Manipulating / Reading Body Language

Manipulating / Reading Body Language

In a recent blog we had discussed the value of body language in communication. We had noted that 55 % of our communication is through body language. There is great amount of literature written on the subject. Several books and programs claim to teach reading body language in a few days/weeks and so on. Just like a lot of fraud being perpetrated on the society, like methods to increase height and lose belly fat, this is yet another example of fraud. In this blog I have attempted to explain as to why reading body language is very difficult and so also faking body language to gain advantage.

Why Reading Body Language is Difficult?

A large amount of literature on the subject of reading body language tells about various signs and their interpretation. Most of the things written are correct. If this is so then why am I so firm that reading body language is very difficult? Let us see one example:
Person X keeps his arms folded when communicating. The body language reading manual would interpret it as the person not being open and frank. The action could be due to the following:

  • X may be feeling cold.
  • X could have learnt this behaviour subconsciously due to family/education/racial/cultural/workplace environment.
  • Some unique peculiar reason for X at that time.

Now see how wrong this interpretation could have been! Thus the body language reader has to be aware of  many other issues to interpret body language correctly. In short body language has to be read as a ‘cluster of gestures’ and not signs in isolation. This psychology of reading body language is known to all of us-the taught and the untaught alike. Your dog can anticipate some of your actions and read your mood without your speaking a single word by correct reading of body language. Your mother could do it too, when you were young and maybe even now! Your mother is no expert in reading body language. She is only an expert in reading your body language! You probably cannot fool her by put on behaviour, or false words! Thus all of us inadvertently read body language, but are not experts. I am a professional assessor, but I do not claim expertise in the field. Knowing about signs and their meanings is easy, but reading body language with high degree of accuracy in practical life is very difficult.

Faking Body Language is Very Difficult

A firm handshake is supposed to display warmth, firmness of character, extrovert nature, confidence and so on. This information is quite common knowledge. The plethora of  literature on the subject would have us believe that by faking body language we can manipulate our way to success. This is a fraud. It does not work. A shy and introvert person, by offering a firm handshake cannot become confident and an extrovert. He can change himself as desired, over a period of time. However, just by artificial manipulation of some body language signs he cannot change his image, or other’s perception about him. His few artificial manipulations will not be in synch with his holistic body language. His truth will be found out by others. Thus, it is very difficult to fake body language.

How to Use the Knowledge Discussed Above

It has been clarified that it is very difficult to fake body language and also to read body language accurately.  Acquiring knowledge about body language is good, but trying to use this knowledge to assess people would be highly unreliable and not worth the effort.
In case you want to gain a favourable impression then genuinely develop the required qualities to do so. Faking body language will be of very little help.

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