Understanding what’s going on in someone’s mind is not a supernatural power; it is a skill that can be learned, developed, and practiced. You don’t have to be a psychic or a detective to do it — knowing what to look for is enough. In fact, we all have this ability to tap into others’ feelings and emotions by reading nonverbal cues, and much of the communication between people happens unconsciously through body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
You certainly don’t say everything that comes to your mind, but it shows subconsciously in your gestures and facial expressions. You may not notice it, but someone with developed nonverbal decoding skills most likely will.
These skills can make an individual a more convincing spokesperson, a better salesperson or even a mysterious specialist with a crystal ball and Tarot cards, who earns a few extra bucks by figuring out what a person expects or wants them to say.
Here is a list of 7 tips that will help you notice many interesting things and patterns in the behavior of others:
1. Consider the context.
Before you read anything on the topic — below or elsewhere — please note that the same behaviors in different contexts can mean different things. For example, people tend to mirror the thoughts, feelings, and gestures of others when they are really engaged in the conversation or finding value in what their partner’s conversation.
In some countries, a handshake is simply not a common form of greeting, so it’s not always a sign of someone’s impoliteness if some people don’t eagerly shake hands. There are many stereotypes about people and their behaviors or body language, and these may vary significantly from country to country. Avoid assuming that a certain nonverbal cue always means the same thing. Context matters.
2. Pay attention to their facial expressions.
A very important part of understanding someone’s mind is watching that person’s facial expressions. This may seem obvious, as all people have the ability to detect and recognize the emotions of others, but subtle emotional changes are not that easy to notice and interpret. They are different from the basic mimicry of frowning or smiling.
For example, telling a real smile from a fake or forced smile is mostly a matter of paying close attention to the appearance of lines near the eyes of the subject. A genuine smile invokes more of these due to the use of more facial muscles.
Face reading involves things such as the position and movement of the eyelids and the brows, as well as the specific appearance of wrinkles and lines when people feel a certain way (sad, for example), or permanent changes when they feel like that for prolonged periods of time.
Learning how to notice the subtle or deeper changes that happen in the face will enable you not only to read people’s thoughts and emotions, but to predict these as well by identifying their first signs before the person even becomes aware of them.
3. Determine what is normal.
Many people have their own irregularities, peculiarities, and habits. Some of these may be red flags alerting you to someone’s nervousness, irritability, dishonesty, lack of confidence or trust.
Others are triggered by a number of things and are normal reactions to different circumstances or ensure the kind of flexibility that allows people to adapt to the changes and stresses in their lives. Depending on the patterns of behavior that are common and normal for a certain person, the deviations and inconsistencies can be very informative.
4. Watch and compare.
When you already have some idea of what is normal for someone and what is special about them, keep an eye on their interactions with other people — their eyes, their posture, their body language, and other details. By comparing and contrasting spoken or unspoken cues, you may notice a particular behavior or trait, different patterns in the behavior of the person, as well as habits and attitudes that are out-of-the-ordinary or far from average in some respect.
5. Trust your intuition.
When it tells you what someone is probably thinking or feeling at the moment, or that something is wrong with them, you may not be sure how to interpret it. However, this sinking or even sickening ‘gut’ feeling we call intuition shouldn’t be ignored, as it can protect you from dishonest, hypocritical, mean, and toxic people.
Your intuition can pick up things that your other senses will miss. Your subconscious mind may detect slight inconsistencies between what a person is saying and how they are saying it or some of the anxiety they are experiencing when lying.
6. Watch their social behavior.
Social behavior is an important factor that can help you see the full picture or get more accurate results when guessing someone’s personality. Does the person often interrupt others or put them down, or display signs of aggression, dominance or manipulative behavior?
Some signs are not sufficient on their own to prove the existence of a certain trait, attitude or emotion, but their combination, progression, order or frequency may provide significant insights when taking into consideration the context of the situation.
7. Take notice of their body movement.
Your emotional state can cause some changes in your posture, body movement, and gait. For example, a person may develop a more bouncy rhythm and looser style, along with upright posture, or they could have stiffer and slower movements with more leaning forward. Confident people usually walk with wide steps, keep their back straight, and they don’t fidget or make clumsy moves like those who are feeling anxious or uneasy.
What’s great about body language is that it can be used not only to read people but also to affect and change your own emotions. Just try to straighten your back, stretch your shoulders, and keep this posture for a while to see what happens. While slouching makes you act and feel like a defeated or frustrated person, while acting like a confident and happy person makes you feel stronger.
The material in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the advice of a certified specialist.
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