines it’s meaning, not the receiver.

This all sounds like a lot of work, but don’t worry, with practice your mind essential shifts back into autopilot and the process happens naturally. With time and practice, your subconscious will pick up and interpret skills all by itself without requiring active thought.

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.