Reading her Body Language (and your own)!

“Err… so… um… why is she touching me?

Larry:   “Hey there! What’s happening? My name is Larry.” [Extends his hand out]

Lisa: “Nothing much – just waiting for my girlfriend.” [Keeps her hand on her lap whilst her eyes scan the room looking for her girlfriend]

Larry:   [Retracts his hand] “I see. Um… Yeah… Great night isn’t it? This is the first time I’ve been to a comedy club. So what do you do?”

Lisa: “I’m a medical student.” [She switches her body position to face away from him]

Larry:   “Whoa! That must be tough. So… do you like… dissect humans and stuff? I work in insurance. Yeah, I always wanted to meet a doctor. Do you come here often?” [He walks around the table so that he faces her again]

Lisa: “Oh that’s great.” [She flashes a quick smile]

Larry:   “Yeah, it must be my lucky night then.” [Chuckles] “So what are you doing this weekend. I’m going to play golf with some friends from work. Do you like golf? [Does a quick practice swing in front of her]

Lisa: “No” [She now places her right hand on her forehand whilst resting her elbow on the table]

Larry:   “Oh, yeah – golf is a tough sport but you get use to it. Do you know what I mean? Sorry but my friend just arrived so I have to leave now. Do you want to go for a coffee this weekend? What’s your number?”

Lisa: … … …

I’m pretty certain that you can guess what Lisa’s response to Larry would be but if not…

Lisa: “Sorry, I’m busy this weekend. Have a good night.” [Whilst in her head she’s thinking to herself, “I’m not going to give my number out to you! You’re such an ass-clown! I don’t care about golf or you! You smell! Stop talking to me! Don’t you realise that I’m not interested?!?!”]

It was clearly obvious that Larry was firing blanks at Lisa with his blah, blah and more blah. At the end of the day, Lisa was JUST not interested and that’s perfectly fine. Hey, kudos to Larry – he had to courage to say “Hi” and you know how much I love that but he should have asked more open questions and talked less about himself. Basically, he should have saved his conversation for someone who actually cared and took an interest in him.

Before we have a look at how we can gauge if someone is interested in taking to us, let’s have a quick look at what body language is. Much like a conversation where words are exchanged between 2 people, body language is a 2-way-street. In the above scenario, Larry, to the best of his ability, read Lisa’s body movements and then responded with his own movements and Lisa, to the best of her ability, read Larry’s body movements and she responded with her own. Obviously, Larry COMPLETELY misread Lisa’s body language so as you can see, failure to effectively interpret your conversation partner’s body movements can cause immense irritation to the person you are talking to.

Now just imagine that you’re at a job interview. If you’re blabbering on and on (and on!) about your achievements and you fail to see that the interviewer is actually looking down at her notes whilst covering her chin, this could cost you the job because you have irritated the hell out of her. As you can see, this is NOT good so that is why we need to learn how to effectively read body language and the best way to do this is to know what to look out for with the 3 Cs as reference (James Borg, 2008).

The 3 Cs are “Context”, “Congruence” and “Clusters”.

  1. “Context” is an easy one because this refers to the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation. As an example, you’re an idiot if you believe that a woman, after coming back from a grueling 10 km hike, would be eager to talk to you – her tired facial expressions should be a dead giveaway.
  2. In terms of “Congruence” if she says that her hike was absolutely awesome whilst her eyes are looking down at the floor, she’s definitely not telling you the whole story. What she is saying and what her eyes are doing are not aligned i.e. they are signaling two completely different things.
  3. Now probably the most important concept to understand is “Clusters”. If you are going to read someone’s body language, never look at one signal in isolation. For example, although she may be constantly scratching her nose, this does not necessarily mean that she’s agitated – she might literally have an itchy nose. However, if she’s scratching her nose and folding her arms together then you know that something is up.

So what are some things to look out for when reading someone’s body language? If you’re new to reading body language, first concentrate on her face. Good eye contact and a smile that doesn’t look painted on but appears ever so gradually are great signs that the conversation is on the right track.

Let’s now look at where she places her arms and hands. If she’s places a hand on your arm then you’re on a roll but if she’s crosses her arms to create a barrier around her, you must have probably said something wrong because now she’s not interested anymore. We’ve got the face and upper limbs covered so now let’s look at the legs and feet. Although the legs and feet are most probably covered by a table of some sort, according to James Borg, author of “Body Language: 7 easy lessons to master the silent language”, a person’s feet are the most honest part of the body because every other body movement including smiling can be manipulated but the feet cannot be. Borg goes to say that since the dawn of time the feet and legs have had to react to threat and danger without much conscious thought. He states that people are conditioned to turn towards things and people that they like. Now relating this back to reading her body language, if her feet are turned away from you, she wants to distance herself from the situation.

Now I could go on forever about what to look out for when reading body language. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you get a copy of James Borg’s book. Alternatively, I aim to write a further 2 pieces on this topic. The next piece will look into more specific details of reading body language and the final piece will look at what your body language is telling her. Just remember, body language is a 2-way-street so if you’re constantly crossing your arms, why would anyone want to talk to you?

On a final note, I’m sure you’ve heard of the “55, 38 and 7” rule so don’t forget it! Although you need to be adept in reading her body language because it constitutes 55% of the communication, you STILL need to pay attention to how she speaks (38%) and the words that she uses (7%).

So why is she touching you? It’s a good thing so that’s all you need to know. Just remember, read her body language incorrectly and you’ll look like an ass!

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6 thoughts on “Reading her Body Language (and your own)!

  1. Yeah, it’s definitely very interesting but a tricky one because it’s not like you’re going to look at someone’s feet that often. Haha.

    A more practical approach would be to observe the general direction of his or her body.

  2. I’m studying NLP and take an interest in this subject, what should also be noted is what a persons ‘base’ state/reactions are. She might always act this way when not be interested, he might have caught her at a bad time, she might be playing disinterrested/hard to get.

    There are lots of articles on body language/eye accessing cues, on the net.

    http://www.personal-development-planet.com/nlp-rapport.html

    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Art-of-Flirting—Body-Language-and-NLP

    It’s important to notice if their words match their body language.

  3. Nice article!
    I had heard about the feet signalling before and since I was told about it, have been on the lookout for it (mostly when looking at other people meeting each other!), and also considering how my own feet move towards somebody I’m interested in.
    It is definitely true and quite embarassing how easily we give away who we like! Though I suppose it is important, as it makes the other person more likely to reciprocate if they’re interested, without being embarassing if they’re not!
    Feet…a true social lubricant!

  4. @ Eve: Awesome. Where are you studying NLP? I also find this topic very interesting.

    Great point you made there regarding understanding what the base reactions are for a person. However, it would very difficult to gauge someone’s base reactions when you’ve only met them 5 minutes ago. In this instance, there may only be one shot to get it right.

    @ Lance: Thanks Mate. Unfortunately, you can’t really look at her feet when you are talking to her so the next best thing is to observe the general direction of her body.

  5. Hi GP,

    No formal training as yet..it’s rather expensive but there are some excellent books and dvds I could suggest if you’re keen.
    Here’s a good link.
    http://www.businessballs.com/body-language.htm

    http://www.face-and-emotion.com/dataface/general/guide.jsp

    http://www.paulekman.com/

    Of course it’s important to remember context. Their words and body/face may not match but it won’t tell you the why.

    @ Lance.
    Check out the link on businessballs, I had to laugh where it was saying that women are doing the selecting even when guys are doing the approaching and men are pretty er dumb at picking up the signals we send unless we’re very direct and that you’re primed to pounce on anyone willing.

    I’ve read elsewhere that to many guys the very fact a woman is talking to them means they’re interested! You’re a fascinating species. lol

    Don’t believe me? Ever had a female friend or gf give daggers to another woman when you’re round? Chances are we’re picking up on the signals she’s sending (we know because we use them!) whilst you just think she’s being friendly. Same applies to men when a male friend tires to warn you off some guy who he thinks is no good 😉

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