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Understanding Body Language: Interested vs. Uninterested

The foundation of any behavioral analysis program begins with a deep understanding of what a person is conveying through their nonverbal communication.  Tying the domains Kinesics and Biometrics together allow us to quickly make decisions about a person’s intentions, capabilities and emotions.

The six clusters that we use to classify an individual’s behavior (DominantSubmissiveness, UncomfortableComfortable, Interested, Uninterested) are the science behind our observations.  With all of these clusters, don’t forget about the Combat Rule of 3’s – that we are going to look for three indicators that all lead to the same cluster before we make a decision.  If you have the science part of the observation down, you are ready to apply the art of the observation and decide if that cluster you have identified fits the baseline or is an anomaly.

Once we make our observation, we are going to compare that conclusion to our baseline. I want to know if my conclusion fits my baseline, a FIT, or does not fit my baseline, a NO FIT. If the cluster is a NO FIT, I now have an anomaly that I want to investigate and attempt to figure out why that person does not fit in.

The following are gestures on the body that I would put into the “Interested vs. Uninterested” Cluster.

Keep in mind, if different contexts, the same gesture could be put into a different cluster, but are all derived from the limbic system’s response to threats and the preparation to the freeze, flight or fight response.

The Interested Cluster

A person who is interested is first and foremost listening if involved in a conversation or demonstrating where their attention is focused if not in a conversation.

Lower Body

–       Feet pointing at people in conversation (both feet)

–       Feet remaining still, not bouncing (no limbic system preparation to leave)

–       No leg barriers (openness)

Upper Body

–       Torso leaning forward (seated or standing)

–       Open body language (no arm barriers)

Other Indicators

–       Head nods

–       Overall body stillness, this shows that even their internal dialogue is not distracting them

–       Gaze will be oriented in the direction of the person speaking

–       Decreased blink rate

–       Furrowed brow, eyebrows are drawn together as the listener seeks to hear and understand the other person

–       Head may be tilted forward showing attention, or tilted sideways may show curiosity, but this may also show uncertainty

–       Mirroring or mimicking of any emotion communicated through the conversation by the other people in the group

–       Distractions will be ignored, interruptions from others, cell phone calls, etc.

–       Not interrupting the person talking, showing patience to wait to chime in

–       Uh huh and mm’hmm noises to show you want them to keep talking without having it interrupt

The Uninterested Cluster 

This shows their attention and interest are elsewhere or are bored with the conversation

Lower Body

–       Feet bouncing (body preparing to distance themselves from the person or object)

–       Feet oriented away from the person or object in the direction they would like to move

–       Legs crossed – use of leg barriers

–       “Shifty” behavior, person moving or rocking back and forth

Upper Body

–       Arm barriers up (closing off front of torso)

–       Torso leaning away from person or object

–       May see “stopping” gestures with hands

–       Rubbing of their wrist, whether they have a watch on or not

–       Increase use of pacifying behavior

–       May have closed off body language similar to the uncomfortable cluster.

Other Indicators

–       Acknowledging their cell phone or other distractions

–       Their gaze being all over the place, not looking at the person talking but anywhere else

–       Repeatedly looking at the clock on the wall

–       Doodling or finding other things that captivate their interest instead of listening

–       Showing signs of tiredness, such as yawning, slouching in their chair, leaning up against the wall

–       Blank or neutral facial expressions

–       Preparing to leave, such as legs uncrossing, picking up bags, straightening clothing

If a person is feigning disinterest because they don’t want you to see that they are interested, look for conflicting signs of interest or readiness to do something

Wrap Up

These two clusters fit into one category and you may see elements of other clusters in your observations (dominant and interested or comfortable and uninterested). Always be looking for 3 or more indicators that lead you to this conclusion. You have classified people in these categories before, these are just some descriptions and specific gestures to help you communicate why you believe in your assessment.

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