From job interviews to dating, nothing is more important than a good first impression. Before you can say a single word, your body language is already playing a crucial role in making that first impression. What you see in another person the first time you meet will decide where you go from there. What others see in you will decide what their next actions are going to be. In fact, the first impression decides if there is even going to be a chance to make a second impression.
Kinesics is the study of body language. By learning about kinesics, you will become more aware of how your body communicates. You can learn to control your facial expression, eyes, gestures, and posture to choose what your body language is saying to other people. You can even learn how to make your spoken words much more effective by pairing them with the right body language signals, both in public speaking and in small group interaction. At the same time, you will also find it easier to read body language in other people, because you will know what to look for.
Body language can be used to determine honesty, get a sense of compatibility, or even feel if a budding romance is starting to spark. Although people show these qualities in different ways, many of the body language signals will often be similar. The more of them you see, the more reliable your impressions will be. Your study of kinesics begins with these 3 classic techniques.
Your body language doesn't lie. It's very hard for your body to tell anything other than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If you're completely open and honest, your face and torso will often open up on their own, and you'll make appropriate eye contact without even thinking about it. However, if you're holding something important back, your body language will communicate that as well.
Eye contact is a marker of honesty, but the type of eye contact is important. Simply making good eye contact does not guarantee honesty. Women often look away when they lie, but men often make strong eye contact. To understand why, it's important to examine what eye contact actually means.
Strong eye contact is usually a marker of strong social engagement. When combined with leaning forwards and hand gestures that mirror those of the other person, strong eye contact often indicates interest and engagement. Leaders and orators often make strong eye contact to project trustworthiness and strength of character, which makes their spoken words more effective.
Yet strong social engagement can take different forms. People who are strongly engaged in debate will often make strong eye contact with each other. People who have power over others will use eye contact to establish that strength and power. Extended eye contact can become a kind of duel for supremacy, usually between 2 men of similar socioeconomic background.
Weak eye contact usually means social disengagement. Some ethnic cultures consider a direct gaze to be rude, disrespectful, or otherwise inappropriate. Shy people may tend to stare at the floor. Drs. Kraus and Keltner recently found that people who are high on the socioeconomic scale also show strong disengagement signals, including less eye contact, than people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
However, a shifting gaze usually does mean that the person is nervous, which may indicate that he or she is lying or concealing something. Other signs of nervousness include clenched hands, shifting weight constantly, or a nervous mannerism, such as fiddling with eyeglasses.
When people in a group are comfortable with each other, their motions tend to mirror each other. Their bodies will have similar postures, and when someone gestures, others in the group will make the same or similar gesture.
A person who doesn't feel like part of the group will often cross his or her arms at some point. This is usually a strong defensive signal which closes out the rest of the group, especially when combined with a frown. A few people may cross their arms out of habit or for other unrelated reasons.
A wider stance, combined with stiff posture, can indicate antagonism or a determination to be dominant within the group. When combined with crossed arms, the body language signals toughness. The degree of eye contact in this situation indicates the amount of social engagement. Less eye contact signals a withdrawal from the group, while more eye contact may signal a challenge for dominance.
Many of the early indicators of attraction are the same as those for compatibility, with an emphasis on distance between you and your date. With a good personal fit, the distance between you becomes smaller, while the opposite is true if the date is not a good fit. If the other person actively moves away as you move closer, it may be time to call it a night.
As the date becomes less about friendship and more about romantic attraction, those signals start to change. The upper torso relaxes and becomes more open. Hands reach out and may touch. During a date, a tilted head, especially when combined with smiling or light laughter, is usually a signal of playfulness, and can indicate flirting in other social environments. Eye contact also becomes longer as the date progresses.
If you are not on a date, eyes meeting across a crowded floor could lead to more promising things. Among men, a gaze of 8 seconds or longer has been linked to finding a woman attractive. However, anything less than 4 seconds probably doesn't mean much except casual interest. Among women, the length of a gaze is not linked to the man's attractiveness.
As a successful date progresses, eye contact becomes longer and longer. The feet of each person point towards the other and may be touching. Fewer and fewer words are used. If the date reaches this point, you can almost be assured of leaving together to seek a more intimate environment.
Learn more about kinesics
Kinesics is more than just abstract knowledge, it is a practical life skill. To read more about kinesics, check out "Body Language - An Introduction."