Three Important Nonverbal Behaviours That Communicate Interest

Whether we realize it or not, most of us are unaware of how much information we actually communicate non-verbally to others! One key thing we communicate non-verbally is how engaged and interested we are in another person’s conversation. The question “How can I know consciously if someone is interested in my conversation?” can be answered by identifying certain nonverbal behaviors.

For nearly a century, we have been told that maintaining eye contact and smiling are very effective at expressing our interest. Dale Carnegie described these methods in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, published in the 1930s. But there are other behaviours that come into play, such as head tilting and crossing your legs while standing. If you stop to examine yourself, you will discover how often you communicate these behaviours even though they are done unconsciously.

Tilting Your Head

Tilting our heads, called the head tilt by body language experts and communication coaches is a natural instinct we typically do when we feel safe. You will observe that close family members and lovers will sit together and tilt their heads without even realizing it. We also tilt our heads as we ‘coo’ at babies too. This behaviour is part of our limbic brain response. In prehistoric times, tilting our heads and exposing our necks made us vulnerable by exposing the jugular vein. It was a sign of openness and trust. Today, we convey this same message of openness and trust to those we love, whether it is romantic or platonic. We display this same vulnerability around babies to make them feel at ease.

When you tilt your head, you are perceived as attentive, active listening, and caring. People will perceive you are paying attention to them versus your monkey mind wandering relentlessly all over the place. Head tilting communicates very powerfully “I trust you and I am listening to you”. It is used both when courting a person or making a business deal.

Isopraxis, or in layman’s terms, “body echoing”, is a phenomenon where people replicate the body language of another person. If you notice when 2 people both have their heads tilted, they are usually more engaged and their conversation tends to last longer than normal.

 

Standing with Legs Crossed

Crossing our legs while standing is another body language action we might carry out when we feel comfortable around others. Often when we sense a threat, we will plant our feet firmly on the ground in order to keep our balance. This can be due to a threatening situation such as standing near the edge of a tall building, but also due to uncomfortable social situations. When we feel threatened in some way, our limbic system will unconsciously activate our fight or flight safeguards in order to protect our body.

An article in Psychology Today says that when you cross your legs while standing, you can make your conversation partner feel more comfortable. This signal of comfort will show that you are interested in what they are talking about. Sometimes this can lead to them mirroring and crossing their own legs. Just like with head tilting, when both parties in a conversation express interest, the conversation will last longer. A longer conversation means more time communicating face to face, which is immensely helpful in building rapport in business and personal relationships.

Bonus: Pointing Feet

Crossing our legs while standing is another body language action we might carry out when we feel comfortable around others. Often when we sense a threat, we will plant our feet firmly on the ground in order to keep our balance. This can be due to a threatening situation such as standing near the edge of a tall building, but also due to uncomfortable social situations. When we feel threatened in some way, our limbic system will unconsciously activate our fight or flight safeguards in order to protect our body.

An article in Psychology Today says that when you cross your legs while standing, you can make your conversation partner feel more comfortable. This signal of comfort will show that you are interested in what they are talking about. Sometimes this can lead to them mirroring and crossing their own legs. Just like with head tilting, when both parties in a conversation express interest, the conversation will last longer. A longer conversation means more time communicating face to face, which is immensely helpful in building rapport in business and personal relationships.



There is one last note on what behavior to look for when trying to gauge a person’s interest.  When talking to someone, observe the direction the person’s feet are pointed and that will give you an indication of where that person’s mind is headed. If their feet are pointed toward you, chances are they are interested in you. If they are pointed away from you, it is likely they want to exit the conversation. It may or may not be unconscious.

Try to observe these behaviors in yourself and others. Use these opportunities to learn more about the people you interact with and how you are presenting yourself. You can apply these techniques to improve conversations, communications, influence others, and relationships in your professional and private life.

Spain: Madrid, Salamanca, Barcelona

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