Body language is an unreliable subtext within the art of communication. When we speak or write, we convey our intent in usually logical language. Nonverbal communication is visceral, emotional, and something we emit constantly. We are never not nonverbally communicating. If we can read the occasional nonverbal cue, then we can gauge the interest of others, without having to ask them directly. We’ll cover three main examples below. Just remember, these are more general implications.
Setting The Scene
In the photograph above, Batroc the Leaper (right) is going on about something that the others are not interested in. Perhaps he was upset because his name was accidentally omitted in the recent Daredevil review? Though he’s excited, the other three are not. Those three, from left, are: Deadpool, Rogue, and Dr. Mindbender. None of the three will outright tell Batroc to change the topic, so instead, they convey their disinterest in three main ways.
Deadpool’s Knife Interest
When you’re talking with someone, observe the focus of their attention. Are they enamoured by any particular object? Then they might not be as fascinated in the topic. See if you can incorporate that object into the conversation. Batroc could say, “it feels like a knife was stabbed into my eye when I tried finding my name and could not!” This calls attention to the distracted nonverbal communication while re-incorporating them back into the dialogue.
Rogue’s Watch Checking
If both people are engaged in a conversation, time can fly by. What if you’re talking with someone and they’re constantly looking at the time? They might want to change the subject, might have somewhere exciting they’d rather go, or might just need to check the time. Batroc could try to find out by directly asking, upon seeing this nonverbal cue, “how are we for time?” If they change subject, you might have disinterested them.
Mindbender’s Crossed Arms
Crossing your arms is one of the most common examples of nonverbal communication and could mean anything from being on-guard, nervous, to being cold. It’s unreliable on its own, so try to observe other cues before reviewing if the other person is bored or mad. If they’re only occasionally looking at you, then they might be disinterested. Batroc could engage directly, asking, “have you been snuffed out of an action figure review before?” Then listen.
Nonverbal Cues: Tones
In the first draft of this photograph (shown below), Daredevil (right) was speaking an impassioned monologue to Jimmy Olsen (middle, checking watch or smelling his wrist) and Spider-Man (crossed arms and full of disdain). I went with Daredevil because the articulation is rather good.
Only later did I realize it could seem disrespectful to visually-impaired individuals. That leads into this aspect of nonverbal communication: not all body language or nonverbal communication is sight-oriented. Touch is a powerful indicator of interest. Tone of voice, word choice, and conversational pace are other clues.
When in doubt, you can always ask how interested they are in the conversation.