Like, Love, or Lust: How Does Body Language Communicate Your Feelings?
I’ve always been infatuated with non-verbal communication. I love to people watch. I can analyze the interactions between two or more individuals, and get pretty close to deciphering the story being told with little to no words. In college, I took an entire course dedicated to this topic, and my interest level skyrocketed. You can make certain assumptions and generalizations based off of a way someone dresses, stands, moves, and smiles without them uttering one single syllable. Multiple studies show that nonverbal communication accounts for roughly 60%-80% of our daily communication. Reading this article in US News regarding the correlation between body language and the level of interest your date has in you was pretty interesting.
This was a Q&A segment with Janine Denver, the founder, president, and lead instructor of the Body Language Institute in Alexandria, Va. She offered insight and analysis of different actions that can signal interest:
We face our belly button toward people we like, admire, or trust. So when a person either shakes your hand or sits down across from you, pay attention to whether his belly button is facing you. Does he reach his arm out to the side and shake your hand from the side of his body? If he does that, he’s just given you a cold shoulder, so you’re not off to a great start. Once you sit down, if the belly button is facing toward you, then everything is going well. I call this the belly button rule; a nickname is navel intelligence.
First off, I think the term “navel intelligence” is both clever and hilarious. Next, I’m going to watch a lot of stomachs over the next few weeks to see if this holds true. I do think there’s truth in this statement. You can tell whether or not someone embraces you warmly as a friend vs. coldly as to say “I don’t know you like that.”
Fellas, have you ever gone to give someone a pound and they hold out their arm stiffly as to Tekken counter your 1 arm embrace? I HATE that, lol, but that tells me I’m shaking your hand but my “peoples” get the full love. Ladies, I would also equate this to the “one arm + tap the back” fake hugs you may give out to “be nice.” If that’s how you hug normally, or how you give pounds (fellas), understand that to some people, you may communicate an arms-length feeling of comfort that may turn people off.
Touching has always been the tell-tale sign of interest for me. You can convey many messages while touching someone. Women are especially good at this, but if you don’t know what to look for, you will be clueless. That feeling of comfort and rapport can be developed through touching, as Janine agrees. She also gave another hint for guys to know if a woman is feeling them:
…when you’re crossing your legs, the leg that’s on the outside of your body is the one that should be on top. You don’t want to create a barrier between you and your date. For example, if my date’s to my left, I want to make sure my right leg is on top because now I’m creating what’s called a closed circle. If my date is on the left, and my left leg is on top, then my belly button is angled away, and I’m saying: I’m open for others to approach.
As I spoke about earlier, it’s easy to misconstrue certain body signals. Janine dispels some common myths:
You can’t use eye movement to detect deception; that was scientifically proven wrong more than a decade ago. And crossed arms! We think that when a person crosses his arms, he doesn’t like us, but that’s a myth. When we cross our arms, we are 30 percent more likely to stay on the task at hand. Why is that? When we cross our arms, we’re using both our right and left brains—the logic and risk-taking sides. We often think it’s a defensive sign, but really, we don’t know why we cross our arms.
As a dude who admittedly looks everywhere when he talks, but can focus when necessary, this was interesting. I always try to keep eye contact with those I talk to, but when things are going on in the background my eye can wander. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the conversation, it’s a natural reaction given my multi-tasking ways. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think it applies to some people. My advice would be to analyze when and how someone focuses their eyes in different situations, check their pattern, and decide for yourself. I also thought that folding your arms was rude, as there’s a natural aversion towards the gesture. The scientific reasoning behind it is interesting; therefore, I wouldn’t be concerned with arm folding. I’m Haitian, and a lot of Haitian people fold their arms when they talk, so it’s normal to me. I would be more interested in what the other person is doing while I talk.
Many moons ago, I read that if someone mimics your body movements, it’s a sign the person is interested in you. At first, I thought it was B.S. Then, when I paid attention, I found it 100% accurate. If you aren’t sure whether or not someone is interested in you, hold a conversation and change your posture a few times (i.e. fold your arms, then lean on a wall, etc.), and you’ll notice it immediately.
Something Janine didn’t mention in the article was how clothes and other items affect non verbal communication. For those that wear perfume or cologne, we must remember that not all fragrances are appealing to the same people. The clothes you wear can say/represent a lot about who you are and/or who you want people to think you are. This is why we put on suits for job interviews. I would say dress as yourself but keep it classy. I can respect a woman’s casual clothes game if it comes together nice and she doesn’t look sloppy. I won’t go on a date without being well-groomed because I don’t want to look like a hobo in front of someone I’m trying to impress.
Body language tells the underlying story to our intentions. In some cases, knowing how to control and accurately communicate these movements to others can remove confusion better than words. That’s why it’s important to learn how to effectively interpret and reciprocate body.
How has body language shaped your interactions with people? Do you find some of these tips to be accurate or false? What other signs might tip you off to a person’s level of interest in you?