Body language signs are a big influencer to humans. We can tell people one thing with our words… And yet, be signalling the complete opposite with our body language.
My wife is often an expert at this. When i’ve done something to displease her, she can tell me there’s nothing wrong; but the scowl and cross arms give it a way!
As we mentioned in a previous article, we process lots of information. We gather information from more sources than you might even realize you’re aware of.
At the office, at home, around the town, there are subtle cues and body language signs that you are picking up on without even thinking about it.
Science suggests that non-verbal communication makes up 60-70% of all communication on a daily basis.
However, not everyone is fluent in body language. In order to understand your employees and clients better than, learning how to read body language signs is pivotal.
Why Reading Body Language Signs Is Important
Before getting into various forms of nonverbal expression, let’s briefly touch on the reason management and administration should understand body language.
Think of all the times you are in the office, discussing projects or work, and someone is wearing an expression you don’t pick up on right away. This person might not be comfortable with the task, yet you miss this completely, and then they make a grave mistake or become disgruntled.
This problem could have been avoided if you picked up on their unease or worry.
You Also Need to Know You
As the leader, you must also know how you hold yourself and communicate with your team.
For example, if you’re crossing your arms and closing yourself off to an employee, they may assume you’re not really listening to them. That you’re preoccupied with other things.
You might squint your eyes or tighten the corners of your mouth, even when you’re not uneasy; but this could inadvertently make the employee think you don’t like or trust them.
You could fold your arms and be stairing at your watch, without realising you’re being too pushy and rude to stop talking! However, the person you’re talking to may pick this up straight away.
That’s why learning how to read body language signs is so important.
So now let’s look at the four regions of the body where nonverbal communication occurs, including examples of facial and body expressions can be seen.
Head Body Language
The eyes, eyebrows, angle of the face and head, direction of the chin or nose, and even the way the person holds their mouth are very telling.
When you are communicating with an employee, you want to look into their eyes once in a while, because the way they meet your gaze, how they focus on your face, and the size of the pupils can tell you a lot.
For example, if someone looks immediately off to the side while explaining something, they may be lying or showing disinterest.
Looking down while mumbling is a sign of submissiveness or nervousness. Even the direction of someone’s glances while they speak could mean various things, such as eyeing the item of they desire or where they want to go.
Though many individuals have learned how to control their facial expressions, smiles and eyebrows are harder to control.
Half-smiles and raised brows could mean that the individual is being sarcastic. Someone who is “all smiles” is genuinely happy, since most people will not show their full mouth unless completely comfortable in their surroundings.
Other body language signs involving the face and eyes include:
- Downcast eyes – signs of guilty, evasion or avoidance, and boredom
- Rubbing eyes – not just a sign of allergies, rubbing can show feelings of doubt, disbelief, and incredulity
- Head tilted to the side – a display of interest and active listening
- Cheek resting on upturned palm – a sign of evaluation and calculation. Can also be a sign of boredom.
- A grimace before half-smiling – an attempt to hide displeasure
- Raised eyebrows – surprise
- Tight, pursed lips – displeasure, discontent
- Covering mouth or touching lips while speaking – potential indicator of lying or anxiety
Body Language of the Arms
The arms are made up of elbows, hands, and fingers, and all these points can hold tension or reveal relaxation.
Hands in the pockets, for instance, can indicate an urge to hide something, whether that is discomfort or dishonesty.
Even the gesturing of hands while a person speaks can be translated.
If you are listening to the person speak and they point towards you, this means they agree with you or hold you in high respect.
Overall, hands and arms are used to establish a connection or to remove it, which is why crossed arms are perceived as shielding and “closed off” while open arms are much more welcoming.
Additional common body language signs seen in the hands and arms are:
- Hands on the hips, legs apart – a sign of authority, power.
- Arms folded across the chest tightly – if someone is protecting their chest with their arms, they are protecting themselves or being disagreeable.
- Rubbing hands together – excitement, suspense, anticipation
- Fingers drumming – impatience, annoyance, restlessness
- Nail biting – insecurity
Body Language Signs of the Torso
Held within the torso are essential organs humans need to live, and so the way the torso is held can show how comfortable someone is.
The shoulders, back, and hips also play a huge role in body language signs. The other thing dependent on the torso would be overall posture.
An erect spine, open chest and arms at the sides is much more authoritative than a hunched back and slouching.
By standing up straight when speaking, you will automatically command respect from even the most disagreeable of employees.
Furthermore, you’ll be perceived as a much stronger leader.
Other body language signs using the torso would be:
- Leaning body forward towards speaker – sign of interest and intrigue, openness, willingness.
- Body mirrors the speaker – this means the person doing the mirroring is trying to establish a relationship with you
Legs Body Language Signs
The knees and feet channel energy.
Whether or not they are pointed towards you or away, or if they are moving around or still, can carry multiple meanings.
One of the places you want to look when talking to people, would be the feet.
The reason the feet tell more than the face is because people are usually concentrating on controlling their upper body and face that their true emotions can leak downward.
The feet and knees generally point where the person wants to go, or where their attention is. Therefore, if someone’s feet are pointed towards you, this is a very good indication that they see you in a favourable light.
Further body language signs that can be seen in the legs and feet include:
- Foot bounces while seated – a sign of boredom, restlessness, anxiety
- Brisk walking speed – confidence
- Crossed legs – resistance to new ideas
If you want to understand your employees better, it goes without saying that body language signs are the only way to truly comprehend the messages they are subtly trying to get across.
Look to the head, arms, legs, and torso.
Start to piece together their true thoughts and emotions during your conversations. Are their words saying one thing, but their body language giving the game away?
Don’t forget. You convey negative and positive body language. Use these tips even with yourself, so you too can express strong, inspired leadership to everyone around you.