• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • Suppose you’re just starting a new job and you’re sitting in a conference room with your boss and your new team on the first day. You’re excited about the new work and want to make a good impression. Then you notice it: someone across the table is giving you the “Critical Evaluation signal”: thumb under chin, index finger pointing up the cheek, with head and chin down. Hmm, it looks like this person may need to be won over. There’s still a lot of missing information to be filled in, but that index finger is pointing out something that needs to be investigated.

    The people around you are constantly giving you signals about their inner processes. Through body language they are communicating without speaking, and there is a lot you can learn by paying attention.

    Books like The Definitive Book of Body Language by Barbara Pease and Allan Pease give you useful tools to interpret the “Critical Evaluation Signal” and many more. Handshakes, smiles and laughter, arm signals, and hand gestures all give you information about the social interactions going on around you. Careful, though—there are a lot of cultural differences to contend with. A thumbs-up means very different things in Greece, Japan, and Italy. Actually, unless you’re a magician or a con man, what’s most valuable about “dictionaries” like this is that they can heighten your awareness that complex and significant gestural signals do exist, and make you more inclined to pay attention—but without jumping to conclusions.

    The information about others available through their body language is just one more reason why it’s so important to pay curious attention to your experience. Unless otherwise instructed, your brain will happily disregard everything except its own non-stop activity. Connections with others won’t happen until you stop, look around, and see what kinds of signals you are getting from the people around you.

    Try It: At your next team meeting, really tune into the body language you are seeing in other team members. What might crossed arms, or hands on chins, or smiles or laughter tell you about what might be going on with others? By itself, this noticing doesn’t give you quite enough information to effectively engage with others on your team, but it is a good first step.

    Photo: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/700902