The importance of understanding body language

Introducing a new dimension in your reality

Roughly ten years ago, for reasons that had nothing to do with girls, I decided to learn the art of reading body language. At the time I was thinking of going into management consulting, and I thought that kind of skill could have been useful in my toolkit. In the end I did not become a management consultant, but I developed a new and invaluable skill – the ability to understand people’s feelings and emotions without them saying anything.

The resources I used to achieve that were:

➔ The book “What Every BODY is Saying” by Joe Navarro

➔ The American TV series “Lie to Me

Excluding a few background chapters, the book by Joe Navarro is organised into these sections:

Nonverbals of the…
  …Feet and Legs
  …Torso, Hips, Chest, and Shoulders
  …Arms
  …Hands and Fingers
  …Face

The strength of the book is in the pictures it contains, which explain each concept clearly and straightforwardly. Just to be clear, there is quite a lot of “filtering” to do, meaning that for what I considered to be a value-added sentence there were say four which I thought were simply background. But still, I highly recommend this book, considering that it was the only one I needed to read in order to become proficient on the subject.

The TV series is great and I watched it twice as educational material, meaning that I was more focused on learning about body language and what they call “micro-expressions”, rather than on the narrative of the episodes. By the time I started to watch the series, I had already read the book and every day I was constantly exercising by looking around me for real-life examples of what I had seen explained in the book. I had become fairly skilled at that already, and “Lie to Me” was just the icing on the cake. The book had given me a structured framework to read the language of the different parts of the body, and the TV series provided me with real-life resembling examples of that language. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a clip is worth even more! And also, in order for each episode to be easy to follow for people with no previous knowledge of body language, each body movement and each facial expression are somehow exaggerated, and the focus of the scene is exactly on that body movement or that facial expression, making the learning process even easier.

Through those resources I developed a new skill which provided me with a much more complete awareness of what was going on around me. When I started to pay attention, I could catch examples of what I had learnt literarily one after the other during my day. Everywhere. And for the first time in my life, I was actually processing that information consciously. I found myself with a new powerful tool at my disposal, and it was like I had had introduced a new dimension to better understand the reality around me.

In theory I could write a guide to summarise what I know on this subject, but there are at least two problems with that. First off, the images contained in the book are copyrighted, meaning that I cannot freely use them on this blog, and the online databases of images which are free for everyone to use just don’t contain all of what I would need in order to compile a comprehensive guide on the topic. Then, by reading the source of the information rather than my summary of it, I think you will get a more profound understanding of the subject. And as with all the sources provided in the Links page, I don’t have any financial gain whatsoever by pointing you in that direction: the only reason why I provide this recommendation is because this is the material that I personally used during my improvement journey, with great results.

In the previous post we looked at the three pillars needed to build High Value. A clear understanding of body language is absolutely essential for two of those pillars, namely Vibe and Social Calibration, and also comes in handy for the other one, Looks.

When you understand the differences between dominant/high-confidence body language and weak/low-confidence body language, you can progressively identify all instances when you fall in the second category, and correct that specific case with the equivalent body position/facial expression from the first category.

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Initially this will be a conscious activity, and you will be constantly reminding yourself to evaluate your real-time body language, compare it to your new knowledge on the subject, and them make adjustments if needed. Then, with enough practice, the transition from “knowledge” to “habit” will happen, it will become second nature to you, and you will always be doing the “real-time check plus adjustment” without even thinking about it. In the end, after enough practice of the body movements, and after enough of the conscious adjustments, the dominant/high-confidence body language will become ingrained into you, literarily part of who you are, and you will display it naturally all the time. There will be the odd instance when your alarm bell goes off, making you aware that in that specific case you fell into the weak/low-confidence category, and you will just make the relevant adjustment accordingly. Easy peasy.

Social Calibration is another aspect that greatly benefits from the ability to understand body language. And not just to distinguish between the girls who may to be more receptive to your approach vs. the ones who are best avoided, since this aspect is just a little piece of the puzzle, but because it gives you a clear view of the emotions felt by the the people you are talking to, or the people who are simply around you.

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In this example you can see how a girl, by crossing her arms all of a sudden, signals that what you’ve just said has made her feel uncomfortable. Textbook material really, and it happened to me just last week: I was talking with a girl at work about her home country, and she must have processed a specific thing I said as a critique. She literarily went from the body language of the girl in the left-hand side, to the body language of the girl in the middle. I noticed that, and I proceeded to “casually” mention a few things that I really like about her home country, et voilà… she switched to the body language and facial expression of the girl in the right-hand side. From neutral to uncomfortable, and then from uncomfortable to pleased. Compare that to someone not noticing and not understanding her sudden crossed arms: this someone could have persisted in talking about the thing that was making her feel uncomfortable, or may have even proceeded to tease her on that specific thing, bringing her lack of comfort to new heights.

Since we are talking about crossed arms, let’s look at a few more examples, as there are quite a lot of nuances.

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Let’s imagine her arms just a bit more crossed than that, and she becomes exactly the woman I saw at the gym a few weeks ago. From the distance I saw this scene: a man is talking to a woman, he’s a bit too frontal, most likely he’s a bit too close relatively to how much she finds him attractive, maybe the subject of the conversation is not even the funniest, and she naturally switches to that position. She stayed like that for around a minute until the conversation was over, with a fake smile on her face and her arms crossed to signal her discomfort, and the man just kept plowing without making any adjustment. I’m sure that by the time the interaction was over, he must have gone away thinking she had experienced a pleasant interaction, since he focused only on the (fake) smile on her face, without even noticing the discomfort expressed through her closed body language.

Let’s compare the above case to this picture.

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Let’s imagine her eyes a bit more open than that, her expression a bit more “stiff” and “concerned” than that, and this represents how a few girls reacted when, without looking at anyone, I entered a restricted space where people were present already (e.g. a lift, public transport, etc) [1]. In this example, the combination of crossed arm plus that specific facial expression represents high attraction and a feeling of having been caught by surprise. If in one of those instances I had approached the girl who was displaying such body language, she would have hated me for that, since she was uncomfortable enough already, and she would have auto-rejected massively. How do I know? Well, let’s just say that it’s common sense, plus I can distinctly remember one episode when I was on the other side of the fence.

As I once got out of my car and turned around, I found two metres away from me this very beautiful girl looking directly into my eyes and smiling happily. To put it mildly, let’s just say that I was caught by surprise and I felt “just a little” overwhelmed. On one hand I managed to keep my body language in check like no big deal (good), on the other hand I was literarily shaking inside (bad), hoping for the girl not to start a conversation with me (terrible), and I went away not following up on that welcoming smile (shameful).

Then, it’s incredible how the mind works: since the girl in question was with a man whom I considered to be just her lift to work, as I was smiling back at her I rationalised me not going to start a casual conversation by pretending she was taken. She most likely wasn’t, and even if that man was her boyfriend/husband/whatever, that wouldn’t have been a good enough reason not to ping her after that beautiful smile. I felt very awkward at the time, still I’m glad I had that kind of experience since it helped me better understand a few bizarre behaviours I noticed girls were exhibiting in my presence, and that was when I fully and completely understood the importance of building comfort. Attractiveness is powerful, handle with care.

Going back to the topic discussed in this post, the remaining pillar that can benefit from an understanding of body language is Looks. The natural order of things is your Looks as the “cause”, and the body language of people you cross path with as the “effect” (i.e. the Indicators of Attraction). Still, you can use this “effect” as feedback on your Looks, especially if you are testing something new. But it’s essential to take into account the randomness somehow associated to all of this, and this is certainly best covered in a different post.

Notes:
[1] Each time I was using my peripheral vision and not looking directly at the girl, and the girl was not looking at me but rather straight in front of her.

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