Top 6 Mistakes Made When Reading Body Language
Unfortunately many seem to make mistakes when using body language and non-verbal signals to the extent that their attempt in reading actually reduces the quality of the communication. In this article you will explore a number of common mistakes made when people read body language.
Reading body language can significantly help you to improve your communication skills. Unfortunately many seem to make mistakes when using body language and non-verbal signals to the extent that their attempt in reading actually reduces the quality of the communication. In this article you will explore a number of common mistakes made when people read body language.
Ignoring a Person’s History
People have different habits, sense of humour and style. A particular gesture or the way they stand may not mean something specific other than the fact they are following a particular habit that have done for years or the gesture is natural given their specific circumstances or body shape. By comparing a person’s current body language to their baseline you can improve your understanding when you aim to read their body language.
Reading a Single Gesture to Make Conclusions
Gestures and postures must be read in a cluster. You must use a combination of non-verbal signals to decide how a person might be feeling or intending in comparison with what they are saying.
Not Considering the Context
When it comes to reading body language, context is everything. In cold weather, people with cross their arms. This should not be read as a defensive posture; it’s just that the person might be cold. Look for non-verbal signals that give you a clue on the state of the person. Is he tired, is she depressed, is he in a rush? Based on the context you can then consider other signals to make an informed decision.
Reading Body Language With Personal Bias
If you like a particular person, you tend to read his signals positively. If you don’t like a person you tend to read them negatively. This can lead to misunderstandings and bad communication. For example a person you are interacting with makes a particular gesture and just because you don’t like the person you may read it as rude, aggressive or suggestive. Instead, you need to learn to judge a person without this personal bias and look for context and read other non-verbal signals to confirm your understanding of the situation. Use a cluster of signals along with verbal signals to decide.
Using Wrong Non-Verbal Signals
There has been a lot of recent research in the field of body language, however some old techniques are still circulated and even used to train people on body language. These signals are now shown to be inconclusive. Signals such as touching the nose or scratching the eye were historically associated by lying. Research shows that these signals alone may not indicate that the person is a liar; just that he is stressed. The distinction is critical and can easily lead to misinterpretation.
Reading Body Language With Cultural Bias
Similarly, a cultural bias can get in the way when reading body language of people from other countries. You may dislike a gesture and consider it rude in your own culture while in reality the person from the other culture has not been rude at all. Sometimes the difference between cultures is so much that a particular posture or gesture is read exactly as the opposite. By increasing your knowledge about other cultures and their body language you can maximise your chances of interpreting it correctly and improve your communication skills with them.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Anderson is a training consultant at Skills Converged. The company provides training resources on soft skills, management skills and interpersonal skills which are used by the training community to deliver interactive face-to-face training courses.