Over the past few days a number of articles about body language have been appearing in my social media feeds.
Forbes featured the piece 15 Body Language Blunders Successful People Never Make while Business Insider published 11 horrible body language habits that are hard to quit, but you’ll be glad you did.
If we are to follow the advice given in these articles, we are never to slouch, watch the clock, check our phones, appear distracted, gesture exaggeratedly, nod excessively, turn away from others, get too close to others, avoid eye contact, make eye contact that is too intense, have a handshake that is too weak, have a handshake that is too strong, cross our arms, cross our legs, clench our fists, roll our eyes, play with our hair, scowl, shuffle, smile too much or forget to smile.
So just sit there and be completely still…
No, wait! Don’t do that. They say it’s bad to “be too still”…but don’t fidget either! That’s bad too.
Allan and Barbara Pease, Tonya Reiman, Julius Fast and other “body language experts” are motivational speakers, authors of self-help books, and gossipmongers of tabloids and the talk show circuit. They analyze photographs of celebrities to decipher their personality traits, to guess who’s in bed with whom, and predict who’s dumping whom. They interpret footage of political debates, speeches and interviews, to uncover underlying meaning and detect deception.
With their help you can become a success. Buy their books, attend their seminars, follow their programs, systems and methods and you too can harness their techniques to achieve your goals. They will provide you with the tools you need to give you confidence, to catch a liar in the act, to ace that job interview, to attract love, and to stop sending out those “wrong messages”.
I’d make a lot more money if I started writing self-help books that reveal a key to knowing what someone else is thinking, but it wouldn’t be the truth.
There is no standardized or universal meaning in the way we sit, stand and walk, how we shake our hands, lick our lips or run our hands through our hair. Body language interpretations are generalizations. Of course, our nonverbal actions carry meaning and we are receptive to nonverbal communication but there is no magical formula for understanding human behavior. Every act has numerous potential meanings and causes. Our body language is subject to context, intent, and interpretation. It is influenced by culture and socialization and differs at the individual level. Reading body language is superficial and unreliable and the practice is open to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. The analogy to “reading” is helpful. Interpreting body language is a kind of cold reading or a form of body divination to predict thought.
These behavioral habits aren’t “sabotaging your career” or destroying your relationships. Body language theory is creating a culture of people who follow these “rules” and discriminate against those who don’t, although these theories have no scientific basis at all.
These articles are just clickbait.