Body Language Analysis – Decoding the Most Misinterpreted Language

Kevin Hogan

Today you’re going to see the difference between normal male and normal female facial expressions. The picture off to the right is what most people assume will greet them when they walk in the door.

Except that isn’t what happens in the real world.

Normal people behave with a wide range of expressions and as people observe normal behavior, their assumptions, hopes and wishes are typically not met by what they see. As you can guess, person A often looks at person B and believes that person B is unhappier or angrier or more irritated than they typically are. This perception is almost always – miscalculated.

Today you’ll also gain a few insights into the latest about The Body Language of Power. You’ll find out what touching means.

You’ll see what it means when she smiles and the potential doom of what it means when she looks angry. You’ve not seen this before. It’s got ramifications for everyone to understand.

So many …ok most – books and course material about body language and nonverbal communication are simply…well…cute. With rare exception, they are analogous to a little kid learning from his teacher that 3 + 2 = 5. That night the teacher goes home and says to their new friend, “I teach math,” neglecting…”just not geometry, differential equations, calculus, trig, analysis, algebra, statistics & probability.”

Since I created Influence: Boot Camp, the standard in the field for learning to influence and persuade, there has been a tri-fold increase in what we know about nonverbal communication. The world has shrunk, but culture, contexts and genetics, remain as the generators of how and why people communicate with their bodies, stuff, and the space around them.

In your average book on body language, you now see pictures about someone in the Middle East making a hand gesture. You see a smile on the face of an Asian with a caption defining what “it means.” It’s…cute. Now you can know there are some broad generalizations about “gestures” but there is no dictionary. And again, today you find out what and why.

Let’s begin with something that is almost taboo in many environments in the U.S. –

Body Language and The Touch

Contact is the subject of much controversy in the U.S. There are very different rules for different contexts that don’t exist in most countries. You used to need a Dictionary of Appropriate American Touch Behavior by Work, Park and Home Guide.

Not anymore.

The better approach seems to be “shake hands and step back.” But is that right? Is that appropriate and correct?

In other cultures around the world, though, there are also norms that exist about touch. There are norms about just how close is close and just where/when touch is OK and where/when touch is not OK.

“Appropriate Touch”

Touch is considered appropriate, and more often than not desirable, in Latin America, Mexico and South America. It’s also good to go in most, but not all of Europe, Russia, the northern half of Africa.

Ah…and, proximity, just how close you sit to someone else, is pretty much dictated by whether the culture is touch appropriate.

Meanwhile, contact is generally considered less appropriate and not the norm in Germany, almost all countries in Asia and you certainly don’t touch much…in the Scandinavian nations.

I go to England often enough that I see a lot of people I know from previous trips. If I’m tired, I’ll be the guy who hugs corporate executives and janitors. If I’m thinking, I’ll generally keep my distance, feel cold and make no contact as is my slightly skewed perception of the cultural norm in the UK.

Sometimes I hug people in the UK just to remind them that touch can be heartening. I wouldn’t recommend you taking on a culture. A handshake is plenty in the UK…although their airport security agents are the most liberal feelers I’ve ever experienced…anywhere…by far. I think I’m engaged to four different people that work at Heathrow…

Click here to listen to my latest podcast, “Deconstructing Your Sales Presentation Using the 80/20 Rule to Focus on What Matters!”