The first Presidential debate of the 2012 election has barely broken out of the gate and already analysts are discussing who won, scrutinizing how each candidate’s debate methodology differed from their opponent’s, evaluating their word usage and so on. An area under the microscope that is of interest to those who study people and the psychology behind them is the body language of each candidate. Janine Driver, an expert on body language and author of “You Can’t Lie Me,” observed that Obama kept his head tilted to the side, projecting less confidence, while Romney kept his head straight and his eyes focused. ”If you were from another country and you watched this based on body language, people would think that Mitt Romney was already the president,” she quipped.
Body Language Is Important
Our unconscious mind notices and interprets body language in every encounter. Rather than receiving overt signals about the person you’re speaking to, you usually get impressions that are emotional in nature which offer some vague ideas about their internal state and thinking processes. How well you utilize these signals largely depends on your training as a communicator. While some individuals have a natural and exceptional talent for noticing and interpreting non-verbal language, most people do not pay attention to it and are often surprised about how much information they can see and how it greatly facilitates sharing ideas and developing relationships.
You Can Learn To Read People Better
Sensitizing yourself to body language and learning the more universal meanings of people’s non-verbal cues is 1) very possible and 2) a good way to begin. You don’t have to remain satisfied with your current level of reading people, which began when you were a small child and developed at various stages throughout your life. You can be trained to see and hear more and learn what to do with the information you get.
It is crucial to develop the skill to quickly pattern an individual beyond the general stereotypes that are found in non-verbal training programs. Learning broad categories of facial expressions, voice tone shifts, and body postures are good and easy foundations to lay, but staying at this basic level can be a trap. I have seen many leadership trainings that teach managers only introductory principles and then these folks walk away thinking that they can now analyze people in a meaningful way. For example, I still catch trainers saying that when employees cross their arms it means they are being defensive. Crossing one’s arms is not a universal pattern with a singular meaning and teaching that it is creates a lot of trouble. Maybe the person is just cold!
Don’t get too comfortable with high-level overviews of non-verbal language. Seek out training that will go deep but at a pace you that you are comfortable with so that you can master the material.
Reading Body Language Is The Responsible Thing To Do
I have heard some people complain that patterning people is manipulative. So is being a brain surgeon! And wouldn’t you want her to know what she is doing before she starts cutting up your gray matter? Since non-verbal communication is happening all of the time all around you, to ignore it and feel like you’re not being manipulative is illogical. Understanding or not understanding how something works is not an ethical issue but how you use the information is in the realm of ethics. If your intent is to become a better communicator by striving to understand what people say and what they do, no one can find fault in that.
So as you watch the Presidential debate to come, keep your eye on hand movements, facial expressions, and voice tones. And before they’re over, consider reading a book or getting some training on reading and utilizing non-verbal cues!
- Too Much Of The Wrong Information Can Kill Your Outcomes (brightmindblog.me)
- One Key Reason Coaching Fails (brightmindblog.me)
- Body analyst expert examines Presidential Debate (abc4.com)
- Itchy nose? Body language to watch for during the debates (news.yahoo.com)