How to Read People's Body Language

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To read people's body language, pay attention to changes in behavior, watch people carefully, and learn how to read the tempo and tone of a person's voice. Avoid falling into traps of absolutes when it comes to body language with help from a business management consultant in this free video on body language.

Part of the Video Series: Business & Leadership
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Video Transcript

We're here to talk about the vexed subject of body language and how to read it. Now, learning to read body language will help you win friends, influence people. It will make you a better negotiator, counselor, coach, therapist, father, husband, wife, and you name it. It is important. But unfortunately, there are no absolute hard and fast rules about body language. But there are some things you can learn quickly and effectively, and I'm going to outline two or three of those now. In the world of body languages, differences matter more than absolutes. There are some stereotypes that do apply, but they...it can be a mistake to assume they apply all the time. For example, there is the old one -- the sitting like this, which is supposed to mean that you're closed. It could also mean, of course, that you're cold. And I've know many people that actually say it doesn't mean for them. So be careful about using absolute stereotypes. However, differences do matter a great deal. If you're talking to someone and they're sitting and talking at a fairly slow pace, fairly relaxed, not moving about much, and suddenly, you say something to them and they start doing this. Then, perhaps, you've had an impact upon them that you hadn't realized. Providing you spot that, then, of course, you can actually read into that that something has happened -- there has been some change involved. Things you can do to really actually read people's body language. Watch them carefully. And a great way to do this is to watch people that aren't noticing that you're studying them -- in bars and restaurants, look at the people that are getting on really well together. They'll often be a mirror image of each other. And look at people that are not getting on so well, and there could be some sort of conflict or dissonance or they don't...anger or they're not quite the same...in the same harmony. So start to learn body language by watching others is a great way to do it. While you're queuing in a supermarket works just fine for me. Secondly, listen to what is said and how it's said. A lot of body language is about how we use our voice rather than our body -- the tone and the tempo of the voice. If I said to someone, "I'm not angry!" you get a different message, perhaps. Whereas, if you said, "I'm really excited about this," then perhaps you're giving away quite a lot of information about the fact you're not so excited, even though I've exaggerated a little bit to make the point. People do leak out what they feel through their voice, through the way they sit, through their body language, and other areas of their sort of make-up. So to conclude, how to read people's body language. Notice differences more than absolutes. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that this means "I'm closed" all the time. It may do, but just keep tracking differences. Notice what people say and what they don't say. Notice what they say and how they say it, and their body language as well as the voice tone tempo. I wish you ever success in spotting body language in perhaps bars and supermarkets.

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