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Body Language-Interviews and Negotiations, and Reflection
What do you do when you are asked a really good question? Do you ponder for a few moments before answering?
You might simply blurt something out without taking time to think about the answer, or you could take a moment to reflect before answering. By taking some time to reflect on your response, you are indicating to the questioner that they've asked you a good question and it is important enough for you to take some time to consider your answer.
Be that in an interview situation or when negotiating something with someone, showing that you are indeed thinking over your answer is a positive thing. Some typical signs and signals that a person is reflecting on their answer include:
• Eyes look away and return to engage contact only when answering.
• Finger stroking on chin.
• Hand to cheek.
• Head tilted with eyes looking up.
So, whether you are on the receiving end of someone pondering, or you are doing the pondering, there are certain gestures that give it away.
One Size Does not fit All
We mentioned earlier that each person is unique, and that their signs and signals might have a different underlying cause from the ones you suspect. This is often the case when people have different past experiences, and particularly where cultural differences are large. This is why it's important to check that your interpretation of someone else's body language is correct. You might do this through the use of further questions, or simply by getting to know the person better.
To help practice and further develop your skill in picking up body language, engage in people-watching. Observe people – be that on a bus/train or on television without the sound – and just notice how they act and react to each other. When you watch others, try to guess what they are saying or get a sense of what is going on between them.
Even if you do not get the chance to check whether you are correct in your assessment, you will be developing your observational skills. This in turn can help you to pick up signals when you are interacting with others.
As well as learning to read body language, people often consciously use it to project messages and reinforce what they're saying – we can all call to mind the body language used by a "slippery" used-car salesman.
Whether or not this is acceptable depends on the situation. It's fine to put on a "brave face" when you're about to meet someone or do a presentation. However, it's not acceptable if you're trying to persuade someone to do something that's against their interests – what's more, the gestures you can't control may give you away, leading to a serious loss of trust and credibility.
Body language impacts a great deal of how we communicate, and can reflect quite accurately what's going on inside us.
Body language includes body movements and gestures (legs, arms, hands, head and torso), posture, muscle tension, eye contact, skin coloring (flushed red), even people's breathing rate and perspiration. Additionally, the tone of voice, the rate of speech and the pitch of the voice all add to the words that are being used.
It is important to recognize that body language may vary between individuals, and between different cultures and nationalities. It is therefore essential to verify and confirm the signals that you are reading, by questioning the individual and getting to know the person.
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