Reading body language does not necessary have to be an intuitive ability. Anyone who is willing to be attentive can learn the art of “reading” people.
As it was said in Body Language in Communication the key to reading body language accurately is to understand person’s emotional condition while listening to what he is saying, keeping in mind the circumstances under which he is saying it.
This means that a separate gesture should not be interpreted without considering other signs that are displayed at the same time and circumstances under which it is happening. One and the same gesture could mean different things at different times, like for example scratching the head can mean forgetfulness or lying. The way to find out is to look at other signs that are happening simultaneously.
Study shows that body language signals have five times more effect than words. If a person is truthful, his verbal and non-verbal signals should be congruent. In case if there is no congruency between the two, people – especially women – take in consideration body language message and dismiss the words.
For example, a manager that is standing with his arms tightly folded across his chest and chin down in front of his subordinates and telling how open he is to any input from them is unlikely to receive any suggestions. His body message contradicts his verbal message and even those who never seriously thought about reading body language will have a gut feeling that he is not sincere.
From another side, if you meet person waiting on the bus stop on the cold winter day who assumed the same pose, it doesn’t mean that he is feeling negative about you or defensive. It simply means that he is feeling cold.
When reading body language, keep in mind that you might misinterpret certain people due to their unusual situation. For example, some fat people can’t cross their legs even if they feel defensive. Or people who
suffer from arthritis will have a soft handshake because they are trying to avoid unnecessary pain. This could be misinterpreted by weakness of character. Or sometimes the person simply wears ill-fitting clothes that restrict his movements, which in turns affects his use of body language.
It is interesting that as people get older, their gestures become less obvious, which makes them harder to read. In addition to this, elder people have less muscle tone in their faces than the younger people. This makes the task even more complicated.
When a little child tells a lie, she often covers her mouth with one or both hands. When adult tells a lie, he also has a reflex of touching his mouth, but because adults are more conscious about what they are doing, the hand is quickly pulled away and this results in nose touching gesture instead.
Some people can successfully fake some body signs when lying to support their lies. However, the one who is skillful at reading body language will notice other signals that cannot be faked. This includes pupil dilation, blushing and sweating. Finally, it is extremely difficult to fake body language for any extended periods of time.