Where To Find Natural Body Language

Christopher Philip

So I’ve been asked which mediums permit examining and studying body language best.  The clear answer is in everyday life.  Television, movies and still photos depict an interpretation of natural body language, it isn’t natural body language and it never will be.  In our books we take great pains to have the body language look natural and un-forced, but it’s still just an imitation of what we see in real life and a characterization of what I think body language looks like.

Sometimes when we shoot the images, the captions end up totally different from what we had originally intended for the photograph, simply for the reason that our models didn’t convey the feelings we requested of them.  It is of no fault to them, it is just that body language is so fluid and complex that it’s part of the nature of the business.  So instead of re-shooting the images, I just caption them to reflect what is actually depicted rather than what was first intended.  Even good actors who star in movies and on television will use “cartoonish” imitations of nonverbal language so they can be easily identified by the audience.  In other words, they exaggerate their expressions to suite the scene and ignore minor movements and microexpressions that flash across the face in seconds during real life situations.

(“real life” nonverbal communication)

When we shoot for the book, we can come close to a true depiction, but the thoughts and emotions that create the body language have to come from the subconscious to be totally honest.  However, once you’ve seen an example, even a rough one, of some contrived body language, it becomes a lot easier to spot the cues in real life because even real life depictions vary from person to person and within context.  Our minds have an excellent ability to categorize things and is able to do so remarkably fast, so putting open and closed body language or dominant and submissive postures into order is simple for most people.

Some sources of body language to sharpen your skills include courtroom shows and in a pinch shows like “Cops.”  These will help read lying body language and aggression indicators as well as some open and closed language.  However, even in these shows people understand that they are “on” so their fluidity changes drastically.  In the heat of the moment they will act more honestly, but once adrenaline subsides they will eye the video camera indicating that they know it’s there, which mutes what would come naturally.  If you have ever tried to videotape an infant doing something cute or coy, you know exactly what I mean.  Even small children become fascinated by an extra eye on them and begin to shift their focus almost immediately to the camera.  In television, you won’t get a huge variation in body language since people aren’t acting as they naturally would, rather they are acting as an actor would, and since all good actors follow scripts and take orders from similar types, all nonverbal language in the media appears similar.  In fact, I’m often surprised by how poorly the nonverbal messages are delivered and if actors are reading this, would encourage them to learn how to use, not just the noticeable cues, but the smaller (micro) ones too.

Watch people in real life, either from a distance or up close while interacting with them, as this is your best bet to really learn body language.

I remember back over a decade when I first started to learn about body language so I could get better results in dating!  I really wanted to learn how to read women better so it could help me read their minds.  While this position the matter was naive at best – since women still confuse me, I did learn a lot about reading people in general, so studying body language does serve a useful purpose!  Body language opened up a whole new world that still fascinates me to this day.

If you want to learn more about body language in dating, be sure to check out the Ebook The Body Language Project: The Only Book On Body Language That Everybody Needs to Read.