The most honest part of the body: Accurately reading body language

Most of us know that nonverbal communication plays a bigger part in what we actually communicate than our words. Some speculate that it represents up to 80% of what we are communicating. Understanding people’s nonverbal signals more clearly, therefore, can be a huge advantage in business — or in life generally.

Do you know what is the most honest part of the body? Most people guess the eyes. According to Joe Navarro, a decorated ex-FBI Agent, the feet (along with the legs) are most likely to reveal the true intentions of a person, and thus, be the prime place to look for nonverbal signals that accurately reflect what a person is thinking.

In his book, “What Every Body is Saying“, Navarro explains that long before we humans could speak, we reacted instinctively with our feet and legs to the dangers of our hostile environment. Today, our feet still react subconsciously — instinctively. They give away our true intent.

Ever seen happy feet, bouncing in exuberance? There’s no mistaking it. We all know when someone is happy by their feet. When playing cards, we hold in high regard the ability to hide our emotions with a poker face. In other words, we are taught to deceive with our face and words. However, if you look down toward a player’s feet, they often subconsciously reveal what the poker face is trying to hide.

Next time you are interviewing a work candidate, check out the feet for nonverbal cues. I’ve interviewed a candidate once where the feet were obviously happy when talking about his past accomplishments. However, as soon as I asked about his relationship with his former boss, his feet froze. Obviously, I knew then that I needed to better understand the reasons behind  his conflict with his last supervisor.

One of the most awkward times can be when networking in a room full of strangers. If you approach a group of people in a conversation, and they turn their torso to greet you but not their feet, you can safely assume you may be interrupting. However, if they turn their feet toward you to include you into the group, you are being welcomed.

Any time a person turns his or her feet away from you, especially toward an exit, the person either wants out of the conversation or has somewhere to go. In that case, I try to give that person an easy out to leave. Don’t hold the person hostage regardless of the fact that your sales pitch is not completed. You’re not closing that deal anyways.

Since it’s near Valentine’s Day, let’s observe our feet behavior in romance. If you watch a “Valentines” couple this weekend at a nice restaurant, they may at first be engrossed in a deep conversation which over the course of dinner wanes, until they don’t seem to be talking anymore. Trouble for the couple? Not necessarily. If their legs remain in close proximity, often brushing against each other. The romance is red hot and words are no longer necessary!

Understanding the language of the feet can help you read other people’s intents whether at work, on a bus, or in romance. Best you pay attention.