The topic of body language often shows up in books, articles, and guides that are unfortunately packed with pseudoscience and pop psychology. For example, you’ll have no trouble finding a wealth of articles telling you how “simple body language hacks” can help you seduce the man or woman of your dreams effortlessly. Such articles tend to share false information.
That’s not to say the entire idea of body language is bunk. You simply need to understand certain key facts to better understand the complexity of this topic. Essential body language facts worth knowing include the following:
What You Need to Know to Understand Body Language
The Topic Gets Oversimplified
Once more, it’s important to understand that body language certainly can tell us a lot about what someone is thinking or feeling. Often, it may reveal subconscious attitudes a person doesn’t even know they’re revealing.
However, many books and guides oversimplify the topic by claiming that certain body language gestures always have certain meanings. That’s not the case. The nature of the situation contributes to the meaning of a particular gesture.
For instance, many claim that crossing of one’s arms is a sign of defensive body language. They say people only do this when they are in situations that make them uncomfortable.
In some cases, that’s precisely what that gesture indicates. However, it doesn’t always correspond with defensiveness. A person could simply cross their arms because they are cold and want to warm themselves up.
That’s a crucial point to understand if you want to understand the topic of body language in general. Body language is real, but oversimplifying it leads to misinterpretations.
Body Language is a Product of Evolution
It’s worth noting that several factors can contribute to how common or widespread certain body language gestures may be in a given area or cultural context. Social norms and attitudes may result in some gestures being more common than others.
That said, one of the reasons researchers believe in the validity of body language is the fact that it seems to be the result of evolution. Many gestures are so common because they derive from universal human experiences and thousands of years of conditioning.
Consider closed body language. People often say you can tell how comfortable someone is with you by how physically vulnerable they allow themselves to be. If they face you directly, they’re comfortable. If they turn away and close up their body, they’re not.
Why? Because our ancestors evolved to close their bodies up (by crossing arms and assuming similar gestures) in dangerous situations as a way of protecting vital organs. This now translates into common social behaviors. A situation that makes us feel uncomfortable will make us adopt evolved stances.
(Just remember, those gestures can have different meanings in different contexts!)
These are important points to keep in mind if this topic interests you. Again, although body language is real, many of the claims so-called “experts” make about it are false. This information will help you better understand why.