It’s not a sign as a sign. Once crossed arms might mean anything else that the other time. Let’s dive into the magic of contexts.
Context of body language is one of the three “golden” rules that are set in the observing of body language. The first one is a cluster of behaviour and it simply says that you need to find more signs to support one reading. The second rule is reading in Context and this is the topic of today’s article so you will find out much more about it. And the last one is congruency and by observing congruency between words and body language you usually can spot lies but about this topic in another article.
Let’s say you are a beginner in observing body language, it’s wintertime, you go out and waiting for public transport and you decide to practise an observing a little. The guy standing near you seems to be a nice subject to observe so you go for it. Noticing he is pushing his shoulders forward, increased auto contact to the maximum, hands crossed, legs crossed, time by time he is patting himself etc.
What do you think this situation suggests?
There are two possible explanations:
A – He is feeling totally submissive, no confidence at all, nervous, afraid. A person who needs to soothe and calm down himself. (No cold reading included!)
B- He is freaking cold so he is trying to warm himself up a little.
You are totally right, the answer B is right but why?
That is because of the context of the situation. If the situation would happen in the warm conference room it would be pretty obvious that it is the answer A but you always have to zoom-out to the bigger picture so you could understand the smaller specific picture. Although this works into everything in life, it works twice in the observing body language.
Yet sometimes it is a little difficult to know all context it always means, that you need to be humble in your observations and learn with every single success and even more with a failure. Because every single observation gives you that bigger picture, it exposes you new points of view and it is vital for your observational skills.
Context means that the more information you have about the person the more accurate the reading will be. If you know the origin of person, temperament, health, conservatism, your readings will be much easier and all these things count into the context. There possibly are two different reactions to the same subject from an extraverted person and introverted person. And they are both right but if you won’t count in the temperament issue you might misread for instance introvert’s silence for a sign of stress.
It means that you have to pay attention to the environment you do the reading in and also the inner world of the person/people you observe.
Fancy knowing more about the observing body language?