[Applied Psychology] Body Language: Interest

In our previous dialogue concerning body language, we considered three subjective ways to read nonverbal communication when people are disinterested in what we’re saying. How about gauging interest? Remember, this isn’t a syntaxical language like sign language. It’s tricky reading between the lines because people can multi-thread attention, appearing distracted while paying attention, or feign interest. Here are three clues that someone is probably invested in your topic of conversation or faking it well enough.

Setting The Scene
In the photograph above, Batroc the Leaper (center) is going on about something that the others find interesting. Perhaps he drew their attention by not hogging the spotlight in our previous dialogue on disinterest? Maybe it’s not a monotonous monologue? He’s excited and the others are engaged. Those three, from left, are: RogueDr. Mindbender, and Deadpool. None of the three are outright saying “cool story,” instead they convey their interest in three main ways.

Rogue’s Passing Touch
A polite pat on the arm is a strong sign that someone is interested in what you’re saying. Human contact is communally universal. A light touch has a visceral feeling that connects us on a primal level. Batroc can interpret any contact as general indication of interest. Batroc also shouldn’t overthink a situation where Rogue might touch his arm, unless it happens frequently and there are other nonverbal cues, then it could imply romantic interest.

Mindbender’s Mimicking Movements
Most people will subconsciously follow the leader of a conversation. They’ll subtly match the speaker’s body movement. If Batroc moves his arms around, it’s inviting to Dr. Mindbender to casually move his arms around more freely. Note that this is a common manipulation trick. Some people may mirror the body language of others to forcefully gain their trust so this is a good manipulation tactic to thoroughly understand. Some is honest, too much is trickery.

Deadpool’s Eye Contact
Observe where people’s eyes go when you’re talking. Most people will face you so they can hear you better. They may look you in the eye occasionally though most won’t stare. Batroc could test Deadpool’s interest by slowly moving around to see where his gaze goes. If Deadpool continues staring forward, he’s probably distracted or daydreaming, which is a cue to wrap up the conversation or switch gears. Maybe engage more directly to regain interest?

What would distract Deadpool? The taco in his holster? The stray piece of mold flashing on Batroc’s left shoulder? The tape holding Dr. Mindbender’s jester hat on?

Nonverbal Cues: Questions
This ties in heavily with verbal communication. The quickest way to gauge if someone is interested in a conversation is by the questions they ask. Are their questions drawing out more information? Inviting more discussion? The nonverbal equivalents are nodding, emitting tones like “hmm” or “huh,” or allowing the conversation to continue without interrupting. This isn’t an exact science. These are just some cues that you can continue rambling about whatever until something more interesting comes up.

When in doubt, change the subject.

My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write “The Story.” My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I’m a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let’s strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)