Most body language articles are focussed on facial expressions, hands and arms. Very seldom do you find information on just how much we reveal with our feet. Nonverbal communication is at its most honest with our feet. It’s much easier to school your face into a deceiptful expression – after all, we’ve been taught since childhood that our eyes are the windows to our souls. Therefore we believe, often incorrectly, that our faces are where we should focus on if we want to keep our secrets – hence the term ‘pokerface’.
Well, if you look at the other person’s feet, you might just find out exactly what they are thinking or feeling. Let’s first look at moving vs quiet feet. This relates to our limbic responses to certain situations. We were taught there were two responses to challenging situations – fight or flight. Actually, there is a third response – freeze. That freeze moment might last a millisecond or be a complete pose for a few minutes, because we don’t always immediately go into action when we face a situation.
Our feet’s main purpose is to move us to places, right? So, if you ask your friend to join you for drinks after work and his/her feet start bouncing, moving or tapping, that can be interpreted as their eagerness to go, go, go! They definitely want to join you for that drink. But… if their feet suddenly freeze and seem like it became glued to the floor, you might want to ask them if they have other plans. That frozen stillness might indicate their reluctance to go for any number of reasons.
Be aware of the different types of movement. The frustrated/nervous/stressed tapping or bouncing is distinctly different from happy bouncing and tapping. How would you see this? Well, it will be in the whole body – the context. A frown, closed fists, a tight jaw and fast foot tapping is pretty obvious. Whereas relaxed facial features, a relaxed/loose torso and foot tapping/bouncing as if keeping rhythm to an internal song is equally obvious. That is why interpreting body language in context is so important.
Contradicting messages: Using the above scenario again, you would have ample reason to be doubtful of your friend’s response if they agree to join you, but their feet (and posssibly the rest of their body) go competely still. Or… someone tells you they don’t mind listening to your story, again, yet their foot is bouncing impatiently under the table. If the whole body – the feet included! – is in agreement with the words, you can take that statement to the bank. Hopefully! 🙂
The next post will be about the intimacy of feet – yup, I will use the term ‘knocking boots’ at least once!! 🙂
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