What can you tell from watching others talking?
Category: Communicating with others
When I was a student studying Psychology, one of the first assignments we were given was to go to the pub and watch people in conservation.
A great project for someone who has always loved people watching.
The purpose was to look at the way we mirror and match each other when in rapport.
We unconsciously match each other’s body language when the conversation is in flow; so as I sat in a smoky Northampton pub, I could see which couples were getting on and which were not.
For example, one couple sitting opposite each other were almost moving their hands in unison … as she lifted her drink to her mouth, his hand went up to his cheek. As he took a drag of his cigarette she lifted her drink again.
She sat back, he sat back; he moved forward so she moved forward. They weren’t copying each other but you could definitely see their body language mirrored the other and they were deeply engrossed in their conversation.
In contrast, another couple didn’t mirror each other at all and it looked as though they really didn’t want to be there (proven by the fact that when someone they knew arrived, one of them quickly moved to their side leaving their partner or date alone!)
What I learnt was twofold. Firstly, if you want to understand the dynamics of a group in a room, spend a little time watching their body language. With a little practice you can identify where the bonds are and where the friction.
Secondly, if you want to build a relationship with someone try to mirror their body language … this doesn’t mean you mimic them, but you follow their body language lead as did the couple in my psychology assignment. If you do it well, you’ll find that the conversations flows better and they will feel more positive about you.