Post Three In A Six-Month Series On People Reading
Before this post officially begins, let’s take a quick review of important points from the previous post:
The most accurate reads are the most basic reads.
“The big picture never lies unless that is the intent of the subject.”
You already know how to read people.
“We instinctively recognize facial expressions (happiness, sadness, anger ect.,)”
You automatically imitate whatever facial expression you are viewing.
“Some researchers believe that we have a ‘mirror neuron’ that causes us to imitate the facial expressions of the person we are looking at. “
Always consider the obvious!
“Someone may be crossing their arms because they are cold, not because they are comforting themselves or feel defensive.”
I love Glenn Beck. (This is relevent to the post, I promise!)
It was perhaps a year and a half ago when I was watching an episode of Beck’s show on Fox News that I noticed several signature body language signals that he would use during any given episode. One signal in particular he didn’t use often, but it conveyed a very interesting message.
During one of his monologues Beck was sitting on his desk, facing the camera. Midway through a sentence he suddenly paused and made a joke about a politician. The audience laughed. But instead of showing a body language signal suggesting that he was proud of the response, his smile faded slightly and he sat on his hands before continuing the monologue.
Our hands represent power. Think about the power of a handshake, the honesty represented in an open palm, the negativity behind a hand raised to stop us, the meaning behind a clenched fist. Sitting on his hands after receiving a positive response to the joke seemed to be Beck’s way of shutting down any proud feelings from the response of the crowd.
Let’s take a look at a few common signals represented by the hands in body language:
Hands And The Face
I used to be a skeptic of the supposed meaning behind steeple hands, and even though Allan Pease (who wrote my favorite book on body language of all time, The Definitive Book of Body Language) has said multiple times in interviews and in his books that steeple hands mean confidence and that the subject feels in control, I doubted it. I didn’t buy it until I was at Starbucks with Heather Madame a couple of years ago and I saw about a dozen men in business attire seated at a table and my ‘spidey sense’ made me feel like one of the men was the leader of the group. I eventually realized that it was because he was using steeple hands in combination with a stern, judgemental expression and the fact that those around him shifted their posture and expressions to match his.
Which just goes to show… never doubt Allan Pease. Ever.
The rest of the signals are a tad complicated, and it’s very important that they not be mixed up.
When it comes to the subject’s hand touching their face, the message changes depending on how much of the hand is placed exactly where, and in combination with general facial signals and body language signals (it may be complicated, but I can assure you it is easier than it sounds.)
Resting Head On Hand
Depending on the subject’s facial expression, this can mean one of two things (it’s always very obvious which one it is)
- If the subject’s facial expression appears bored, the subject is bored.
- If the subject is with someone they enjoy being in the company of (it’s a safe bet that the subject will have romantic feelings for the person they are looking at), they will use this signal as a way of putting their face on display for the other person. This is another signal that I highly doubted the meaning of until I ended up using it one night at work when I was talking to Josh.
Another version of this signal is the picture below:
As well as a another version, where the hands are open, palms facing down with the fingers interlaced.
As I was looking over our next picture, I saw a perfect example of a fake smile. So, while we’re learning about hand gestures, I thought I’d type a note or two onto the picture so you can find out the simple secret to discovering whether a smile is genuine or not:
You should be used to me jumping from one rabbit hole to the next by now, just be happy I haven’t gone on a thousand word rant on my love for Allan Pease.
Back to the hands – take a look at Ben Bernanke’s hand in the above picture. Whenever you see the fingertips touching the subject’s temples or near/on the forehead, this represents a negative emotion. Stress, anxiety, tension and often a negative emotion specifically about the person they are looking at, or the conversation itself.
Touching the forehead almost always signals a strong emotion, but it is not always negative. An open palm to the forehead can mean relief, but it can also represent punishing oneself for lack of foresight. Fingertips kept on the forehead always represent stress.
Hands On Their Own
Before this bit begins, I need to show you a picture of Allan Pease from his television special in the early 80’s:
Allan Pease with his eternally happy eyes, horrid suit and dreadful hair. *Swoon*
There’s no reason for this picture to be here. I just thought it was amusing.
Back to the post!
Folks in politics learn quickly to try to never use the classic finger point when giving a speech, because they will be seen as harsh, and be perceived more negatively by the crowd than they would have if they had used the ‘hand chop’ (hand sideways, fingers straight, lowered onto the podium in a ‘chopping’ motion) or the cupped hand (hand sideways, fingers slightly curved). Anything but pointing at the crowd directly.
Finger-pointing is always seen as a negative signal, and is often used when the subject is accusing someone of something, even if the intent of the subject was simply to drive home a point, the signal will always make the subject appear harsh and judgemental. And the audience will not only view the speaker in a negative light, but they will also retain less information from the speech.
You will appear more open and honest if you express an opinion with upturned palms.
You might have noticed that the hands are not my favorite part of reading people. Or really my favorite signals to study. But I know that anything you have learned here will benefit you, and I’m just relieved to have finally finished this post! Since I missed the original publish date last week, there will be a new PWRP post this Wednesday.
Until I Write Again,
P.S Please shoot me if I ever wait until the night before to write one of these posts! Goodness me I’m never drinking another cup of coffee as long as I live, eight hours and countless mugs filled with coffee and green tea doesn’t do very much to warm one to the act of writing about a topic that one doesn’t like very much to begin with.
P.P.S I just realized that tomorrow is Wednesday, so I will be working on Wednesday’s post tonight… please disregard the first sentence of the post script above…