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Human Interest

What Do People Really Think About You? FBI Agent Shares Tips for “Reading” Body Language

Identify their nonverbal cues.


Have you ever been in a social situation and had a hard time “reading” someone? Maybe there’s someone you’re having trouble trusting, and you’re not sure why. Or maybe you can’t tell whether a person is enjoying your conversation or not. As it turns out, much of human communication is nonverbal. Here, body-language experts share proven ways to decode silent messages and read people’s true feelings.

Discover the truth with an eyebrow check.

The next time you’re bouncing an idea off a friend and want to know her honest opinion, pay attention to the tiny space above her nose and between her eyebrows (called the glabella) where multiple muscles connect. “When we disagree with someone, the lines in this region suddenly furrow or change,” reveals former FBI agent Joe Navarro, author of What Every BODY Is Saying (Buy from Amazon, $10.99). When we agree, this part of the face is relaxed. “It’s a very informative region that most people miss because they’re distracted by ‘flashier’ signals, like nodding, which isn’t always honest,” he says. Tuning into this nickel-size “truth zone” will help you pinpoint what someone is really thinking.

Gauge connections with a neck check.

You’re getting ready for a first date, and you’re hoping you hit it off in the real world as well as you did online. One of the best ways to gauge if someone is letting down their guard and truly comfortable with you? Watch their neck, advises Navarro. Pay particular attention to the soft space at the base of the throat, known as the suprasternal notch, between the collarbones. We instinctively touch this area, a self-soothing move, when we feel insecure. Think of the saying “clutching her pearls” or the tendency for men to adjust their tie when the pressure is on. “These gestures stand out because they’re subconscious and often indicate the person is uncomfortable or holding something back,” says Navarro. Tilting one’s head, however, to expose the neck — the body’s most vulnerable area — is a sign of trust.

Sense stress levels with a gut check.

You asked your sister to help you plan your church fundraiser, and while she agreed, you wonder if the project is secretly dialing up her stress levels. Because she’s too nice to say anything, look for nonverbal “mood clues,” urges body-language expert Patti Wood. “Where we position our belly says a lot about our stress and confidence levels,” she says. Just note how someone stands when they’re talking to you — belly facing you or angled slightly away. “When people position their belly, which holds our precious vital organs, toward us, they’re showing a sense of safety,” says Wood. “But when they shift away, it’s a signal that they want to escape.” These postures are hardwired in our brain’s limbic system, and are therefore very revealing.

Speak volumes with your body language.

All this body language interpretation got you wondering about the signals you’re sending out with your own body language? See these tips to appear confident, likable, and approachable, no matter the situation.

Take the first steps. Simply initiating contact with a handshake when meeting someone new (rather than waiting to be greeted) boosts your likability by creating a confident first impression.

Flash the royal eyebrow arch. When approaching loved ones, smile and exaggerate the arch of your eyebrows (like Princess Kate when she greets someone). Lighting up your face and conveying excitement, this move makes those on the other end of your “arch” feel even more treasured.

Accentuate your charisma. The most charming folks often have one thing in common: powerful eye contact. Maintaining appropriate eye contact signifies empathy and that you’re interested in what the other person saying.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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