On Reading Body Language II

This week’s book learning is from ‘What Every Body is Saying’ by Joe Navarro.

After last week’s two principles that highlighted that our legs are the most honest parts of our body and that covering any part of our body is a lymbic reaction that betrays our discomfort, we look at the next 2 key principles..

1. Gravity defying behaviour = Happiness: Picture a happy person jumping with her arms up in the air and a sad person walking with his head down. The principle here is that ANY gravity defying behaviour is a sign of happiness. At work, jumping up and down may not be viewed positively so people respond by walking about jumping on the balls of their feet, for example.

E.g. 1: A hug is a gravity defying gesture as we throw our arms out

E.g. 2: Dancing is another easy example – people jumping up and down with their hands in the air! (see picture)

E.g. 3: Notice how a guilty or sad person has drooping shoulders and head down

2. Any posture which is not easy to get out of = Comfort: Given we are built for survival, we naturally take up positions that make it easy for ‘flight’ when we are uncomfortable. This is why we always stand erect, alert and with our ‘guard up’ in front of a boss who scares us and why we always get up and straighten our postures from a comfortable position when someone unknown walks into the room.

E.g. 1: If you see someone standing with his or her ankles crossed, it is a sign of great comfort as it is a position that is very difficult to get out of

E.g. 2: Spreading and constriction are sure signs of comfort and discomfort for the same reason. Sprawling on a sofa = spread out and comfortable!

Image by David DeSilva

These principles, of course, translate everywhere. An easy place to test our ability to read body language is to look around in our next meeting. Look out of spreading, constriction, gravity defying gestures etc. For example, putting both hands on the back of the head (described as the Cobra posture as it looks like a Cobra ready to strike) is a sign of high confidence and comfort!

Here’s to looking out for these principles in meetings this week!