Understanding body language and having the ability to use your own to a situational advantage while "reading" and assessing another is a very ﬁnite skill that takes countless hours of training. However, to gain the basic insight and understanding of how this phenomenon works and can be used to your beneﬁt is not difﬁcult but can be tedious if you choose not to put the practical application and time in required to begin to grasp the concepts.
It is important to always remember that body language always comes in clusters, not isolated individual signals. Only by analyzing clusters of postures and other signals can a person begin to identify what is happening behind the scenes of thoughts, conversations and emotional states. This is only the beginning due to additional factors such as the emotional state of mind, cultural differences and language patterns.
Another key aspect is to remember that these signals, postures and clusters "suggest", they do not necessarily, quite often rarely, deﬁnitively clarify speciﬁcs about a person's true beliefs, thoughts, intentions, emotions, opinions or otherwise. Depending your view of the world and yourself this may in fact be the most important aspect needed for accurate reads on another individual or group. Regardless of the order, understanding and accepting the concepts of clusters and suggestions are the base required to successfully begin to identify the language of the human body.
We will start by making this a bit more practical and fun with a few basics that tend to be easily recognizable and tend to strongly suggest that even outside of a cluster may by itself strongly suggest certain speciﬁcs. However, clusters as always are a factor and until that level is reached solely basing any judgement on an individual movement is still, while a strong suggestion for some, not necessarily indicative of any true depiction by itself.
A basic rule: People act in their own best interests.
If they appear not to be, then you haven't yet identiﬁed their true motivations.
During a close personal interaction look at the pupils. Dilation of the pupils tend to suggest interest and arousal in the subject. Subject can be person, conversation, something in the sight line or any combination. Take into account environmental factors such as sun breaking through the clouds, internal lighting, any slight lighting change can affect dilation. IF the environmental is stable then try to identify at which point dilation interacts with your conversation and physical posture.
Pupil dilation is considered so accurate that aside from decades of study it is used in market research extensively to gauge audience interest in products.
Now, arousal and interest are not always a positive. If a person fears the knife in the hand of a would be attacker the dilation will occur, focus tends to stay on the knife. Keep this in mind, perhaps the dilation is related to something else. I am big guy well beyond the average adult male at almost 6-5. I have to, in some situations, make myself appear smaller and less intimidating, almost weaker, in order to focus the attention of another in such a way that I can read them without having to consider signals such as dilation being in any way related to me.
Let's take a look at vocal changes. Vocal chords are muscles. Like all muscles they tighten during periods of stress. Just like the physical stress of resistance training tightens the contracting muscle so does mental and other stressors affect receptors that constrict and tighten vocal chords. This tends to produce an octave elevation in the timbre of the voice. A higher tonal shift, or pitch, in the sound. Some things to consider that may cause natural shifts. Puberty for one. For teens and young adults even as far back as single digit years this would be considered an inaccurate way to assess the individual. Additionally if a person is in a situation where they feel cornered, a sign if stress would lead to dry mouth, with no access to water to lubricate then the tonal manifestation may occur as a second or third order affect to what is really happening and may not be, by itself, a sign of stress, nervousness or otherwise. An example of why understanding clusters is important.
There is truth to the increase of blink rate to be indicative of nervousness. Studies have repeatedly shown that 31-50 per minute is normal for an individual watching a movie or tv show. So, if a presidential candidate say blinked at a rate of 150 - 170 per minute (several a second) consistently, it would be fair to say that suggests nervousness. However, by itself, does not suggest deception. Equating nervousness with anything like fear, deception, love is foolish. It is its own emotion. Trying to force it into another idea is an indication that nervousness itself is not understood accurately as an emotion.
One type of body language classiﬁed as "attentive" is what determines an individuals interest level. This tends to indicate interest in the other person, not what they are saying. This is a subconscious fact and does not mean the conversation is boring, disinteresting or not worthwhile. Despite what the world of debate and communication will tell you, science shows that it is the subconscious interest in another person that holds the human attention. The fantastic ability to communicate "better" or even communicate in a manner target to the audience (even an audience of one) is what sets up the guidelines to keep that person focused on you, not what you are saying. How can we identify this? A simple way is to again watch the eyes. Does the individual become easily distracted by things going on around them? Throughout a ﬁve minute conversation if the person continually scans the room or focuses on isolated events, sounds or images this suggests they are not interested in you. This does not express disinterest or "not paying attention." In fact indicates they are paying attention, to such a degree they subconsciously focus in other areas do to the lack of knowing how to exit the conversation.
If a person somewhat leans, or repositions their body forward, without any physical limitations or interference from environmental noise, this suggest interest. It is the subconscious posturing to hear better, although they can hear just ﬁne. A head tilt forward could also suggest the same. A side head tilt may mean curiosity or it may mean or more likely uncertainty. While by itself that cannot be determined without a baseline, cluster recognition and questioning patterns to gauge continued movements, what can be presumed is that you are not perceived as a threat.
Have you ever noticed the furrowed brow? The eye brows coming together, in most people looks almost ominous, often perceived as anger or other emotions. You may have your own ideas on what you perceive that to be. It really only suggests the listener wants to understand and hear the individual better. In most situations it is a positive sign. Let us say that despite knowing cluster recognition everything indicates a punch is about to be thrown and there a furrowed brow. While this is now a negative situation it still is a sign that the listener wants to hear and understand better.
Edited by Shammer