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bumble
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23 Apr 2011, 9:08 am

Have you ever read a body language book, memorised what various poses or tells etc should mean but find that in an actual social situation you are still unable to actually use that information and that you are still non the wiser as to what someone's body language is actually saying? As though it is nothing more than information in your head that you cannot actually do anything with when you need to?

Does this make sense to anyone out there?

Ie if someone crosses their arms the great google says that it means they are nervous, or they disagree with you or that they want to be left alone and don't want to talk and so on. But how do you know which one it is? When I see someone cross their arms, that's all I see...crossed arms and not some hidden message about how they are feeling. Even after reading about body language I can still remain confused as I don't seem to be able to use the information I gather in practical way.

In a similar way I can't use my own body language to communicate messages to others as I don't really know what messages I am conveying sometimes unless I am using obvious hand gestures as though I am playing a game of charades lol.

Does anyone else have this problem also?



Last edited by bumble on 23 Apr 2011, 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

syrella
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23 Apr 2011, 9:12 am

I've read up a little on body language. I spent a whole day on youtube and google looking up information. I'd like to get a book at some point.

I don't know if it's really helped at all, though. Sometimes reading or thinking about body language too much makes me a bit paranoid. I start thinking that everything I do is sending messages to people. :oops:


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leejosepho
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23 Apr 2011, 9:16 am

Yes, this all makes sense to me. A therapist once said my own crossed arms indicated I was placing a barrier between him (or whatever he was saying) and myself ... and so now I see all crossed arms as meaning the same thing no matter what someone else might actually be doing at the time.

Point: I see "body language" taking place around me, but I am almost always incapable of drawing right conclusions as to what it might actually indicate.


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23 Apr 2011, 9:35 am

I was on a date once with a guy who was really focused on body language. We were at a party sitting on a couch and I had my legs crossed toward him. My hip started hurting (I have problems) so I switched the other way. He got all weird and said I was rejecting him, but really my hip just hurt. :roll: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.



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23 Apr 2011, 9:40 am

Definitely - it's almost like you're writing about me! I've read lots of body language books, and I still find it confusing. I've also watched Lie to me, and I still can't tell when people are lying to me.

For me it's not always about being unable to interpret, it's also an information overload thing. It's hard enough concentrating on what people are saying, and what I'm going to reply, without trying to decipher their body language.

Have you read about mirroring? That really messes with my mind. There is a page on Wikipedia about it: Mirroring



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23 Apr 2011, 9:46 am

I have read hundreds of pages on body language. What I discovered was that I knew it all, I could actually explain what a person could mean by posture, eye contact, etc. I could actually write a comprehensive essay about it. But I would never be able to put it to practical use, e. g. during real conversation, as I am too focused on what is being said to pay attention.



jamesongerbil
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23 Apr 2011, 10:26 am

It's called "generalization," and according to journals, we're bad at it. *shrug* But yeah, a crossed arm with certain expression could also mean arrogance apparently. It's all about context, which changes from moment to moment, and it's freakin' crazy.



cdfox7
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23 Apr 2011, 12:40 pm

I have read a few body language book tho I found them to be unhelpful, what I found helpful in given insight into body language was two things:
1) Observing body language in action, eg on TV talk shows & in art galleries
2) a few role play exercises in personal development & counselling courses, the best ones were on my NLP training courses.

Also to note just looking one piece of body language can give mixed messages. eg. crossed arm as a barrier it can also mean that a person is cold. Look at all the body language going on at the same time, plus eye movement, changes in voice, skin tone & lip movement do give a lot of cues in non verbal communication.

However ihmo some of the best books in non verbal communication happen to be in the area of Neuro Linguistic Programming.



bumble
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23 Apr 2011, 1:09 pm

cdfox7 wrote:
I have read a few body language book tho I found them to be unhelpful, what I found helpful in given insight into body language was two things:
1) Observing body language in action, eg on TV talk shows & in art galleries
2) a few role play exercises in personal development & counselling courses, the best ones were on my NLP training courses.

Also to note just looking one piece of body language can give mixed messages. eg. crossed arm as a barrier it can also mean that a person is cold. Look at all the body language going on at the same time, plus eye movement, changes in voice, skin tone & lip movement do give a lot of cues in non verbal communication.

However ihmo some of the best books in non verbal communication happen to be in the area of Neuro Linguistic Programming.


That is a lot of things to have to watch at once and I am not very good at multitasking. I tend to find it hard to focus on too many things at once plus my mind likes to pick on one thing to focus on and zoom in on that. I also can't seem to shift my focus quickly. It does it with my hobbies as well...if my main interest is sequin art for example my brain will want to do nothing but sequin art whilst my other interests sit there dormant or until they cycle back around again. If someone interrupts my sequin art session for a conversation I tend to be somewhat irritated as my brain does not want to focus on something else at that time.

I don't often really look at people...I mostly just listen and can do entire transactions at the local shop etc without looking at the counter clerk once. I have concluded that I would make a terrible eye witness:

Police "Can you give me a description of the counter clerk when you were in the shop earlier today?"

Me "Well, I think they were male....either that or it was a female with a very deep voice and a hormonal problem. They may have been tall, or about my height or maybe they were short I am not sure. I can, however, tell you that they had several bars of Kellogs rice crispie squares and 3 special K bars on the counter display at the time. They were running low on asprin and they have moved the stand with the large packs of crisps (including the wotsits as I was looking for them) over to the left for some reason. Is that information useful to you?"

Police "Ummm"

I could ask my therapist whether they do anything like an NLP course in my area.



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23 Apr 2011, 1:46 pm

For body language, it's often ALL about the context of the social situation you are in.

For example, if you were recounting a story and the person has their arms crossed and it's the end of the workday, they may just be tired or uncomfortable physically and just want to get home.

But let's say I was recounting a story and the person had their arms crossed, but it was the middle of the day, and when I approached them they had a warm and open posture/facial expression, they just may be uninterested in what you have to say. It doesn't hurt to directly ask the person either...sometimes when I wasn't sure I'd always check with them and then ask: "Is everything okay?" or "Am I bugging you?".

I always made the mistake of assuming the worst emotions in situations...for example, that people were always irritated or annoyed by me. Often, it's something else though, (like a rough day) and not necessarily you, so that's why you check in with them.


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DarrylZero
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23 Apr 2011, 2:05 pm

The biggest problem with reading body language is relying on a single cue, such as crossing of the arms. As others have said, context is important, but so is watching for clusters. For example, if you're talking to someone and their arms are crossed, look at other cues. Is the room cold? Maybe they're just trying to stay warm. Are they leaning towards you while talking? Then it's not likely a "barrier" meaning. Now, if they're leaning away from you while crossing their arms, or their body is turned away from you (i.e., not squared up to yours), that's a cluster that indicates a "I-don't-really-want-to-talk-to-you" type of situation. If their feet also happen to point away from you, it reinforces the "message." Or it could just be the nature of the other person's chair.

The other thing to remember with body language is that it's not 100% accurate. It's more like probability. The more cues you see, the more clusters you see, in conjunction with the context, increases the probability of a correct interpretation.

I can do it fairly well as an observer, but as a participant in the conversation my skill level probably gets cut at least in half.



cdfox7
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23 Apr 2011, 4:50 pm

bumble wrote:
cdfox7 wrote:
I have read a few body language book tho I found them to be unhelpful, what I found helpful in given insight into body language was two things:
1) Observing body language in action, eg on TV talk shows & in art galleries
2) a few role play exercises in personal development & counselling courses, the best ones were on my NLP training courses.

Also to note just looking one piece of body language can give mixed messages. eg. crossed arm as a barrier it can also mean that a person is cold. Look at all the body language going on at the same time, plus eye movement, changes in voice, skin tone & lip movement do give a lot of cues in non verbal communication.

However ihmo some of the best books in non verbal communication happen to be in the area of Neuro Linguistic Programming.


That is a lot of things to have to watch at once and I am not very good at multitasking. I tend to find it hard to focus on too many things at once plus my mind likes to pick on one thing to focus on and zoom in on that. I also can't seem to shift my focus quickly. It does it with my hobbies as well...if my main interest is sequin art for example my brain will want to do nothing but sequin art whilst my other interests sit there dormant or until they cycle back around again. If someone interrupts my sequin art session for a conversation I tend to be somewhat irritated as my brain does not want to focus on something else at that time.

I don't often really look at people...I mostly just listen and can do entire transactions at the local shop etc without looking at the counter clerk once. I have concluded that I would make a terrible eye witness:

Police "Can you give me a description of the counter clerk when you were in the shop earlier today?"

Me "Well, I think they were male....either that or it was a female with a very deep voice and a hormonal problem. They may have been tall, or about my height or maybe they were short I am not sure. I can, however, tell you that they had several bars of Kellogs rice crispie squares and 3 special K bars on the counter display at the time. They were running low on asprin and they have moved the stand with the large packs of crisps (including the wotsits as I was looking for them) over to the left for some reason. Is that information useful to you?"

Police "Ummm"

I could ask my therapist whether they do anything like an NLP course in my area.


Just work on focusing on a small area of NVC to start with like taking note of voice pattens one you feel you understand that then move on to another area, then build all the parts together after you mastered each part.

Just one note of warring about NLP courses some of them can be quite expensive especially the ones that train in being a practitioner. So working face to face with a NLP practitioner/therapist, mini courses, or NLP books & work with your therapist (if there up to using NLP methods) might be a cheaper options.



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23 Apr 2011, 5:23 pm

OP: Yes, your question makes a lot of sense. I've read up on body language a lot for many years, and it still remains a very foreign language to me. All the little rules about how "this gesture means this, EXCEPT maybe when..." drive me crazy.