How to Read Body Language
Although this is a science in itself, here are a few take home tips about how to gauge an appreciation of someone from the body language that they’re sub-consciously using.
1 – See if they are mirroring.
Mirroring is the term used to describe the copying of actions. Most people fail to notice mirrored body language however it is by far the best way to determine whether someone is engaged with you. Mirroring is also a useful tool that you can use (subtly mirroring they’re body language in order to encourage the person to empathises with you).
2- Work out if they have open or closed postures.
Closed arms or a guarded posture such as having their body angled away from you suggests that the person if putting up a wall for some reason, whereas an open posture, open arms, and the person’s body angle pointing towards you suggests interest and engagement.
3- Gauge their distance.
Are they close or are they far away? Do they take a step back when you take a step forward and vice versa? If the person is comfortable in your presence or wishes to get to know you better, they will tend to prefer to be in greater proximity to you. Bear in mind here that different cultures have different appreciations of what level of personal space is appropriate.
4- Read their head position.
A person’s head position will suggest their level of engagement and agreement with you: A lowered head suggests self-doubt or that the person is trying to hide something, a head tilted slightly upwards suggests empathy or sympathy, whereas a tilted head with a smile suggests sexual interest or playful conversation, and a sideways tilted head suggests a challenge or confusion (depending on what the mouth or eyebrows are doing).
5- Watch their eyes.
People who look downwards tend to be shy, timid or trying to hide an emotion. People who avoid eye contact or look slightly to the side are either nervous, distracted or lying, however It could also suggest disinterest or submission. Should the person be looking into your eyes but focusing further behind you, they are most likely not concentration on what you are saying and may be day dreaming about something else. Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes suggest an attempt to understand your point or the situation.
6- Observe their hand movements.
If someone is busy with their hands it suggests slight discomfort or a willingness to exit the conversation. A rested hand posture suggests calm, whereas hands placed upon the hip suggests impatience. Someone playing with their hair could suggest sexual interest, however if they are doing this with raised eyebrows, it suggests that they disagree with you.
7- Keep an eye on their feet.
Fidgety feet suggest impatience or discomfort whereas foot contact and pointing of feet in your direction suggests flirting. Feet crossed at the ankles when sitting or leaning suggests that the person is comfortable in that situation.
Be aware of cultural differences i.e personal space and eye contact. Direct eye contact in some cultures is considered rude.
You need to observe in context i.e. in relation to the situation that the person is in.
Be aware of medical or psychological conditions such as squinting due to poor eye sight, fidgeting due to Attention Deficit Disorder, or lack of eye contact due to possible Asperger’s syndrome.
Changes in body language often provide more clues than the body language itself.