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As soon as we come into contact with others, before we even exchange one word, we are communicating. For this reason, understanding your own body language and having the ability to read the body language of others will play an important part in achieving strong interpersonal relations.
A good communicator is someone who is both interested in you and is also an interesting person in their own right. For example, if you go into a networking situation with the sole purpose of getting only what you want out of the opportunity and show no personal interest in the other person, you’re bound to come across as manipulative, untrustworthy or just plain annoying.
If you are genuinely friendly, warm and appreciative, this will translate into your body language, if you stop trying to posture yourself too much and allow your body to convey your warmth and interest in other people.
In many years of studying human behaviour and deceit, American psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman and his contemporaries isolated many small, involuntary expressions (called micro expressions) that can help spot a lie. (These include very small muscular changes.) While they can denote deceit, they can also be the result of nervousness, so they have to be interpreted very carefully.
Some of the facial gestures include:
Rubbing the eye (a sign that the individual wants you to ignore the deceit they are presenting. Of course, it can also mean they have an itchy eye)
Rolling the eyes (a dismissive or superior gesture)
Looking over the top of the glasses (critical)
Rubbing or touching the nose (don’t like the subject)
Hand or fingers in front or to one side of the mouth (can mean they are holding back something – a thought, an opinion, or even a lie)
Stroking the chin (making a decision)
Thumb under the chin with index finger pointing up the side of the face (critical judgment and/or negative opinion)
By watching for some of these signals, you can adjust your presentation, provide more information, or simply learn when to stop talking. You can then redirect your energy to relationship development and building trust, rather than coming across as pushy or overbearing.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.