Scientific Portal of Expressions, Body Language and Nonverbal Communication#

Search for

This is what I (want to) see.

Are you reading right?
I can clearly recall one incident which would perfectly explain what I’m trying to put here. One day, I went on walk with some my friends. After covering some distance, we reached in in a large and open public space. All of us sat on a bench except one special person.

He stood right in front of us by resting his hands on his hips. I would like to mention here that he used to claim himself being a body language expert publicly, most of time in my presence.

While we were chatting among ourselves, a small group of boys & girls came there and all of them sat 50 to 60 feet away from us. What happened after that moment only added to my fascination about individual-centric social reading.

Right from the moment the group arrived at the spot, a good looking girl caught attention of the self-proclaimed body language expert. He started to look at her continuously and without batting his eyelids but she somehow didn’t realize about same. Apart of other girls in the group, she had dressed up very well for sure.

What she did is that she sat 5 to 6 feet away from rest of her friends, only to talk with somebody privately on her cell phone. This only added to excitement of the guy and perhaps few others too in our group. She kept talking on phone and he kept looking at her only.

The girl on her cell phone
Couple of minutes passed and an unexpected incident occurred. The so-called body language expert suddenly asked me a question, “What’s your interpretation of that girl’s body language?”. Without wasting a single moment, I answered to his question by saying, “She’s just busy in talking with someone in private. Other than that, she’s not conveying anything to any of us here.

It didn’t end there and whole incident took a new turn. However, I was expecting the same derogatory comments from him at that moment when he was quite busy in looking at her. Undoubtedly, he was enormously attracted at her beauty.

The guy tried to turn me down by saying, “Sachchidanand, you simply didn’t fulfill my expectations by answering this way. The girl is doing nothing but trying to grab attention (of him only?) by sitting away from rest of her friends. What all she wants is to get noticed (by somebody).

Well! The guy indirectly conveyed his own desire even when she never looked at anybody else other than her own group of friends. She wasn’t giving away any classical nonverbal clues of attention grabbing, grooming and/or flirting. She was just sitting there, glued to her cell phone and busy talking with somebody.

Like all others in our group, I was quite aware about sarcastic, jealous and derogatory commenting style of the guy. Definitely, he was quite skillful in reading people and has done some good social readings, according to my personal experience. However, his unconscious urges took hold of his conscious mind while reading her body language clues.

The only reason behind his wrong or biased interpretation about the girl was his own wish to attract her attention at himself as he couldn’t step towards an unfamiliar but nice looking and well-dressed girl. Not with him only but this happens with almost everybody and quite frequently!

Subjective Perception
When emotions, instincts and desires run high or uncontrolled, we simply try to look at people and situations in the false colors only. We unconscious try to convince ourselves or (openly) defend our own biased or individual-centric viewpoint(s) about the individuals we are looking at and the situations we are in.

We try to interpret people and situations on the basis of our own mindsets, intentions, motives, emotions or desires we harbor for/towards them. Very few of us can throw away or keep aside what we unconsciously want or expect from the individual under observation.
Moreover, an individual assumes that he/she is the only target or center of false mindset, intentions, motives, emotions or desires of people that he/she is looking at the moment. This frequently and widely prevalent phenomenon is simply called as ‘Subjective Perception’ of a social situation.

We misinterpret not just an initial impression, facial expressions and body language of people but also arrangements, placements, sequencing, links among and appearances of different objects and entities. There are plenty of real life examples and not just a single one to put here.

What you personally think after looking at this woman’s face? Does she look jealous, angry, bored or lustful/flirtatious? Without any doubt, your answer would reflect your own subjective perception or desire about her.

Are these eyes jealous, angry, bored or lustful?
Just to mention here that this face has been included in a small quiz created by me couple of months ago. By clicking on this link, you can test your social reading skills.

Related Articles:


  1. I watched a video the other day suggesting that one nonverbal identifier should not be trusted, instead better to find a cluster of signals. What do you think?

    1. A single clue or multiple isolated clues should hardly be trusted. Probably, you might know the 'Blind Men and an elephant' story. Better to look for a whole cluster...always!

  2. Swami, I spent some time reading your article. I have read your work before and have found it very intriguing. I also study nonverbal communication as well as personality psychology, human motivation, etc.
    I loved your article because of you description of this "Experts" demeanor. We can draw many conclusions about a person by their words and actions. Body language to me is a useful tool to understand people’s motivations. Motivation is what truly fascinating to me.
    While I can only read your words and I was not there to observe this myself, I agree with you. It seems to me that the man you are writing about here was making an attempt to cover up his own feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy in his biased view of the woman he was observing.
    I have also found pride to be fascinating in my personal study. As you have pointed out, sometimes experts become too sure of their own abilities. An over inflated ego or pride sneaks up on even the expert rather easily. We sometimes assume we are, "an expert" or "the best." When we let pride go too far, it blinds us to our own flaws. When pride sets in, we lose our ability to refute our own incorrect thoughts. We simply accept the first thought we have as the truth of the situation. Even the expert who gives into pride will make more errors than the average observer.
    A true expert remains humble in their observations, knowing he may can make mistakes like anyone else.

    1. Thanks for a detailed comment, Brett! Being a good body language or social reader means to have (total) control on emotions, instincts, prejudices and urges which might emerge while observing subject(s).

  3. Sounds like the man you were describing was talking more about what he wanted to see instead of what was really there. It would have been interesting to hear what a woman who understands body language said about that some girl.

    It would be interesting to ask that man how the woman would behave differently if she was NOT trying to attract attention. What would she have done differently if she just wanted to talk privately to someone on the phone.


Please post your valuable comment here.