If you stand or sit with your arms crossed, you’re closed off to what’s being said, right? If someone looks down or off to the side while they’re talking to you, they’re lying, right? Not necessarily, according to Janine Driver, an expert on body language.
I saw Driver speak a few months ago. She’s worked for the federal government, authored books on this subject, and teaches classes and speaks. I’ve also seen her on the Today show a couple times.
According to Driver, many of the old body language myths just aren’t true. She says you have to start with a baseline, and go from there. This works better with people you’ve know for awhile. For example, I’m often accused of being closed off when I cross my arms. But my friends will tell you that I’m just comfortable standing leaned against a doorway with my arms crossed and my ankles crossed. That means I’m relaxed. An open stance with my legs apart and my arms down by my sides means I’m ready to argue.
If someone never looks you in the eye when they speak, but all of a sudden maintains direct eye contact, this could indicate they’re lying, due to the change. Get it?
The bottom line is to be aware of the body language habits of those with whom you interact. A change in their body language should alert you that something’s not right. Have you ever had that feeling that something is just off? And you don’t know why, because the person is saying all the right things? You just have a bad feeling. Their body language could be sending you signals of which you’re not even aware.
As for your own body language, Driver offered some tips for successful meetings and interactions:
*People like others who they perceive to be like themselves. So, mirror the other person’s behavior a bit. It will make you more likeable.
*Keep your feet flat on the ground during a meeting. Do not cross your legs or ankles. This isn’t because of the old “closed off” idea. Rather, it’s because you will have to uncross or recross them at some point, which will make you look nervous.
*When listening, tilt your head left to look more intelligent; tilt your head right to look more attractive.
*Standing with hands in your pockets can portray confidence, but only if you keep your thumbs out.
*If you’re sitting at a table, and you steeple your fingers, this can exude power and confidence. However, you have to be careful with this, because fingers in a “gun steeple” can indicate aggressive behavior.
*When talking one on one, do not sit directly across from the person. You’ll both be more comfortable if one of you is off to the side, because you won’t feel like you’re staring directly at each other when you talk.
Lastly, Driver says your intent affects your body language. For example, when you’re nervous, you can make others around you nervous by your body language. On the other hand, if you’re grateful, you’ll likely find the other person more open to what you have to say, because your body language will illustrate this.
Fascinating stuff. For me, I have to be aware of crossing my arms and legs, because I know it gives the wrong impression. What body language do you use that people are misinterpreting? If you really want to know, ask your friends and family. You may be surprised what they say.
What about politicians and elected officials? What about others in the news? Are they being honest? Check out Driver’s blog at www.JanineDriver.com. She does some analyses of people in the news – and gives her insights as to whether they’re lying or being deceptive.
I’d love to hear your body language tips, too. Just post them as comments on the blog. (note: if you post in a linkedin group, your comments will not show up or be retained on the actual blog site)