The Language of the Body
Never judge a book by its cover. This is a well known expression that is spoken about with reference to first impressions and external appearance. On almost every occasion, it is a true maxim. There is only one exception to this general rule. When it comes to safety and survival on the street, you must rely on your first impressions.
Edward Wilson (1975) thought of humans as genetic machines whose primary function is that of surviving. He believed that our innately programmed responses are selfish and self-serving. But what has happened in modern times? Our instincts have become dulled by comfort and lulled into a false sense of security. Armed with mobiles and encased in headphones, we often forget that predators are out there watching and waiting.
Trusting in your instincts means combining the powers from Medium and Psych. In the popular tv shows, the female lead of Medium has extrasensory perception (ESP), while the male character in Psych uses impressive observational abilities to ferret out the truth. When you go out in the street, you must learn to develop a gut feel for danger merged with keen attentional abilities in order to detect threats.
First, you have to ask the questions: what do I consciously or unconsciously sense? Do I feel uncomfortable? Do I have goose bumps? Are the hairs on my skin standing up? Second, survey the surroundings. Do you see, hear or smell anything out of the ordinary? Are there elements that should not be there? Are there unknown people lurking around? What are your first impressions about them?
The answers may very well spell the difference between being safe versus being attacked. Do not take chances. The minute something feels or looks hinky, do not attempt to be Steven Seagal or Jackie Chan. Avoid, escape or run if you can. More importantly, learn to read the hidden meaning in the body language of the people loitering about.
The Basics of Body Language
Everyone has a characteristic way of expressing themselves through their physical movements whether they are aware of it or not. This is a result of genetics, socialization and the environment.
Genetics is a no-brainer. We all look the way nature intended. But our body language is also dependent on the scope and limitations set by our birth and genes. How tall you are, for example, can have an effect on your gait. Size or height is a predetermined genetic marker that will influence your walk. Chinese NBA star Yao Ming is 7’6. Notice the slight stoop in his walk and the awkward way he swings his arms. This is how many abnormally tall people carry themselves and is largely due to gravity. In essence, because their bodies are farther away from the ground than normal sized individuals, their balance is a little off-kilter and they compensate by adjusting their body posture and movement.
Of course, it does not stop with the genes. As we grow, we consciously and unconsciously acquire other motor skills that we learn through socialization. Gender stereotypes are the most common. Males and females are socialized to dress, talk and act in a certain manner. Children of either sex assimilate gender roles very easily through the family, the school, and other external influences.
Finally, our environment has a significant impact on our body language. Culture and society shape such things as personal space, appearance, posture, eye contact and other physical expressions. Studying the differences will entail an understanding of a particular culture and society. However, knowing the common elements is a starting point and can be very useful.
Lane Resources Inc (c) 2011