If you could see me now, you’d see that my head is slightly tilted and my hands are clasped, and I’ve got a pleasant smile going with a gaze that’s gently focusing on you. You couldn’t hate me if you tried! With my head tilt exposing my neck just so, your unconscious limbic system is yelling, “Oooooh, la, la. This guy makes me feel so comfortable!”
Non-verbal communication is as powerful a tool as language itself, whether it comes to creating immediate rapport, maximizing your influence or reading other people to discover their true intentions. That’s what Joe Navarro learned how to do during his 25 years in the FBI interrogating suspected criminals, spies and terrorists.
As one of the original founding members of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program, Navarro mastered his ability to read non-verbal body language. When he retired in 2003, he discovered his expertise and skills could be taught and benefit everyone from professional poker players to executives who wanted an extra edge. Since then, he has authored numerous books including the now-classic, What Everybody Is Saying.
In our interview Navarro shared his incredible insights. Here’s a small sampling:
They Might Lie, But Their Limbic System Tells The Truth
“Our needs, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and intentions are processed elegantly by the brain’s limbic system. It doesn’t have to think, it just reacts to the world in real time and our bodies show how we feel. Someone gives us bad news and our lips compress; the bus leaves without us and we are clenching our jaws and rubbing our necks. We are asked to work another weekend and the orbits of our eyes narrow as our chin lowers. These are discomfort displays that our limbic brain has perfected over millions of years, whether we are in China or Chile.”
Keep It Simple: Focus On Comfort Or Discomfort
“Learning to read comfort and discomfort cues is a shortcut to deciphering what peoples’ bodies and minds are truly saying. What we find, universally, is that our limbic system will reflect, very precisely, whether someone is comfortable or uncomfortable. And most people don’t know where to look on the body for that information. They tend to either focus on the face or the eyes but really not pay attention to the whole body. The legs are one of the best indicators of non-verbal body communication.”
Leadership Is Like Sammy Davis Jr.: Smooooth
“Influential people command the room. Their gestures are smooth. Nobody follows an erratic person. We discount for anybody that has jittery gestures. Take Colin Powell … my God, the man comes into a room—he dominates the stage. His gestures are smooth and we know he’s a leader, we want to follow him and he hasn’t even spoken to us yet. We are seduced by very subtle things.”
Fire The Blackberry Guy!
“Do you walk briskly from place to place? Or do you meander? People are noticing. Observe when a co-worker is walking down the corridor: do they making eye contact with everybody or are they looking down at their Blackberry? This is something I hear a lot in corporate America — people aren’t making eye contact. Well, guess what? When it’s time for promotions someone is going to say, ‘I don’t even know what this guy looks like so how do you want me to make a decision? I’d rather go with a guy that I know.’ These little things add up.”
Question: Have you ever noticed your own body language and realized you’re unintentionally doing something that pushes people away instead of inviting them in?
Tahl Raz is the host of myGreenlight’s Social Capitalist Series and the co-author of Never Eat Alone.