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The Art of Reading People: Try These 9 Tips from a Body Language Expert!

Facial movements, tone of voice, and body position. All of these tell us a story. Here in this article, we share the secrets of body language experts to decipher the meaning of these micro expressions!

What is this nonverbal communication?

Nonverbal communication is the communication of one person with another person without using words, the transfer of messages. This; can encompass everything from hand signals to body language to physical appearance. On the other hand, body language includes signals such as posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye movements, and physical touch, which are expressed through the physical body.

Most of us have experienced moments where words let us down. There have been times when we felt too anxious, shy, or overwhelmed by our emotions to think or talk. In these cases, nonverbal cues speak for us. Since communication is also a two-sided act, the other person must read those nonverbal expressions. 

Tips for reading people:

1. Learn to distinguish between positive and negative body language.

Body language is often divided into “negative” and “positive”“. For example, when someone’s body is tense, this is a common negative expression and can be caused by restlessness, anger, or stress. On the other hand, body relaxation or a relaxed posture is positive body language; It indicates happiness and confidence. 

2. Pay attention to the tone of voice.

The person’s normal tone of voice may vary depending on the current mood. For example, when a person is sad, their voice tends to fade. This means they will speak at a lower octave and a slower pace. Faster, energetic, and cheerful sounds are a sign of happiness.

3. Pay attention to how you breathe.

If someone is angry, they may start to blush. This reaction is usually caused by rapid breathing.

If you’re fighting with someone, your brain releases neurotransmitters and hormones, followed by cortisol. This increases your blood pressure and heart rate, so your breathing starts to quicken and shorten.

4. Look at the curl of the person’s fingers.

Yes, you’re right; this may sound strange, but according to body language expert Blanca Cobb, if a person’s fingers are slightly bent, that person feels comfortable at that moment. “We don’t usually get around with long, stretched fingers, which would seem odd. If the fingers have that natural flexion and no tension, that means that person is feeling good,” says Cobb.

5. Check which way they are leaning.

If someone is interested in you or the conversation, they may tend to lean forward. Behavior analyst Scott Rouse points out that the distance between the parties gradually decreases during dating. 

On the other hand, if the person feels scared or disinterested, they may tend to lean back. In such situations, it is essential to consider all clues in the context.

6. Look at the way you grasp things.

Just as some people stretch their fingers in stressful situations, some can ball their hands into fists or tighten their grip. For example, if he is already holding a glass, he may start to hold it tighter. This indicates that the body has suppressed energy that needs to be released.

7. Pay attention to their movements.

If the person is fidgeting or moving more than they usually would, this may be a sign of anxiety. According to Rouse, symptoms of tension can include shaking a foot or leg, chewing lips, clenching hands, and sometimes, even tics or nerve twitches.

Breathing becomes shallow, and hand or head movements become irregular and rapid. Of course, all of this can vary depending on the level of tension. 

8. Examine the nuances in your smile.

If a person is smiling, that person is happy, right? Maybe it is, perhaps it isn’t. According to body language expert David Matsumoto, there are several different types of smiles:

  • Duchenne: This type of smile expresses a genuine, sincere, pleasant mood. You can distinguish it because the teeth are usually visible in this smile, and the expression reaches the eyes.
  • Social: This is also called the participatory smile. It conveys kindness or a feeling of friendship rather than sincere happiness. Usually, the tooth is not visible, and the expression does not reach the eyes.
  • Dominant: This unsymmetrical smile is reminiscent of a grin or a fake smile. Only one side of the mouth is lifted upwards. The person can use this smile to convey self-confidence or even kindness to the other party. 

9. Look at the big picture.

Our last tip is the most important. Looking at facial expressions can help us in the first step, but there is no rule that those expressions will always be correct.

When we feel a particular emotion but don’t want other people to understand our feelings, we try to mask it. In this case, tone of voice, body language, etc., and other clues betray our feelings. So when you try to read someone’s emotional state, you have to pay attention to the big picture. In other words, don’t just read facial expressions; consider other clues in context.

Why is context important?

Environment affects behavior. Nonverbal cues can easily be misinterpreted when the context is not considered. For example, crossing your arms can be a sign of resistance and irritability in some situations, while in another context, it can be a sign of strength and confidence. Therefore, do not forget to evaluate everything that is happening around you.

Assumptions about the other person’s body language can lead to inappropriate actions and misplaced emotions. Especially the assumptions made that someone is dating. “A hello and smile don’t mean that person is hitting on you. It can also be an amiable approach,” says Cobb.

If there is a situation that you are not sure about, it is essential to ask questions and clarify the situation before taking action.