Body Words: How to Make Sense of Body Language

Body language is an important tool that can reflect what a person is thinking, their mood, and maybe – maybe – can predict what they might do next. Techniques to interpret body language abound and, according to author David J. Lieberman, Ph.D., in his book “You Can Read Anyone,” body language analysis is used by the FBI, the US military, and professionals in business.

So, there may be some truth that with the right know-how, an individual may be able to get a sense of someone else’s state of mind.
In this book, Lieberman discusses at length a process known as Strategic Non-Invasive Analysis and Profile, or “SNAP,” which remains the program by which body language is analyzed more thoroughly.

“The technique works on a psychological principle,” Lieberman writes. “A person is drawn equally to what he [or she] has no prior knowledge of. Simply, if a person has never heard of Fred, Peter, or Marvin, his [or her] interest in them will be equal. Conversely,” Lieberman continues, “Attention will naturally be drawn to what is most familiar with.”
But this is just the beginning.

There are other ways body language is used to detect whether or not, for instance, someone is lying or is guilty of an offense. Lieberman, moreover, describes how “[t]he use of pronouns can reveal a fascinating insight into someone’s true thoughts and feelings.”
Lieberman goes on to discuss Statement Content Analysis, which “is a system that examines the use of pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘we.’ For example,” the author continues, “it is unusual for victims of abductions, sexual batteries, and other violent crimes to refer to the offender and victim as ‘we’.”

Another area where body language analysis can be applied is in the workplace or during a job interview.

Within the context of the workplace, Lieberman says, “When a person is nervous but tires to appear otherwise, this leads to what is called perception-management—a person’s attempt to present a certain image in order to convey the ‘right’ effect.” In some ways, many people engage in perception management whether we do so intentionally or not.

“Any superfluous gesture in a serious situation is a sign that someone is trying to act calm and confident,” the author writes.
In summary, there are many other techniques that Lieberman discusses that fall under the umbrella of body language analysis.
A word of caution, however.

Although these techniques are used by authorities in law enforcement, the military, and the workplace, it needs to be said that reading body language is not the same as mind reading someone. Some of the above techniques that have been described may work as useful signifies, it may be difficult to draw a full-blown conclusion about the innocence or guilt of a person in a criminal situation, or know exactly how good of an employee a person will be based on that person’s body language during an interview.

Finally, body language analysis can be useful, but it should not also be taken as the final word.

Lieberman, D. J. (2007). You can read anyone. MJF Books, New York, NY.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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