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Four Places to Watch for Body Language
When meeting someone for the first time, the way you arch your eyebrows, move your hands, or even sit can tell them how you feel. Here's a quick guide to recognizing the subtle messages you might receive—or inadvertently send.
The Head: People who are genuinely interested will naturally cock their head to the side, as if literally offering an ear to their partner. Raising the eyebrows can also be a sign of interest, as can nodding your head in clusters of three rather than only once. On the flip side, a furrowed brow is often a sign of confusion, and many people bite their lip to soothe themselves in situations that feel awkward or uncomfortable.
The Hands: In the company of unfamiliar faces, most people assume a cautious approach to the conversation. They might sit back and use small, precise gestures when speaking in a slow, quiet manner. Once they're comfortable, however, people open up, relaxing their shoulders and leaning forward to use more animated, open gestures and faster speech. These signals go both ways: adopting the more interested, exciting body language can convey your interest and make you seem more inviting at the same time.
The Habits: Even among these signals, not all body language tells the whole story. For instance, self-soothing behaviors such as biting your nails could come across to others as results of anxiety or discomfort—both possible signs of deception. Studies show, however, that these behaviors are more indicative of stress than lying; both guilty and innocent parties exhibited them in interview situations.
The Eyes: Likewise, avoiding eye contact is frequently associated with lying, but studies have shown that habitual liars often attempt to compensate by engaging in more eye contact than usual. In fact, humans naturally look away when trying to recall important conversation points, glancing upward when trying to recall a visual memory or to the side (toward the ears) to remember something they heard. So next time you think someone is lying, be aware: they could just be trying to be completely honest about what they saw at their Great Aunt's funeral during your barbecue last weekend.