Part 2 of 2: Learning to Read People to Improve Business Relationships

April 6, 2018



If you don't have a well-developed social perception, you may experience repeated failures: losing to the competition, job interview bombs, failed dates, trampled trust. But if you can hone in on that perception by learning to read people better and communicate more effectively, that knowledge will help you in every part of your lives. You start to enjoy more exciting career opportunities, more honest friendships, better dating prospects, and even more frequent wins at work!


Successful people possess at least two characteristics in common. First, they possess a sense of serene self-awareness. Second, they have a better-than-average ability to connect with other people. They know how to put people at ease and create an immediate sense of rapport. Both of these traits stem directly from a strong command of body language.


All successful people know that the ability to detect and react to the split-second signals that skim across people's bodies hundreds of times each day is crucial to getting what they want in life. When something they're doing isn't effective, they've learned how to adjust their actions to maximize the moment.


It is a scientific fact that people's gestures give away their true intentions. Yet most of us don't know how to read body language and don't realize how our own physical movements speak to others. Things like: the most common gestures of liars; how our legs reveal what our minds want to do; the most common male and female courtship gestures and signals; the magic of smiles; and, how to use nonverbal cues and signals to communicate more effectively and get the reactions you want.


Did you know that if a client tells you 'no' but their hands were open and they showed their palms, it is safe to persist with your presentation because, despite how dismissive they may sound, they weren't aggressive. However, if someone tells you to go away in a soft voice but uses a pointed finger or closed hand, it is time to leave.


Ever wonder how a fortune teller knows so much about you. It's called 'cold reading'...which can produce an accuracy of around 80 percent when reading a person you've never met. It all boils down to the reader's ability to decode a person's reactions to statements made and to questions asked, and by information gathered from simple observation about a person's appearance.


You can develop your own cold readings using by learning the following basic body language:

  • Your client has a hand-to-face gesture with the index finger pointing up the cheek while another finger covers the mouth and thumb supports the chin. If their legs are also tightly crossed and arm crossing the body (defensive) while the head and chin are down (negative/hostile). They are saying "I don't like what you're saying" or "I disagree" or  "I'm holding back negative feelings". 

  • When an adult tells a lie, it's as if the brain instructs the hand to cover their mouth in an attempt to block the deceitful words, just as it did when they were younger. But, at the last moment, the hand is pulled away from the face and a Nose-Touch gesture results. This is the adult's version of the Mouth-Covering gesture that was used in childhood. This was observed in Bill Clinton answering questions about Monica Lewinsky in front of the grand jury.

  • When people want to be open or honest, they will often hold one or both palms out to the other person and say something like, "I didn't do it!" or "I'm sorry if I upset you" or "I'm telling you the truth." When someone begins to open up or be truthful, they will like expose all or part of their palms to the other person. This is a completely unconscious gesture, one that gives you an 'intuitive' feeling or hunch that the other person is telling the truth.

  • There are at least eight common lying gestures: the mouth cover--unconsciously suppress deceitful words (whether with a single finger or more fingers, or one or both hands); the nose touch; an itchy nose; the eye rub; the ear grab; the neck scratch; the collar pull; and fingers-in-the-mouth.

  • When children are lying or concealing something, they'll often hide their palms behind their back. Similarly, a man who wants to conceal his whereabouts after a night out with the boys might hide his palms in his pockets, or in an arms-crossed position, when he tries to explain to his partner where he was. Also, keeping their hands in their pockets is a favorite ploy of men who don't want to participate in a conversation.

  • Unfortunately, liars are usually experts at maintaining eye contact. If anything, they tend to give a bit of extra eye contact saying "I swear I'm telling you the truth." Look for changes in the person's normal behavior. 

  • Salespeople are taught to watch for a customer's exposed palms when he gives reasons or objections about why he can't buy a product, because when someone is giving valid reasons, they usually show their palms. When people are being open in explaining their reasons, they use their hands and flash their palms, whereas someone who isn't telling the truth is likely to give the same verbal responses but conceal their hands.

  • There are three main palm command gestures: the Palm-Up position, the Palm-Down position, and the Palm-Closed-Finger-Pointed position. Palm facing up is used as a submissive, nonthreatening gesture. Palms down projects immediately authority. Palms closed with fingers pointing signifies "Do it or else" and creates negative feelings in most listeners.

  • A natural smile produces characteristic wrinkles around the eyes--insincere people smile only with their mouths. Scientists call this the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Genuine smiles are generated by the unconscious brain, which means they are automatic. When you feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of your brain that processes emotion, making your mouth muscles move, your checks rise, your eyes crease up, and your eyebrows dip slightly.

  • The tight-lipped smile conceals the teeth. It sends the message that the smiler has a secret or a withheld opinion or attitude that they will not be sharing with you. It's a favorite of women who don't want to reveal that they don't like someone.

  • Partial arm-cross where one arm swings across the body to hold or touch the other arm is usually seen in meetings where a person may be a stranger to the group or is lacking in self-confidence.

  • An anxious or self-conscious  man will also be seen adjusting the band on his watch, checking the contents of this wallet, clasping or rubbing his hands together, playing with a button on his cuff, or using any gesture that lets his arms cross in front of his body. Insecure businessmen walk into a business meeting holding a briefcase or folder in front of the body. 

  • Holding your hands behind your back is a superiority-confidence gesture (it exposes their most vulnerable frontal body parts in a subconscious act of fearlessness). Hand-gripping-wrist behind the back is a signal of frustration and an attempt at self-control. Upper-Arm Grip behind the back signifies "Get a good grip on yourself" and shows a more frustrated or angry person.

  • The chin stroking gesture means the listener is going through the decision-making process.

  • Head nodding encourages cooperation and agreement.

Don't read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal sign. Consider the combination of the signals you are receiving, from the tone of voice to the eye contact. Ask yourself if the nonverbal signs sync with their words?



Also, there are several strategies you can use in order to give you the extra edge in your next meeting or presentation:

  • Stand up for meetings.

  • Sit competitors/opponents with their backs to the door. Studies reveal that when our backs are toward an open space, we become stressed, blood pressure increases, our heart beats faster, our brainwave output increases, and we breathe more quickly as our body readies itself for a possible rear attack.

  • Keep your fingers together. Keep fingers closed when you talk with your hands, keep hands below chin level which commands the most attention. 

  • Keep your elbows out or on the arms of the chair. Submissive, timid individuals keep their elbows in their laps and are perceived as fearful.

  • Use power words. The most persuasive words in spoken language are: discovery, guarantee, love, proven, results, save, easy, health, money, new, safety, and you. Practice using these words. 

  • Watch their coat buttons. There is a higher frequency of agreement reached when people have their coats unbuttoned. When a person suddenly unbuttons their jacket in a meeting, you can reasonably assume that they have just opened their mind. 

As your ability to read other people's body language increases, your ability to communicate and build better working and personal relationships will also improve.








Please reload

Recent Posts

Please reload


Please reload






  • Facebook - Grey Circle