Can I join your conversation? Is this presentation engaging? The real answer to these questions can be found in the position of the feet. This sounds a bit weird I know, but paying attention to the position of people’s feet gives us a lot of information about their internal feelings. Because feet are the furthest thing from the centre of the body, they are often more outside our conscious awareness and therefore less likely to be actively ‘controlled’ or managed to convey a certain message. For example, most of us have learnt to control our facial expressions to conceal our true emotions. “It’s ok. I haven’t been waiting that long.” “Yes I’m happy to do that task.” When a colleague you have no respect for, talks to you at a function I doubt you screw up your face and give them a dirty look!
However our feet may as well be doing just that. What they do in reaction to this situation is just as telling… if you know what to look for.
“Is this presentation engaging?” I once sat in a circle with about 20 peers at a workshop. The presenter was competent, but the presentation went for far too long. Usually you would expect yawning, stretching, people looking away, fidgeting, etc. and these all occurred… eventually. The very first sign of disengagement though, came from people’s feet. I saw foot tapping, twitching, repositioning toward the door. All signs that the body wanted to move and the mind was somewhere else. The point here? Get the clue early from the feet!
Welcome /acceptance -
“Can I join your conversation?” At the same workshop, each session was broken up by networking breaks in the foyer. I watched as people mingled and moved in and out of different conversations and groups. If two people were talking and one asked to join, the real answer came from the feet. If the pair turned their upper bodies toward the new person, and did not move their feet, the answer was actually NO. However if they turned their upper body AND their feet to welcome the person into the conversation, the answer really was yes.
Now before you go applying these insights too literally it’s important to remember that body language needs to be decoded in relation to the overall context, other body language clusters, and the normal, day-to-day gestures of the person.
When you can observe the direction of the feet, in relation to these important elements, you are on your way to picking up what people are telling you with their body before their mouth joins the party.
As a professional People Whisperer, Anneli has been working with leaders and teams to improve their communication and interpersonal intelligence for almost a decade.
If you’d like to improve your interpersonal effectiveness and influence, or decode the behaviours’ of others, feel free to contact Anneli about a coaching program today.
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