Being able to read people is a fringe benefit of manliness. Think Harvey Spector in Suits. While it may seem like magic, it’s actually pretty basic. In fact, you probably already do some of these things without realizing it. Body language is an art all to itself, but with a little knowledge you can be on your way to understanding people better.
Understand Context – Are you at a party where everyone’s having a good time? The person in the corner moping is obviously out of place. Are you at a funeral? The person laughing it up while doing cartwheels is the one who draws attention. Understanding what people should be acting like based on the given situation is step one in understanding body language.
Watch the Face – even though it’s the easiest part to fake. We all know what someone should act or look like depending on what’s happening. A fake smile normally only uses the mouth, excluding the eyes and eyebrows. Squeezing lips together normally indicates an emotional discomfort, and possibly a lie.
What are the Arms Doing? – When feeling positive or confident the arms and shoulders automatically tend to “lift”. We swing our arms more while walking and we’re less reserved when expressing excitement. When feeling negative we tend to “droop” our upper body a bit. Got a colleague telling you how much they like you while “drooping” their shoulders and arms? Be cautious.
Where do the feet point? – When a couple of people are talking in a normal, comfortable, setting you will typically see them with feet pointed at each other. When discomfort or danger arises, the automatic response is to turn at least one foot away from the offending party, signifying they would rather be anywhere else. Crossed legs while standing? Feeling safe and ready to have a good time.
Learning these simple cues can make you a better man by being able to conduct your behavior accordingly. Now you can stop making people feel locked into a conversation with you when their body language is screaming to flee and never return.