Are you a mind-reader?

There is a general assumption that if the word psychology appears somewhere in your job title then you must be able to read other people’s minds.  The typical exchange goes something like this, ‘Oh so you’re a psychologist…(pause… lowers eyes, shuffles feet, leans ever so slightly away)… so you know what I’m thinking’.   I may not be reading your mind but your body language is definitely telling me something.


Did you know that over two-thirds of a communication exchange consists of body language? Every communication is a package of words (about 7%), tone of voice and other indistinguishable sounds  (about 38%) and body language – facial expressions, gestures and other body movements (about 55%). The words convey information while the non-verbal behaviour can reveal much more about underlying emotions and attitudes. In some cases these gestures and movements make powerful substitutes for words. For example the mother who gives her misbehaving child ‘the look’ sends a very clear ‘take notice and behave’ message without ever opening her mouth.


We all know the meaning of ‘looks to kill’ when it comes to relationships of every kind. Along with many other basic movements and gestures learned early in life, it’s a familiar part of our social upbringing. And this is the rub, some of our nonverbal behaviour is so deeply buried in our subconscious that we are often unaware of its effect on other people. Becoming more aware of how we affect other people when we interact with them is the first step in improving relationships in work and in life.


We sometimes forget that we humans are still biologically part of the animal hierarchy. Equines are good natural psychologists, expert at ‘reading’ body language and reflecting back the underlying emotions and attitudes. What a pity that the human animal is so rarely aware of his own postures and gestures that can tell one story while his words may be telling another.

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