The Internet is an awesome resource, but if you think of it as millions of ongoing conversations, happening all at the same time, then it is easy for ‘Chinese whispers’ and misinformation to spread around.
Take for example the other day I was on Yahoo Answers and came across two articles talking about body language and read the following statements:
"Whenever a man messes with his belt buckle he wants to have sex and whenever someone you have sexual tension with bite their lower lip they wanna kiss you"
Or Tueur: "This is how to detect someone lie." followed by some commentary about using traditional eye accessing ques information.
RM: "when a person talks fast, it means they have a confidence issue"
Do you think these are ‘true’?
To be fair, even highly trained NLPers will talk about someone being a "visual person" or he is a totally "kinesthetic person" etc, an not be aware of the generalization they are making.
In most cases, where we have ‘X behaviour only and must mean that’ kind of statement we have nothing more than a form of projection going on, which becomes a filter we now sort all future similar actions through.
Test it for yourself.
If you are someone who speaks fast, did you know that you MUST suffer from a confidence issue?, or that you MUST be nervous?
Why? Because so and so says so and it must be real because it is on the Internet.
Gentleman, did you know that ALL women think you want to have sex when you touch your belt buckle. Best be VERY careful around the office, especially when you pop out from the bathroom …
Ladies did you know that anytime a man looks up and to the right he MUST be lying. Or that if he uses words like see, clear, quick he is ONLY a visual person.
Of course, I've been deliberately amplifying the implications proposed by each of the above worldviews. Making such broad generalizations with no other conditions or contextual information is usually wildly inaccurate. Yet that doesn't stop people from thinking that it is so .. and therefore the inferred conclusion is there can only be ONE meaning to any given expression is unfortunately widespread.
But making statements about body language, without any contextual indicators of substance to support why X must mean Y isn’t so much the problem as the implications of such conclusions. When you think the ONLY conclusion for X behaviour is it means Y, then without realizing you take on that presumed bit of projection/information as a fact and then act as if it were most certainly the case. And that can get you in to all kinds of hot water.
A girl smiles at a boy in the office and he thinks, “she MUST like me”. A wife sees that her husband gets a text, which upon opening she notices he smiles, giggles but he won’t show it to her and says it’s a work thing, so she instantly worries he is cheating on her.
A boss asks you into the office for an 8:30AM meeting unexpectedly and you instantly think “I’m going to get fired!” and you then you can’t sleep that night. Mis-reading social ques, body language and other people’s behaviour can land one in all kinds of problems.
But it can be reduced when you understand a couple of key things.
Making It Practical:
If you want to be good with body language, or if you'd like to be able to detect and notice emotions as they are happening, to be able to read state changes easily then the first step is to spend some time taking the wool from ones eyes by asking yourself "how do I know X body gesture means such and such?" … "Am I projecting here?" .. "What else in terms of behavior, if it was present would invalidate my assumption about what I thought was going on?"
Challenge yourself and your worldviews on a regular basis. Sometimes your gut instinct will be right yet other times it will be clouded by misperceptions and specific ways you are filtering the world (most of which without challenging you will be never aware of).
If you ask yourself these three questions you will become far better at staying awake from the cultural mass hypnosis about what specific body language means. You will be much sharper at noticing what is really going and detecting behavioral patterns in others, which can be very useful to a skilled communicator, but that is for another post.
Remember in NLP we hold the perspective that people communicate in multiple channels at once .. so you will have lots of other indicators that indicate state change and what is really going on … such as change in skin colour, voice tone, inflection, body posture etc. Stay alert, challenge your own assumptions and be wary when you see only ONE way of interpreting what is going on, without first challenging your thought processes.
And if your curious to learn more and would like to accelerate your ability to track and notice sensory differences and really get a grip on body language, then check out our new 90 minute training called 'Enhanced Sensory Acuity' here.
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