There have been times in all of our lives where we would have given just about anything to have the ability to read someone’s mind. I bet you can think of a few scenarios… maybe it happened when you were on a date and desperately needed to gauge how interested your potential partner was. Or worse, perhaps you were confronted with the four words which never fail to strike dread into even the coldest of hearts – the infamous, “we need to talk”.
But regardless of the fact that no-one truly wants to know exactly what people think of them, it’s certainly something that would take the guesswork out of nearly all nerve-wracking interactions.
I may not have cracked the magical code that allows you to read the minds of your peers, but I think I’ve come as close to it as humans possibly can by learning the secrets of interpreting body language.
Carol Kinsey Goman, writer of The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work tells us firstly to never rely solely on judging people based on their facial expressions. This is because people quickly learn after childhood to adopt a blank mask of interest whenever they’re bored or disinterested in order to spare people’s feelings. Instead, she tells us to turn to the body, and in particular the arms, legs and feet.
Judging how physically closed off someone is can be the best indicator of how interested they are in a conversation. Crossing your arms, feet and slouching gives the signal that you couldn’t really care less about whatever is going on. In fact, these acts of closing off can even tell people that you feel distanced from them and that you’re anxious, insecure or are feeling defensive.
If you want to avoid all those negative connotations, try practising open body language. This means you should resist crossing your arms and legs and instead open up your shoulders and keep your feet roughly shoulder width apart in a comfortable stance.
Expert body-language reader Leil Lowndes picks up on another everyday vice: fidgeting. Whilst we may not think that it is a big deal, it packs a large punch on people’s subconscious’. If you’re having an important conversation and are moving around a lot or are playing with your hands, you’re demonstrating that you don’t care enough about the conversation to be fully engaged with what the other person is saying.
Fidgeting could also say something rather unpleasant about your character. Leil warns that frequent hand motions around your face can insinuate that you’re lying about something. So keep those arms firmly by your sides and try leaning into the conversation to show that you value the speaker’s opinion.
A rather bizarre indication of how someone feels about you can be found by looking at their feet. Think about it – the direction in which you point your feet signals the direction that you want to go in. So if you’re pointing your feet towards someone, it means that you’re directed towards them, and by association interested in them too.
Goman says that if you’re in a conversation with someone and their whole body as well as their feet are pointing towards you, it’s a good sign that they’re fully engaged. If however, their body is facing towards you but their feet are pointing away, this means that they are probably feigning interest and checked out of the conversation a while ago.
She narrows this down even further, saying;
“Foot positions are revealing even if someone’s legs are crossed. If the toe of the leg on top points toward you, the person is most likely interested in you. If the toe points away, the person is probably withdrawing”.
Well then, I’m sure you’ll have fun discovering what people really think of you with all of this knowledge. Hopefully, it’ll only be good news.