Body language is perhaps the most effective form of communication that exists.
WORDS ARE FOR COMMUNICATING INFORMATION;
THE BODY LANGUAGE COMMUNICATES FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS.
Knowing how to read body language allows you to read people’s minds. For this reason it is fundamental that every mentalist knows how to interpret body languages.
But not only those who deal with mentalism will find benefit in the study of body language. In truth it would be useful for everyone to deepen the topic.
For example it is possible to use body language to perceive how attracted a person is to you or to create ourselves a signal of interest towards our interlocutor.
You can use body language to realize if others are lying or telling the truth, to communicate a sense of security and inspire respect in any situation.
You can also use body language to put people at ease, make friends quickly, persuade, influence or sell more.
Knowing body language also teaches you to interact with people from other cultures and other parts of the world.
So it is possible to read people’s minds, “simply” by observing body language, eyes, voice, gestures, mouth, posture etc.
In truth, it is far from simple but with a little experience and with the right information written in this article, everyone can start doing it. The starting point is observation.
But before delving into the topic it is necessary to take a step back and try to explain what non-verbal communication is, of which body language is an integral part.
At the time of the great magician Houdini, people went to the theater to see his show and remained silent for a good half hour waiting for the king of the escapes, behind a cover and therefore not visible, to free himself from the handcuffs or from other strange devices.
To date, all this would be impossible to achieve. We live in a world with increasingly frenetic rhythms of life, and we are used to having everything immediately. Staying longer than a few minutes without being able to see or do something would be very difficult.
This attitude is also reflected when we know a person. We no longer rely on a careful evaluation or expect to be able to deepen our knowledge. No, to date, we only need 15 seconds to make a judgment. After a few seconds we already know if we like that person or not, and all this only on the basis of first impressions.
This also applies to ourselves both in giving and in receiving. The people we know decide within a few moments if we deserve their trust, if we arouse their sympathy, whether they intend to work with us, or to establish a love relationship, and much more.
Albert Mehrabian and the rule of 7-38-55
Albert Mehrabian is an American psychologist, professor at the University of Los Angeles, also known as UCLA.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the psychologist conducted a fundamental study on the importance of the different aspects of communication in conveying a message.
It highlighted the existence of three components that underlie any communication act: body language, voice, words.
On the basis of the data that emerged, Mehrabian formulated the model of “7-38-55”, according to which 93% of people communicate through non-verbal signals and only 7% of verbal language. In detail:
- 55% body language.
- 38% voice, tone.
- 7% spoken words.
Although recent studies have revised these percentages (Mehrabian himself has clarified over time that these percentages are true only when feelings and attitudes are communicated), the fundamental element that emerges is that in interpersonal relationships, communication occurs not only from the words spoken but from a series of contents expressed unconsciously through body language.
Body Language and Mentalism
One of the secrets of mentalists – that is, those who read in mind – is precisely the ability to read the signals of the body.
Obviously it will be necessary to resort to all available techniques, including psychology, NLP, illusionism, etc. but knowing how to read body language is of fundamental importance in order to be in tune with the other person and perceive his or her thoughts without the other having to speak.
In fact, the reading of thought is based on a careful observation of the body, because the body is an open window on the unconscious.
The Mentalist Technique
Emotions are communicated mainly through body language and only to a secondary extent through verbal language.
The mentalist actually uses a sort of “extrasensory perception”, which is schematically implemented in this way:
- the mind formulates a thought;
- thought generates an emotion;
- emotion transpires through non-verbal language;
- the mentalist interprets the non-verbal language to capture the emotion felt by the interlocutor and here, he reads it in his mind.
The mentalist studies these techniques in depth and applies them in his shows but, unconsciously, everyone, each in his own way, deals with reading the thought. Whenever we come into contact with someone we try to read in their mind, observing their body language.
Body language to improve yourself
It is good to remember, however, that, always on an unconscious level, the reading of thought through body language is a two-way process. As you try to enter your interlocutor’s mind by observing his behavior, he does the same for you.
Many successful politicians, actors and characters study body language as a tool, useful for themselves, able to express what you actually intend to communicate and to convey the impression you want outside rather than, as often happens many, to let the subconscious express itself freely.
Think, for example, of the politician “forced” to attend a meeting or a television broadcast, for himself of little importance. He could not support the meeting only by citing good intentions while all his body expresses a lack of desire and participation. Indeed you see that they are always enthusiastic and grateful to those who allowed their presence there, always obviously for the good of the nation.
After this long introduction we have reached the most interesting point, namely how to interpret body language.
Just let me tell you one last thing: non-verbal language is not an exact science.
The human body, heart and brain are extremely complex systems, therefore a certain attitude could arise from completely different factors.
As we shall see, in order to arrive at a correct reading of the non-verbal language we will have to carry out the synthesis of several elements, avoiding reaching hasty conclusions which are the cause of the common errors of interpretation.
The secrets of body language
Surely you have already seen two people talking in the distance and even without being able to hear their dialogue, in a moment, you managed to understand if they were fighting or exchanging words of love, if they were friends, acquaintances or if they had professional relationships .
How many times have you understood from a glance whether a person is happy, sad, anxious or calm?
We perceive all this information unconsciously. Think, then, of how much and what information it would be possible to gather simply by observing the other person more carefully.
With the right attention and due practice it is possible to become experts in the non-verbal language and thought of others. The important thing is to know which aspects to focus the observation on.
Non-verbal language communicates much more than words
In addition to words, communication takes place through a whole series of body signals. To read in the mind or thought of others we must therefore observe:
- the movements of the hands, arms and legs;
- the tension of the body;
- facial expressions;
- the eyes;
- the spatial distance.
The level of “openness” of the body indicates the degree of availability.
If the person is at ease, he demonstrates it, in general, with bodily signs of openness, while those who experience a sense of discomfort, that is, a negative state due to anxiety, fear, nervousness or hostility, show bodily signs of closure.
What to observe?
- if you keep your arms crossed or open
- whether he hides his hands or not
- if it barricades by covering itself with objects
- whether you cross your legs or not
If the person we observe tends to place obstacles between themselves and others, whether they are crossed arms or objects (bags, jackets, etc.), it may be uncooperative.
On the contrary, open arms, uncrossed legs and the tendency to expose one’s body, indicate a good general availability (towards the situation) or personal (towards us).
Attention, remember that every situation must be carefully evaluated and from several points of view. A closing situation may not be addressed to us but due to external factors (it’s cold, afraid of an exam, …) or simply because it is a comfortable position!
I myself often find myself with hands and legs crossed in situations where I am calm and without any worries, for example at an evening with friends.
Try it too!
Now it’s your turn. From now on, try to hone your mind reading skills by trying to observe what you see. To begin with, try to determine for each person you meet if their body language indicates opening or closing.
In general, in meetings with other people it is extremely important to observe the set of gestures that communicate a sense of openness or closure.
So let’s look at the position of the arms and legs:
- they are not crossed;
- there are no barriers that the interlocutor places before him;
- hands are in view, perhaps with open palms (opening signal);
- the legs and posture in general are loose, free of nervous tension;
- eye contact is good.
If all the conditions are confirmed, we are probably facing a positive inner state. Otherwise, with some evident sign of closure, it will be better to try to empathize and reassure the interlocutor before embarking on any type of communication.
The more our body tends towards someone, the more interested we are in them.
This is an important and strangely little known point. The importance of assessing body direction probably derives from the fact that it is an unconscious and therefore certainly truthful situation. The more our body is turned towards a person (even without being aware of it), the more we will be interested in that person.
What to observe?
- how much the body turns towards you;
- if while looking at you it turns elsewhere;
- if you look at others but it is turned in your favor;
- direction of: face, gaze and bust.
In general it will be sufficient to look at which point the bust of the person we want to analyze is facing.
Even if my head looks and talks to someone but my body is directed towards someone else, surely my attention is turned to the person towards whom my body is turned.
The eyes, in terms of non-verbal communication, are the most expressive part of the body.
Leonardo called the eyes “the mirror of the soul”. Modigliani painted faces without eyes precisely because he could not paint what he did not know: that is, the soul of the men and women he was portraying.
Observing the gaze of our interlocutor can be of great help in reading his thoughts.
What to observe?
- if you look fixed in the eyes or look away;
- if you look down;
- if the pupils are dilated;
- the frequency of blinking of the eyelashes;
- what is he watching.
When we communicate with someone, we pay attention to see if his eyes have direct contact with ours or if he looks away.
The inability to establish direct eye contact can indicate boredom, disinterest or even deception, especially when someone looks away and pushes aside.
If a person looks down, on the other hand, he often indicates nervousness or submission.
Dilation of the pupils
The presence of dilated pupils (in normal conditions, the pupil tends to have a diameter between 2 and 5 mm) can mean attraction, love, interest.
The pupils dilate when cognitive effort increases, so if someone focuses on someone or something they like, their pupils automatically dilate.
The dilation of the pupils can be difficult to detect, but in the right conditions and with a little practice we can be able to identify them.
The blink of an eye
The blink of a person is about eight times per minute but, if this person is tense, and therefore “excited”, when he is in our company, the beats will increase: the person blinks much more often.
In other cases, however, an increase in the blink of the eyelids indicates that our interlocutor is lying, especially if accompanied by contact with the face.
Looking at something can suggest a desire for that thing. For example, if someone takes a look at the door, this may indicate a desire to leave. Looking at a person can indicate a desire to talk to them.
When it comes to eye movements, looking up and right during the conversation is believed to indicate that a lie has been told, while looking up and left indicates that the person is telling the truth.
The reason for this is that people look up to the right when they use their imagination to make up a story and look up to the left when they remember a real memory.
Studies on the direction of the gaze
As a “mirror of the soul”, the eyes provide us with many clues to what a subject really thinks. Numerous studies on the direction of eye movements have revealed that these are related to the processing of thoughts in terms of sounds, images and sensations.
We have already talked about it in the article “the mentalist” but it is always good to reiterate the concept.
- the person looking down to the right brings back feelings and feelings;
- the person looking down left speaks to himself;
- the person looking at the top left tries to visualize something that has happened in the past;
- the person who looks at the top right tries to imagine something;
- the person who turns his gaze to the left tries to remember sounds;
- the person who turns his gaze to the right tries to reconstruct sounds.
The intensity of the gaze in relation to body language
The sideways gaze: this gesture is one of the first signs of romantic interest. Since it is subtle and allusive, it allows an individual to “flirt” in a veiled way.
The prolonged gaze: a more obvious gesture than the one mentioned above. In this case the person does not pretend to be shy, but wants to “get to the point”. It may indicate sexual attraction.
The “hard” look. Often accompanied by narrowed eyes and contracted pupils, the tough gaze is characteristic of the “bad guy” of the films. This penetrating gaze indicates that the individual has an invasive, aggressive and threatening attitude. The “tough” gaze differs from the prolonged one, in that the latter is characterized by pauses, while the tough one is more persistent.
The look from top to bottom. This eye movement is observed especially in men looking for a female “prey”. When a man squares a woman from head to toe, he is evaluating her as a potential sexual partner. If the man does this more than once, it is likely that he is physically attracted to the woman and that his sexual fantasy has taken flight. Women also use this type of gaze towards men they are attracted to, but in a less evident way, so that they are less likely to be caught in fragrant!
The elusive gaze. This signal indicates that our counterpart is proving to be deceptive. It is possible or that he is lying, or that he feels guilty for something that is being discussed. Even rubbing your eye, as an excuse to look away, can indicate lies. However, looking away in response to a prolonged gaze does not signal deception, but is an attempt to reduce an intimacy felt as threatening.
Closed eyes. It is not a simple blink, but the prolonged closing of an eye clearly perceivable by an observer. If you see your interlocutor doing this gesture, it is an indication that he / she no longer intends to listen to what you are saying. The gesture is often accompanied by the raising of the eyebrows.
The amount of personal space a person gives you indicates how much they really appreciate you.
From the distance that a person holds towards us we can read how interested he is in us, how interesting and pleasant he thinks we are. The greater the liking felt for someone, the greater the rapprochement they will grant them.
What to observe?
- how much space there is between you;
- if he accepts that you approach within 70cm;
- if you go away it starts to get closer again?;
- how much it brings you closer to others.
The management of personal space between people is an automatic reflection and therefore excellent to interpret to have valuable information.
Distance of great intimacy: 0-15 cm. It is reserved for very few people: partners and other subjects (for example children) with whom we accept physical contact and admit the most intimate behaviors.
Intimate distance: 15-45 cm. Only the people who are most important to us are admitted: partners, family members, close friends. If this space is violated by strangers, by subjects we do not know well or do not like, we feel a feeling of unease.
Personal distance: 45-120 cm. The distance of the arm: the space within which you can make the classic handshake. In western culture it is the ideal distance for most personal interactions. We observe it in social ceremonies and convivial events.
Social distance: 1.20-3.5 m. It is the distance that must be respected in interactions with people with whom we are not confident, for example shop assistants or strangers who ask for information.
Public distance: more than 3.5 m. When we turn to a group of people in a formal setting, this is the appropriate distance to take from the front row. It generally implies the absence of social interactions.
Body language … conclusion
There would still be many aspects to consider but the important thing was for me, at this stage, to give a general idea on the subject and make it clear that knowing how to decipher body language allows you to “read” the minds of others.
We must always remember that the impression we elicit on others comes from our body language and only minimally from what we say.
But at the end of all this, if we see a person touching his nose when asked a certain question, can we say with certainty, on the basis of this single clue, that he is lying?
If someone changes position when sitting, can we deduce that he is tense?
And if he keeps his arms crossed, does it definitely mean he’s bored?
If he has crossed ankles, is he masking his aggression?
These gestures considered individually mean nothing, but if they all occur together during an interaction (complex of signals), then there is a good chance that the person has a negative attitude.
Try to put some of these tips into practice and let me know – in the comments below – what impression you got.
Body language and personal development
This on Body Language is the first article in the Personal Development section.
In this section which will be expanded as soon as possible with many other interesting articles, you can learn the techniques of professional mentalists to improve interpersonal relationships, sell more and find a soul mate.