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How body language speaks louder than words

BY Jim Pawlak

9/10/2018
"Without Saying A Word — Master the Science of Body Language & Maximize Your Success" by Kasia Wezowski and Patryk Wezowski (AMACOM, $18.95).

In "The Outlaw Josie Wales," Wales (played by Clint Eastwood) faces off with bounty hunters intent on filling him full of lead. Wales prevails without a scratch. When asked how he knew which one would draw first, he dissects their body language (nervous gun hand, not looking him in the eye, crazy eyes, stood in the back). While it was a movie scene, art does imitate life.

We've all been in situations where body language conveyed more than what wasn't or was said. Basic advice: Consider the context.

A person who rubs her nose and eyes often may not be insincere; she may have a cold or allergies. Fidgeting or crossing/uncrossing the legs while seated doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of interest — especially during a long meeting. The chair may be uncomfortable, or the person may have back problems.

Always look for "tells" — changes in expressions, eye contact, smiling, hand gestures, posture, etc. Those changes may come in response to questions, comments or a change in your body language. When changes occur in clusters, they're sending a clear message.

With the basics in mind, prime examples of positive body language include: Leaning the upper body forward shows interest. When people are listening and receptive, they maintain eye contact, smile and gesture with open hands.

Body language extends to your clothing, too. It's about first impressions. Before you shake a hand or utter a word, people will make a judgement based upon appearance. If you're dressed similarly, the person will feel that you have something in common.

What about negative body language? Beware of crossed arms and closed hands; while they may mean someone is deep in thought, they usually mean disengagement. Raising the chin and pointing with a finger mean disagreement. Lack of eye contact indicates lack of interest, as does tilting the head and supporting it with the arm.