9 Insights on Body Language — Becoming a Social Engineer

So body language is a pretty cool thing. In 1971, Professor of Psychology Albert Mehrebian conducted a study on human communication, the results of which brought him to two conclusions. The first is that there are basically three elements when it comes to human communication: words, tonality, and nonverbal behavior. His second conclusion was that, of the three, it’s the nonverbal cues we pay the most attention to.

According to Mehrebian, these three elements hold different weight when it comes to our likeability. Words account for 7%, tonality accounts for 38%, and non-verbal communication accounts for the remaining 55%. So words are important. The way we say the words is also important. But the way our body behaves is the most most important. By learning what gestures to look for, we can teach ourselves to see how a person is really feeling, even if what they’re saying suggests otherwise. This might be the closest you can currently get to reading minds, so take notes!

1. Recognize pacifying behavior:

Covering the neck with the hands, playing with a necklace or tie, touching or rubbing your cheeks, the “leg cleanser”-pushing your hands from the tops of your legs to your knees while sitting -all of these behaviors point to unease or stress.

Being able to see when someone you’re interacting with is stressed can be a huge benefit to you (and them) because it helps you to better deal with the situation (Should you leave them alone, attempt to make them feel better, etc.). Additionally, being able to recognize this behavior can be extremely helpful in recognizing it within youreself and taking the steps neccasary to reverse it.

2. Pay attention to the feet!

Most people attempt to read the face when trying to figure out what a person is thinking and feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the face gives away a lot, but we’re like.. hyper aware of our faces.. ‘cause, you know, it’s your face. Meaning we’re not as aware of, say, our feet. Our feet also tell a lot about what’s going on in our heads, and they’re far easier to read than our faces considering we usually don’t focus on our feet when attempting to conceal our thoughts and feelings.

Bouncing or wiggling the feet often indicates happiness or excitement, but be careful! This behavior can also be caused by anxiousness or impatience.

Important: Make sure to always pay attention to the context when reading behavior.

Also pay attention to the direction of the feet when talking to someone. We face people with our bodies and heads when engaging them, but again, we pay little attention to our feet. If someone’s feet are facing towards you, congratulations! It means they’re totally into whatever it is you’re saying. But if their feet are facing away from you? You can be pretty sure they’re not very interested in what you have to talk about, which saves you a bunch of time you might have otherwise wasted.

3. Don’t forget to smile

The simple act of smiling is beneficial for so many reasons. Not only has it been proven to put you in a better mental state, it’s also one of the simplest things we can do to show somebody we are glad to see them and that we’re completely open to and acknowledge their presence. Plus, it’s contagious, and if you smile and laugh with a person they’re likely to match your energy and smile and laugh along with you. Why do you think people love dogs so much? Most of them are completely ecstatic just to see you. They run up to you, jump on you, lick your face, and humans love that because the dog being genuinely happy makes them feel genuinely happy. Maybe leave out jumping on people and licking their fasces though because it probably won’t go over well.

4. The torso shield

Another big indicator of discomfort or unease is the torso shield. The torso shield is when somebody crosses their arms, reaches across to play with their watch, or holds a notebook/purse close to their chest. The instinctual part of their brain is attempting to “guard” them from a potential threat or sign of danger. In the modern world however, these potential threats come more commonly in the form of awkward situations rather than predators that think you would make a nice lunch. You want to hold frame as much as possible in uncomfortable situations, so next time you feel like guarding, try to become aware of it. Realize you’re in no immediate danger, control your breathing, and stand tall. A simple shift in your body language can be hugely effective in diffusing an uncomfortable situation.

5. Shoulders back, head held high

Want to create presence in a room? Then you need to act accordingly. Walk/stand with your shoulders back and your head held high. This is a two-fold display; it shows that you are both comfortable and confident in who you are and commands the respect of those around you. When you stand/walk tall and strong, people will be far more likely to perceive you that way and will be far more inclined to take who you are and what you’re saying more seriously.

6. Walk with a purpose:

This kind of goes hand in hand with the point above. Good posture just helps a lot guys, I recommend it. You’ll be surprised at how the simple act of walking straighter and slower can raise your confidence. It might feel forced at first but that’s okay, the more you do it, the more natural it will become, and the more comfortable you’ll feel.

7. Fix the fidget

Fidgeting is a sign of uncertainty and anxiousness. If you want what you’re trying to convey to carry credibility, try to limit the amount you move. This doesn’t mean stand there like a board, however. You still want to move, especially if what you’re saying is attempting to show passion and excitement. It means that when you do move, keep your center of gravity, speak slowly and clearly, stay calm. Keep your hands away from your face and don’t fold them in front of you. You could be delivering the most inspirational speech ever written, but if your body language doesn’t match the passion and strength your words are meant to demonstrate, nobody will perceive them that way.

8. Palms up

Most of us, when we speak, speak with our hands. We make gestures with our arms and hands in an attempt to give a more colorful presentation of the words and ideas we want to get across. A very good way to make sure people receive you as open, honest, and welcoming, is by showing the palms of your hands. Showing your hands conveys that you aren’t a threat, that you have nothing to hide and that you’re someone who can be trusted. This is also something you want to be able to notice in other people. When people are speaking to you and have nothing to hide, their palms are far more likely to be open. However, if they choose to conceal them (hands in pockets, folded arms, etc.) while speaking, it could indicate that they aren’t giving you the whole truth and that they have something to hide or something they don’t want to share.

9. Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact:

Let me say it again for good measure: eye contact. Eye contact is so important, potentially the most important aspect of communication. An ability to keep eye contact shows that you are calm, confident, and engaged. Strong eye contact guarantees that you convey 100% undivided attention to the person you’re communicating with. This will make them feel like what they’re saying truly matters to you and, as a result, they will like you and respect you far more than they would without the eye contact. Humans ultimately just want to be heard and listened to, and when you get good at conveying that quality to others, people will like you more. Oh, eye contact is also extremely attractive to both sexes, so go get ‘em tiger/tigress ;).