Body Language has always fascinated me. Over the years there has been a lot of research around how to read individuals.
It has fascinated me from a young age. To look at people and use my eyes to interpret what they are doing with their bodies in conjunction with what they are saying. Often we say things that are odds to what we really think or want to say. There are various reasons for this:
- That we don’t want to upset someone with what we really think.
- We are not comfortable with expressing our thoughts for fear of reprisals.
- We are deliberately trying to cover something up.
- We are bored.
- We don’t believe what we are hearing…[the list goes on]
Develop your Body Language Skills
The ability to read body language is a useful skill to have in your toolkit. It’s not a perfect science, but it’ll help you understand people better. To be better able to respond to them or ask them questions to unearth what they are really thinking.
Following a client meeting I asked one of my team,
Jonathan: ‘How did you feel the meeting went?’
Team member: ‘I thought it went really well.’
Jonathan: ‘What did you think about Fred today?’
Team member: ‘He seemed ok.’
Jonathan: ‘What about his conversation with Tim during the meeting?’
Team member: ‘I thought that was ok.’
Jonathan: ‘You didn’t notice anything in particular?’
Team member: ‘No.’
Fred wasn’t happy in that meeting. Every time Tim spoke Frank’s face started to being more and more red. He was gripping the arms of his chair tightly.
Small things like this matter. During a break in the meeting I asked Fred, ‘if everything was ok?’ He told me it wasn’t. He was concerned about the way Tim was approaching it. If I hadn’t spotted Fred’s body language I would not have been able to rectify or remedy the situation. It would have gone unnoticed.
Body language is a skill that needs to be practiced. It takes time to become proficient. You won’t get it right every time. But it’ll help you in your career if you can master some of the tell tale signs.
The 3Cs of Body Language
To begin with you need to understand the key parts of body language. These are the 3C’s. The 3C Triangle is made up of:
Knowing what these mean and how to use them will help you develop your body language ‘reading’ ability 10 fold.
The starting point of body language is to understand the context of the situation they are in. What is the environment within which you’re reading their body language? If someone is with good friends they will feel more relaxed. If they are meeting with their boss they may feel more anxious or stressed.
Action point: Understand the situation that you’re trying to read a person’s body language. Are they likely to feel relaxed, stressed, not bothered?
The next stage is to look for clusters. There are many body language signals. Our bodies give off signals unconsciously. You are looking for groupings of these signals.
Be careful. Seeing one signal and interpreting the meaning behind it, doesn’t mean anyting. The most common and recognized body language signal is scratching your nose. You must be lying if you scratch it. Generally the person will have an itch that they need to scratch.
Action point: You’re looking for a number of signals that back up a previous signal(s) to start justifying it as a cluster.
For example take Fred, I noticed:
- his voice was tense
- his neck becoming red
- his arms gripping the arms of the chair
This situation started the alarm bells ringing, which I thought was worth checking out.
The third C is congruence. Here we are looking for links between:
- the words a person is saying
- their tone of voice
- the signals their body is giving off
If they align, there’s good chance the person is telling the truth or feels comfortable. If they don’t, it’s worth exploring more to see if there is a problem that needs to be uncovered and dealt with.
Action point: Look for the links between words used, tone of voice and the signals the body gives off.
The 3C Triangle will help you understand the core parts of reading body language. Next time you’re with someone either a friend, family member, work colleague or an interviewer, remember to use the 3C’s. Keep practicing.
Question: What have you learnt from putting the 3C Triangle into action?