When we first meet new people, we all feel a little awkward and self-conscious until we feel that we understand the other person a little. Until we can do that, we can’t work out what people think of us and that often leaves us in an uncomfortable position of uncertainty.
The key to getting comfortable again and to understanding other people, is to read the other person’s key body language signals; believe it or not, this is possible even from the very first few seconds when you meet that new person.
1. Eye contact is very important in communication, especially with new people. Good use of eye contact, which does not avoid others, does not stare and does not linger on certain parts of the other’s anatomy inappropriately, is a crucial part of getting to understand new people.
Appropriate eye contact shows respect and it shows that you are interested in interacting with the other person. How much eye contact to make differs between cultures but if you read the other person’s body signals correctly you will see how much eye contact to make by matching their degree of eye contact.
2. Posture says a lot about a person’s personality and mood. Slouching shoulders and a curved spine, as well as helping someone to develop round shoulders over time, says that they are depressed, down, and lacking confidence in themselves. That kind of posture can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as it soon begins to affect a person’s mood negatively.
3. The tilt of a person’s head betrays their mood too. A head which is balanced both horizontally and vertically on the neck oozes confidence and self-esteem. You will find yourself more inclined to listen to a person who has this kind of posture when speaking.
When they want to speak or make a particular point, the authoritative, confident person will usually lean their head forward just a little bit, but without encroaching too much on the personal space of their listener. If they tilt their head to one side while you’re talking, you can be assured that they are listening to you attentively and that they will be likely to give you time to speak and say what you have to say.
Of course, this position can change, and it should. No one position should be maintained for too long as that will seem unnatural and can be off-putting to the other person. If someone stays in one position and doesn’t speak for a long time, check: have they fallen asleep! That is the impression you would probably be left with!
4. The placement of a person’s arms says a lot about their personality and mood. Wild gesticulations will imply over-excitement or even aggression. You will feel most comfortable when you can see that the person you are speaking too is feeling comfortable too; therefore, look for arms that are held naturally at the sides of the body. They may also be held behind the back.
Either posture implies an open personality, a person who is feeling confident and who is ready to face challenges. If you upset or offend someone, watch out for their arms being crossed over their chest defensively. That’s a real giveaway that they are feeling hurt.
5. Legs tell you a lot about the person you’re speaking with, even when you have just met them. It’s quite difficult to get your legs to do exactly what you want them to do, so they say a lot about a person’s innermost feelings, even when they are trying very hard to hide them. Leg swinging and rolling of the foot at the ankle, or especially foot tapping, shows that a person is feeling irritated or impatient. The faster the movement, the worse their mood!
6. You will probably be able to sense right away if someone is deliberately angling their body away from you, even if you don’t consciously process that thought. People tend to sit angled towards and even leaning towards, people they like. This may not happen when you first meet someone, as they may wait a little while to gauge what you are like, but if they start to position themselves in your direction and lean in closer to you, then the chances are that they are beginning to like you.
So, even if you don’t know a person well, you can read their body language and adapt your communication with them accordingly.