I am a very lucky guy, I know this. How many people are in the position where they spend their whole working life indulging in their passion? Also, how many people are fortunate enough to have the whole world and everyone in it as their research material?
I take my role as a specialist in human behaviour assessment extremely seriously and understand that any views I may have or action I may take based on them impacts on someone else. Therefore, I follow simple rules to ensure that I act in an ethical manner these are that I trust my instinct and intuition AND I rationalise my views using logic and reasoning.
Understanding human behaviour correctly requires more than just having read a few books and knowing the body positions and their meaning. Our behaviour, like life itself, is complex and unless you approach reading it from an informed and neutral point of view mistakes will be made. Bias based on your own world view can, unless we are extremely careful, lead us to make assumptions based on what we see.
If you want proof of this look at our Facebook group. I post photos and videos for the members to comment on here’s one I posted a few years back.
And here are two of the comments posted by members;
- “I think she said RIP my ex I’m going to live my life”.
- “She is happy going to work on her own and she is confident that she will be successful in her work”
These are not factual forensic responses, but assumptions based on the writer’s own world view. They do not, in any way, conform to what could be called an evidence-based assessment.
This is not particularly scientific as its just working to a still photo a snapshot of a moment of time without any context. But even in real time you can never be certain if a particular kind of behaviour is a true signal or just a random action or a misleading gesture.
So how do you start to use your natural gifts in a more scientific and focused way…. Well you follow the 5 C’s;
- Context – You must ALWAYS consider all circumstances around the identified NVC, what happened just before, the location, what else is going on, etc. For instance, if you sit down with someone and they loosely cross their arms it may just be a conversational cue part of their normal behaviour. However, if they were sitting with their arms on the chair arms and you were to say for instance “Who was that guy you were with earlier?” and they then cross their arms and stiffen their posture in context it MIGHT mean something.
- Clusters – We do not present individual non-verbal cues at any one time. There are dozens of body language signals going on, therefore you should not ascribe heavy meaning to any single one. What you need to do is look for clusters. For instance, as in the previous instance you ask about the guy, they were with earlier note the changed behaviour.
- They change from open posture to an arm’s crossed defensive posture (Cue 1)
- They face shows a smile which does not travel up to the eyes (Cue 2)
- Their blink rate increases (Cue 3)
- Their voice tone changes (Cue 4)
now we have a cluster of behaviour which has moved away from the norm (Baseline).
- Congruence – Our words and body language should be complimentary or congruent. A good example of this is when you ask someone if they are OK and they say “Yes of course I am” but at the same time give a little shake of the head (No). This would be incongruent behaviour. Another example is giving directions the words and actions should happen at the same time. If I was to ask where did Jim run off to” and the person says they ran off that way and then seconds later points this is incongruent behaviour.
- Consistency – Look for patterns in people’s behaviour. We are all unique human beings with individual patterns of behaviour our own unique baseline. By establishing an individual’s baseline, it will be easier to observe deviations from it.
- Culture – People tend to forget that cultural differences in body language are huge. For example, if you are from Bulgaria, moving your head up and down means “no,” while shaking your head from side to side means “yes.” This is also true of Inuit’s or Eskimos. It is critical to understand the body language patterns in the culture you are currently in, as they may significantly modify the message. Once you embrace these simple rules, you will be more likely to read the intentions and meaning of other people and improve your own ability to project your intentions accurately.
“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing: Rollo May