While communicating with others, we don’t just randomly move our bodies and make gestures. The gestures that we make, our various body movements and the facial expressions we put on are all connected to the way we are feeling at any particular moment.
In other words, our body language is an outward expression of our inner emotional state. It’s not just the facial expressions that indicate the way a person feels but movements of the rest of the body including the ever-elusive feet can also provide strong clues to a person’s emotional state.
Unconscious to unconscious
Freud said that communication can happen from the unconscious of one person to the unconscious of another person without the involvement of the conscious. This is very true. Have you ever had that feeling of uneasiness after meeting a person where you said something like, ‘Something was not right about him’ or ‘I don’t really trust her’?
What’s happening here?
Even though you can’t understand the reason why you doubt the person’s intentions, you are intuitively convinced that something’s fishy. Later on, your hunches may even turn out to be true when that person does something mischievous.
No, you’re not a psychic. Actually, it was the person’s uneasy body language that you were unconsciously aware of that caused you to doubt the person. We can unconsciously read other people’s feelings via their body language but the problem is, it is difficult for us to be sure of our hunches if we can’t back them up with good reasons.
This is particularly true for men. Men and women both intuitively read other people’s body language but men usually override their intuition because they tend to look at the world in a very logical, 1+1=2 kind of way. They usually don’t pay much attention to their gut feelings and believe that they arise out of the blue and have nothing to do with what’s going on.
On the contrary, women can read the body language of others with high precision because they know that their hunches are telling them the truth or at least pointing to something, hence the expression ‘woman’s intuition’.
One reason for this could be that a woman is required to communicate with her child only non-verbally for the first couple of years. So she has a good hold on non-verbal communication.
Also, the primary role of women throughout our evolutionary history has been as ‘gatherers’ of food, spending most of their time with other women, nursing and feeding children.
This is why, unlike men who respond to stress with the fight-or-flight reaction, women respond to stress with what is known as the ‘tend-and-befriend’ cycle in which they try to seek social support.
It is no secret that women are better than men in picking up non-verbal signals. If a person’s non-verbal signals don’t match their words, women discard the verbal message and give preference to the non-verbal cues.
It is not uncommon to hear a woman say something like, ‘I know she was apologizing but did you see the look on her face? She didn’t look sorry at all’ or ‘Yes he complimented me but the tone of his voice clearly showed that he was lying’.
Men are befuddled when they see women making these conclusions that apparently seem to have no logic but turn out to be true nonetheless.
Women care more about ‘how’ a message is communicated while most men only bother about ‘what’ the message is. As it turns out, the ‘how’ often reveals more truth than the ‘what’.
If you are a woman, decoding body language will brush up your already existing skills and if you are a man you definitely need to learn body language.
Sending and receiving messages
People are always communicating their true feelings via their body language. It’s just that your eyes are not open enough to see them. Knowing how the person really feels in any given situation can have myriad benefits.
When you master body language, you’ll also become aware of signals that you are sending to other people and you’ll know what kind of impact they can make.
You’ll know beforehand, for instance, when a conversation isn’t going the way you want it to go and then you can take steps accordingly to turn the tide in your favour.
Decoding body language is important because it will help you create the impression you want or even fake the impression you want. This will enable you to control the way others perceive you.
The power of decoding body language
Body language is the closest you can get to mind reading. To illustrate how important learning non-verbal communication can prove to be in knowing a person’s real emotional state, I want to give you an example.
It is a real-life example that I came across in a book titled What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent.
It so happened that they had caught one criminal and were having trouble finding his partner. The former wouldn’t reveal any info about his partner and so the FBI guys came up with a different strategy.
They showed pictures of all the possible suspects to the one they were interrogating and checked his non-verbal reaction to each photo. On seeing one photo, he made an eye movement that didn’t occur upon seeing other photos. The FBI knew what that eye movement meant and so were motivated to question him more and more about that suspect.
Eventually, they caught the other guy involved and yes, it was the guy on that photo. It’s no wonder that various defence forces in many countries of the world are trained in non-verbal communication these days.
People don’t pay much attention to body language because they aren’t aware of its power and effectiveness. While communicating with others, they only look at the other person’s face or hear their words.
Yet facial expressions and words are the least reliable cues in body language because one can easily manipulate them.
By mastering body language you will know the true intentions of a person even if he claims otherwise. The world around you will open up and you’ll see things you never saw before. You’ll have ten eyes instead of two.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.