How To Recognize Positive Body Language
Because people often engage in masking techniques, it can be difficult to learn how to recognize positive body language accurately. For example, it's normal to assume that a smile is an expression of genuine happiness, but smiles are often used to hide fear, discomfort, or even hostility. People assume that liars can't make direct eye contact, but shifty eyes are often a sign of nervousness associated with being questioned, not with lying. The more you know about a person and their emotional state, the better you'll be able to gauge whether their positive body language is sincere or just a masking technique. Here are a few general tips for spotting positive body language.
- Alignment of the body. Someone who is interested in and accepting of the person with whom they're speaking will face them. Having any portion of the body face away from the other person can be sign of avoidance.
- Openness of the body. Uncrossed arms and legs also signal positive body language. They show a person is comfortable with the other person. Crossed arms and legs, on the other hand, signal defensiveness. People who stand with open postures are judged more positively and perceived to be more persuasive than those who stand with closed postures.
- Eye contact. Frequent eye contact lasting a few seconds is a good sign, but staring can indicate anger or aggression.
- Posture. A subtle tilt of the torso toward the other speaker indicates interest and comfort. It can even trigger your conversation partner to talk for longer periods of time. A more extreme tilt can indicate the desire to intimidate.
- Distance. In general, the closer two people stand, the closer and more comfortable they feel with each other, although standing less than a foot apart is unusual in public places, except for spouses or partners. However, closing in too closely on a person's space can indicate aggression rather than positive body language.
- Mimicking. Mirroring another person's gestures or expressions is one of the clearest signs of positive body language. It signals openness and can even enhance rapport.
- Nodding. Nodding your head is a very strong positive body language indicator that gives your conversation partner positive reinforcement and can signal them to continue talking when they might not otherwise.