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Reading Body Language - Challenges

I was talking with my friend about developing abilities and skills of reading body language in social situations. During the discussion, he mentioned about his friend who became frustrated after starting to read people around him. Perhaps, he could not tolerate the unexpected clues given away by the people unconsciously. Many of them would be his friends, class mates, colleagues, family members, spouse and blood relatives.

The clues of negative emotions and (situational) lies can burn enthusiasm and spoil relations because an observer doesn't expect them from familiar persons at first place. Most of us have a lot of information but not the true knowledge so it's really alarming to many who get excited after reading books and website articles about body language.

In this regard, I would like to share a very interesting email that I received from another friend. He is trying hard to become a good social observer. Some text has been deliberately highlighted. For sake of privacy, I've not mentioned his name at the bottom.

Hello Sir,

It is really great to see the work you are doing for the page and community. I am really sorry that I am way too off from the page as if for now. I wanted to tell you that where I am facing problem.

Few months back, when I posted those videos. I was quite enthusiastic about it and I prepared 6 more analysis of Indian Celebrities. I started reading more and more and then I realized that I am too much into it.

The problem as with the practice, I was getting a better understanding of the nonverbal language. But, it wasn't really coming up as a boon. It started entering my personal life too much. I couldn't have a conversation without reading those few leaks of micro expressions on my classmates or friends' faces.

It gets annoying when you come to the point where you cannot just stop picking up these cues. I had quite a number of arguments and fights with people I am close with. I wasn't even able to focus on any lecture in my class as I would be busy staring at my professor for some body language cues.

My class notes had like records of at what time did say a professor ABC did and why. It is one good thing that it was trying to keep me closer to what people actually meant but I was getting closer ALONE.

For the same reason and few more things which happened, I just decided to leave for a while, till I find a good reason or a stable life where I can accept such realities.

Regards,
XXXXXX
Location: Bengaluru (Banglore), India
Date: 1st April, 2013

Negativity induced in mind of a social reader might ultimately turn it down because an unconscious mind becomes defensive very easily and instinctively. Many persons cannot overcome a shock or surprise after interpreting people around them and realizing about themselves too. High degree of impartiality, diligence and dissociation is required because an observer is also an emotional being. One has to decide what exactly it wants to make out of clues and not get involved into them as much as possible.
Professional skills are really hard to master.
It's really hard but not at all impossible to become an impartial observer and situationally aware person. It takes thousands hours of practice which includes not just reading people but also accepting some of the grave realities and limitations of human nature. After all, we're human beings and need to maintain relations with each other.

On 18th April 2013, my friend and I met in Pune. We had a very personal and serious discussion for almost an hour about issues with social reading and their resolution. Bottom line was that it's really possible to become a good and contextual reader and yet able to maintain healthy social relations. I hope that this small meeting would help him in his life and career. I wish him a great future!

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Subtle clues are given by itching skin

Perhaps, you might know that Mahatma Gandhi - Father of Nation (India) asserted a maxim - "Hear No Evil. See No Evil. Speak No Evil." with the help of a sculpture of three monkeys covering or closing ear, eye and mouth individually by palms. I think similar kind of maxim or paraphrase related to sensory wisdom might have been asserted by philosophers of your own country or region too.
Just cover and avoid undesirable consequences!
These monkeys are consciously trying to avoid unpleasant input/signals reaching to respective sensory organs. However, in case of covering mouth, it's about suppressing unpleasant words getting out of it that might hurt others and lead to conflict. Three organs play very crucial role not just in communicating with others but also in bridging a vital gap between brain and outside world.

Rat rubbing its lips
That's why zoo keepers or biologists cover the eyes of captured animals while carrying them to zoo, drugging, or tagging. By doing this, they try to suppress hostility or aggressive behavior of animal that could trigger in its brain after watching unpleasant or threatening activities happening around it. Unlike conscious suppression, similar kind of self-soothing is also done by our brain. At some extent, it can be also observed in animals too. We can see a rat rubbing or touching its lips in the face of a danger.


Blocking eyes in fear
Unconscious facial touching or covering to avoid signals (getting inside or outside) can be observed in human at large extent. In early childhood, facial touching is more prominent and can be observed very easily and frequently. As we get older and find obvious facial touching as an immature (childlike) act, we try to refrain it in public. However, our brain starts sending signal to respective body part and we experience tingling or itching sensation beneath the surface of skin of that particular body part.

More we try to suppress the impulse of acting or behaving in ways that are not socially suitable or acceptable, more our brain adds the sensation of tingling or itching to skin of the respective body part. However, it just only just skin of face but other body parts too tingle or itch. If you simultaneously pay attention to your thoughts and sensation of tingling or itching, you would probably be able to decode what exactly you were trying to suppress consciously - let it be scratching or rubbing scalp, back, back of neck, legs, forearms, palms etc.

Only reason behind the tingling or itching sensation is purpose of our brain to force an individual to scratch or rub the body part to act like a 'wise monkey'. Brain itself tries to sooth the distress or uneasy feeling caused by conscious restrain of an impulse in social world. Through self-rubbing or scratching, our brain soothes itself quickly - sort of impulse compensation mechanism evolved by it. Rapid and continuous rubbing of skin in repetition releases stress relieving hormones.

I've also observed that we scratch or rub body part even if we expect or like corresponding sensory input or desire (to act). For example - a waiter can be observed rubbing his palms rapidly in expectation of a good tip from customer or a young woman can be observed rubbing a small patch of skin exactly below her right eye after watching a beautiful man. As we know that left hemisphere controls the right side of body and right hemisphere controls the left side of body, the side of our body we scratch or rub is directly related to the positive or negative polarity of an underling impulse.

I've done a pilot study about this on my own. If somebody's interested in decoding the 'wise monkey' act of brain, an elaborate research can be conducted for sure. With the help of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanning, we could monitor neural activities in different brain parts that leads to the self-rubbing or scratching.

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