how to read body language janae ja-nae the freelancer lifestyle designMy friend Jen is in town for the Opera America conference this week. She and I had dinner at the hotel where the conference is being hosted, when all of a sudden, we were surrounded by attendees and colleagues. We found ourselves in the middle of an impromptu networking event.

I love being a spectator at gatherings like these because it allows me to observe what people are REALLY saying to you…..with their bodies. The body communicates much more information about how we are feeling than we do verbally. Most of the time, we are not even aware of the signals and signs we are giving off.

Here are a few ways to read body language and improve your own:

Mirror: If you have a strong connection with someone, you will start to mirror each other unconsciously. If you would like to enhance the connection, proactively mirror the person. If she leans in, then you might lean in. If he puts an arm over the chair next to him, you may want to wait a few minutes and then do the same. However, do not mirror too much. If it is obviously that you are mimicking the other person, it will have the opposite effect.

Holding Objects in Front of You: When you hold an object in front of you (a coffee cup, a newspaper, hand bag, etc.) it is an indicator of shyness and resistance. It conveys that you would like to be separate from whomever you are speaking to and do not wish to engage. Instead of carrying objects in front of you, try carry them at your side or only picking them up when necessary.

Need Personal Space: Many cultures are different when it comes to personal space. Here in the US, if you stand too close to someone you can make them feel uncomfortable. It is recommended to give people about 4 square feet of space. Once you get to know the person, that amount can be lessened.

Face Touching: Face touching, especially on the nose, is commonly interpreted as an indication of deception. Also, when you cover up your mouth, it suggests that you are lying or hiding something. Consider keeping your hands away from your face.

The Arm Cross: This is probably the easiest sign to pick up. When a person crosses their arms, it is a sign of defensiveness. Some may interpret it as egotism or arrogance. When in a conversation, keep your body open and your arms to your sides.

Face Whomever You’re Speaking To: When we’re happily engaged in a conversation we face the person we’re speaking to with our entire body. When we are not completely committed to engaging with the other person, we tend to angle away from them and to the side. By facing the person directly, you give the impression that you’re genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.

Scratching Your Head and Neck: Scratching your head or neck is a sign of doubt and can easily be interpreted as lying or that you are not being completely honest. Instead, keep your hands away from your head when speaking with others.

Can you easily read someone else’s body language? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were wondering if it was a mutually enjoyable conversation? Have you ever given off negative body language and didn’t realize it? What was the outcome? We would love to hear from you. Share your stories.

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Photo Credit: Flickr, MovieHawk

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