The 5C Questions to “get it right”

You can decode what people feel.

It’s a simple game of probabilities – eliminating possibilities as you observe their body language.

And it actually all starts with understanding what affects how you feel.

This is about you.

Reading body language is basically trying to understand how someone feels — at a very specific moment, in a very specific situation.

But let’s start with you.

How do you feel right now?

Now think for a second of all the factors that have an impact on how you’re feeling.

It might be how your day has gone so far.  What you had to eat. How well you slept.  What you expect to happen later today.  The temperature in the room.  Something someone said to you earlier.  And on and on…

So when you’re trying to work out how someone else feels, you can’t ignore the multitude of factors that make them feel that way.

You can’t isolate their body language from everything else that’s going on in their life and around them.

To avoid this common mistake, here are 5 key questions you must answer to get some level of confidence in your interpretation.

The “5 C Questions of Body Language(TM)”

The 5 Cs stand for:

– CONTEXT
– CLUSTERS
– CHOICE
– CHANGE
– CONTRARY

Let’s look at these in detail right now.

1- CONTEXT:  What is the Context of the situation?

It seems so obvious but we all tend to forget it easily:

Context has a major impact on how people feel.

What happened just before.  What they expect will happen just after.  The environment of the situation.  And much, much more.

In most cases, the way they feel probably has a lot more to do with the context of the situation in which you are observing them… than anything to do with you.

So make sure you consider everything you know.  And anything you can reasonably guess about the context of that specific moment.  Then ask yourself:  “What effects may this have on how they feel – and therefore on their body language?”

2- CLUSTERS:  What Clusters of body language signs with a similar possible “meaning” can you see?

Let’s be clear:

One sign – by itself – basically means nothing.

It’s totally normal to focus on what you see first – or what is the most visible…

But you must look for groups of signals with the same possible meaning – at least 3 or 4.

The more signals you can see that could have a similar “meaning”, the more likely you are to be correct when interpreting how they feel.

3- CHOICE:  Which signs are unconscious and which ones are likely to be a conscious Choice?

From a young age, we’re taught how we’re supposed to behave in society, at work, with neighbors, colleagues, etc.

And we’re taught to hide our true feelings on the grounds that it’s supposedly a weakness or that it avoids us getting hurt…

And we quickly get very good at presenting an image that doesn’t really show what we truly feel.

So when you observe someone, some of their postures, movements, and expressions may actually be a conscious choice – rather than a natural reflection of how they feel.

Simply dismiss every sign that you feel are probably deliberate.

Listen to your gut on this, you’re naturally able to sense those.

4- CHANGE:  What signs are a Change from the person’s usual body language?

Everyone is unique and different.  We all know this.

So it’s logical that each person’s body language is personal – slightly different from that of anyone else.

For example, some people naturally emphasize everything they say with wide hand gestures, others naturally blink frequently, etc…

So here’s a key method:

Focus on changes from the person’s habitual body language.

And when interpreting the body language of someone you don’t know, take a moment to “establish a baseline”.  Observe their natural rhythm, gestures, tone of voice, posture, etc. in a neutral situation before trying to work out if a sign actually has any relevance.

5- CONTRARY:  What signs of the Contrary “meaning” is the person also displaying?

When we think we know how someone feels – or when we hope that they feel a specific way – we tend to see everything that confirms this and miss all the rest.

This is a normal and natural bias.

But it can lead you to totally incorrect conclusions.

So my best advice to avoid this is to play the “devil’s advocate”.

Consciously look for signs that could “mean” the opposite of what you’re thinking.

This will help you get a much more balanced judgement about your interpretation of the person’s feelings.

*BONUS:
Remember that not every sign you observe actually “means” something.

Let’s summarize the” 5 C Questions of Body Language(TM)”:

1- CONTEXT:  What is the Context of the situation?  (and its impact on how they feel.)
2- CLUSTERS:  What Clusters of body language signs with a similar likely “meaning” can you see?
3- CHOICE:  Which signs are unconscious and which ones are likely to be a conscious Choice?
4- CHANGE:  What signs are a Change from the person’s usual body language?
5- CONTRARY:  What signs of the Contrary “meaning” is the person also displaying?

By combining these 5 questions, you’ll avoid the most frequent mistakes of “reading” body language.

And you’ll increase your odds of truly understanding others.