Body language secrets. Archived Photo

The whole world speaks the most primitive language, and even then, few speak it fluently. Body language is a silent language that I have been learning for many years from the hand of my mentor, Joe Navarro, a former official and senior FBI director for more than 23 years.

Painfully one or another pseudo-expert in these areas speak of this body language as if it were an exact science where they misinform people with statements such as, for example, if you cross your arms you are blocking, if the person looks to the right or touches your nose, he or she is lying. 

Or my favorite myth, that a person’s daily communication is 55% corporal, 38% voice tone, while only 7% are words. If this were true, why learn another language? If you have heard this number before, please forget it now.

The first person who expressed this was Dr. Mehrabian, who in various conversations I have had with him, told me that his study carried out in ’67 was taken out of context because he only interviewed women in order to analyze the non- verbal by the influence of the voice through recordings, but never live. 

In this study, only the influence of facial gestures was observed without having another type of body language, therefore, he said to stop taking out of context what he meant and do not continue interpreting his studies as an exact science . Because in the end, body language is an interpretative science that groups diverse sciences.

In this article I will share only 5 things that I learned during several years with my mentor so that you can learn to read better both the environment and the people.

Situational Consciousness

Observing consciously and with attention is essential to understand body language. 

Being aware of the environment is essential to recognise where you are at all times, having a solid image of every element and / or person that comes around you. You must learn to change your internal chip of seeing by observing, of hearing by listening.

Tip 1: Sit in a cafe and in 8 seconds observe all the details of your surroundings. Then, with your eyes closed, try to describe every detail of the environment. Follow this, open your eyes after your description and review your findings.

Context and Baseline

People have a base behaviour pattern. Whether walking in a certain way, looking away a lot or little with the eyes, a tendency to cross one’s arms, certain gestures, even moving your foot from top to bottom when sitting. A change of this baseline, depending on the context, it can tell us much about what goes on in a person’s mind.

For example, the baseline of a friend’s child is usually very extroverted. But it happened in a family event, that the son greeted a family member, whom he already knew, in an atypical and introverted way. 

My friend was very interested, since her son, showed in the greeting a stooped posture (turtle effect), looked at the floor, a low volume of voice and ankles almost glued. 

These nonverbal signs show fear and submission, and analyzing the context, this child should be very effusive and cheerful, yet showed peaks outside of their nonverbal baseline. That is, something happened with your child with this family member. My friend asked for my recommendation, and I told her to talk with her son first, to see why she greeted her family member in that way. 

Tip 2: During interaction with others, learn to determine the patterns of non-verbal behavior of the person, when he is comfortable and uncomfortable, both in his face, in how he sits, where his hands and feet rest on certain situations and even his position in general. Then decode the context in which the person is and analyze, if it is normal or not, the non-verbal with the environment.

Changes that never change

Have situational awareness of the inconsistencies between the baseline of the person, their words and gestures. Changes in behavior can indicate changes in thinking, emotions, interests and intentions.

Tip 3: Every time you observe abrupt changes in a person’s baseline behavior, ask yourself constantly: ‘ why this and that’ .

From the local to the global

It is impossible to read a single word of a sheet and know what the whole page says. The same happens in body language, not isolating a gesture (local) from others (global). Many pseudoexperts misinform when they say that if the person crosses their arms is because they are blocked, or other false statements like that. No, you must learn to observe gesture by gesture until you can do a global analysis in order to determine what actually happens.

For example, in a training workshop with army officers, a colonel crossed his arms constantly while frowning his brow, being these signs of disinterest, discomfort, among others. But I did not get carried away by a hasty analysis, because there must be a reason why it showed these signs being very different from the non-verbal behaviors of the other officers present. 

To my surprise, at the end of the workshop I was approached by this colonel and he thanked me deeply for the workshop and wanted me to excuse him for crossing his arms and frowning because throughout the workshop he was very cold and because he suffers from a certain type of intolerance of lighting causing him to frown continuously on his forehead. Therefore, reading the global gestures helped me to carry out a deeper and more integral analysis,He did not like the workshop . 

For example, a few years ago I asked for an address to the store on the side. 

When I opened the door, I told the domicile that I had to return to the room, because I needed 400 pesos. Upon returning, I observe that his posture was very rigid, lips partially disappeared, he passed saliva, and while his eyes were opened like of a deer seconds before being run over. 

Right there I slowed down as I walked down the corridor and analyzed why this non-verbal change was so abrupt. 

I remembered that right next to the door, I had an open envelope with the amount of payment money for my employee. I mentally connected the pieces before handing over the remaining 400 pesos, I close the door and immediately afterwards I count the payment of my employee, and surprisingly, I was short. ( Continues in Tip 5)

Tip 4: Observe and take note when various gestures and behaviour patterns come together.

The truth of the lie

My mentor was the one who designed the interrogation manual for the FBI, and something that he stressed to me was that about the detection of lies, there are many lies. And if you believe that you are not a liar, then you are lying. 

The lie is healthy and necessary to a certain extent. Animals constantly lie by survival instinct, and as modern animals we are, we have adjusted these lies to lead a life as everyone wants to live. Know that when we have been accused of being liars, knowing that we have told the truth, our primary reaction is anger. 

Therefore, when we suspect and accuse the veracity of a person and his response is fear, accompanied by silence, it is a strong indication that he hides something and fears for his welfare. 

This happened to the domicile owner of whom I spoke in the third commandment. To finish the story, I gave the instruction to the doorman to tell the domiciliary to go back up because he was going to “make another request”. 

Tip 5: This is when my lie was necessary to intercept him and return what did not belong to him.

Turn the domicile, quiet being believing that he was going to make another request, but suddenly my question is: why did you take what is not yours ?. 

He immediately opens his eyes like a deer to headlights, his proxemia changes and distance, while I mentally counted the seconds he took to answer: 5 seconds. 

Then he replied: “I am not a crook”. Same answer Nixón gave to the Grand Jury when he was accused of the Watergate case. 

Then, I told him that I am not accusing him of being a thief, but why he took what did not belong to him (without saying it was money) as a strategy to see if he fell into the trap.

“I did not take any money,” said the domicile owner. I just smiled and said, “I never said anything about money, how do you know then that it’s money we were talking about?” 

Again, Another deep silence and his eyes opened like a deer seconds before being run over by my next statement: “Give me my money back.” After several minutes, while the police arrived, he ended up returning the money.


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