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How to Read Body Language – 2100+ words (draft form – add photos)

Body language is the universal language of the world. In order to be able to function in this world, you must understand body movement, its context, its subtext, and its meaning, no matter what the situation. It is the effective use of body language that allows us to earn professional success, find love, and experience happiness in life.

So how do you read body language?

Start from the top and work your way down:

1) Head
  • Heads held high are a sign of superiority, or possibly arrogance. That is where the term originates – “looking down your nose” at someone.

  • Overly tilted heads are a potential sign of sympathy. But if a person smiles while tilting their head, they are being playful and maybe even flirting.

  • Cocked heads mean that they are confused or challenging you, depending on eye, eyebrow, and mouth gestures. Think of how a dog slightly cocks its head when you make a funny noise.

  • Lowered heads indicate a reason to hide something. If a person lowers their head after being complimented, they may be shy, ashamed, or timid. If they lower the head after an explanation, they may be unsure if what was said was correct, or could be reflecting.

    • (Note: some cultures view a bowing of the head as a sign of respect.)

  • The face usually gives off a quick involuntary and sometimes subconscious twitch. This occurs when they are irritated, angered, excited, amused, lots of different expressions.

2) Eyes
  • It’s all about pupils. Dilated pupils means that the person is interested or excited by what you say. Larger pupils are a sign of interest or desire.

    • (Keep in mind, however, that many drugs cause pupils to dilate, including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, LSD and others.)

  • People who look to the sides a lot are nervous, lying, or distracted. However, if a person looks away from the speaker, it very well could be a comfort display or indicate submissiveness. Looking askance generally means the person is distrustful or unconvinced.

  • If someone looks down at the floor a lot, they are probably shy or timid. People also tend to look down, when they are upset, or trying to hide something emotional. People are often thinking and feeling unpleasant emotions when they are in the process of staring at the ground.

  • If their eyes seem far away, that usually indicates that a person is in deep thought or not listening.

  • Some cultures believe that looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of disrespect, or is only done with intimate friends or family, so this could explain why someone is avoiding eye contact with you.

3) Mouth
  • The most obvious thing to look for is a smile or a frown. A smile indicates happiness, while a frown indicates sadness or displeasure.

  • Once upon a time, in the days of the caveman, showing your teeth to a potential competitor was a sign of submissiveness. Nowadays, it indicates happiness, friendliness, and laughter.

  • There are several kinds of smiles though. A broad smile, that shows a lot of teeth, is a sign of laughter, of extreme happiness, and pleasure. A smile that doesn’t show any teeth can be a polite gesture, a small amount of pleasure, or perhaps a mask to hide true feelings, which aren’t happiness at all. A ‘twisted’ smile indicates sarcasm. A straight smile with the edges of the mouth upturned slightly could mean people are being polite and genial, or else they don’t want to appear rude.

  • When the lips are fuller, it is an unconscious sign that a person is excited or aroused. When the lips are thinner, a person is passive. Puckered lips are associated with kissing, and it means an excited state. Pursed lips are an indication of disgust, tension, frustration or disapproval.

4) Arms & Hands
  • People with crossed arms are closing themselves to social influence. Though some people just cross their arms as a habit, it may indicate that the person is reserved, uncomfortable, or self conscious. If their arms are crossed while their feet are shoulder width or wider apart, this is a position of toughness or authority.

  • If someone rests their arms behind their neck or head, they are open to what is being discussed or just laid back in general.

  • It is said that there is a direct, often subconscious, connection between the brain and the hands. People often act involuntarily through their hands, without even being aware of it. So paying attention to a person’s hand gestures may say a lot about them.

  • If their hands are frequently touching their mouth, or anywhere on their face, it means they are covering what they are saying. This could mean that they are lying, deceitful, nervous, or insecure.

  • If they are rubbing their hands together or somehow touching themselves in a way to comfort themselves it means they are trying to comfort themselves and are most likely thinking “it will be over soon.”

  • If their hands are on their hips, they might be waiting, impatient or just tired.

  • If their hands are closed or clenched, they may be irritated, angry, or nervous.

5) Legs and Feet
  • A fast tapping, shifting of weight, laughing, or movement of the foot will most often mean that the person is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated.

  • The meaning of feet tapping can usually be discerned depending on the context; if you are currently talking and they are tapping their feet, that is an indication of a desire to leave (though usually this behavior manifests when the person is anxious to get somewhere specific, such as a meeting, rather than because of what you’re doing specifically).

  • Slow shuffling on the other hand, indicates boredom with the current situation. If during flirtation your legs/feet touch, tapping can generally be interpreted as nervous excitement. This is because if they were uncomfortable, they would discreetly move away from the contact, a much more subtle escape than indirectly trying to tell you to move away.

  • If the person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles means they’re generally at ease.

  • If while standing, a person seems to always keep their feet very close together, it probably means they are trying to be “proper” in some way. Sometimes feet together means that they are feeling more submissive or passive.

  • If they purposely touch their feet to yours, they are flirting.

  • Some people may point their feet to the direction of where they want to go or sometimes their interest. So if it’s pointing at you, that person may be interested in you.

(SOURCE)

There are several other social contexts that are worth looking at it for body language cues:

Lying

Of all the non-verbal body language that can be observed, lying is one of the most recognizable…and the most fun. Also, it is a handy skill set to have for your daily interactions.

Here are some of the typical signs and signals that a person is lying:

  • Eyes maintain little or no eye contact.

    • There may be rapid eye movements, with pupils constricted.

  • Hand or fingers are in front of the mouth when speaking.

  • The body is physically turned away from you.

    • There are unusual/unnatural body gestures.

  • The breathing rate increases and is abnormal.

  • Perspiration increases.

  • Complexion changes; especially with red in the face and neck.

  • Voice changes: such as change in pitch, stammering, throat clearing.

One of these movements in isolations will not necessarily indicate that someone is lying. But several of these cues together is usually a good sign. Especially the hands to the face. If you ever interact with a 5-year old child, it is incredible to see how obvious their lies are. Without fail, their hands will cover the mouth. As adults, people still continue to do this, only it may be a little more subtle. But the connection between the brain and the hands is very powerful. And the movement of the hands can be quite difficult to control. It is a dead give away.

Of course, if you do suspect somebody of lying, the best thing you can do is ask more questions and probe them to determine if they are being truthful or not. It is healthy to be mistrustful of another person’s intentions, no matter what the situation is.

Defensiveness or Nervousness

Defensiveness and nervousness are similar, but different. If somebody is feeling nervous, they will tend to display defensive body language. If somebody is defensive, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are nervous (although they could be). Defensiveness is usually pretty easy to read. Here are some common signals that a person is feeling defensive:

  • Crossed arms in front of the body.

  • Hand gestures are small and close to the body.

  • Facial expressions are minimal.

  • Body is physically turned away from you.

  • Eyes maintain little contact, or are downcast.

By picking up these signs, you can change what you say or how you say it to help the other person become more at ease, and more receptive to what you are saying.

Equally, if you are feeling somewhat defensive going into a negotiating situation, you can monitor your own body language to ensure that the messages you are conveying are ones that say that you are open and receptive to what is being discussed.

Disinterest or Disengagement

This is similar to being defensive. But defensiveness usually infers that a person is nervous, or doesn’t like what you have to say. In this case, somebody doesn’t care what you have to say. That is disinterest. The telltale signals of people being disengaged include:

  • Heads are down.

  • Eyes are glazed. Eyes are focused anywhere else but you.

  • Hands are playing, picking, or fiddling with objects.

  • They are writing or doodling absent-mindedly.

  • They may be sitting slumped in their chairs, or shoulders are stooped.

The best way to deal with someone who is disengaged is to engage them directly. Do this by asking them a direct question, which will literally force them to engage with you. Also, make sure that you are projecting body language of interest and attentiveness.

Interest or Attraction

Just the opposite of defensiveness and nervousness. The body language is completely different. If somebody is interested in what you have to say, they will be highly responsive, open, and inviting. And please note that this applies to more than just attraction between the opposite sexes for mating rituals. This can also include sales meetings, business contexts, or any general conversation. Here are some common signals that a person is interested in you:

  • Body is turned to the person speaking, in an open posture. Arms are not folded.

  • Feet are turned towards the person as well.

  • Eyes are focused on the subject, indicating total concentration and focus. Facial expressions are minimal.

  • The pupils will become dilated when somebody responds positively to something that they hear. Dilated pupils indicate desire and excitement.

  • In some situations, a person will touch you on the arms or shoulders. Although this is usually a flirtatious signal, reserved for attraction settings.

  • If seated, their body posture will be leaning forward and engaged.

Watch the face

A lot of things are happening in the face all of the time, often involuntary or even subconscious twitches that occur when something happens to irritate, excite, or amuse somebody. There are many important facial cues to look out for to determine if a person likes what you are saying, doesn’t like what you’re saying, is disinterested, or something else. For example:

  • If a person looks up at the sky, or to the sides they are usually thinking.

  • When a person closes his/her eyes longer than the time it takes to blink, that usually means that he/she is feeling stress, alarm, or despair (although it could mean that their contacts are dry, this will sometimes be accompanied by rubbing of the eye).

  • When a person licks their lips its a sign of liking you.

  • Some people touch their face and/or play with their hair when they are flirting.

  • If a person can’t maintain eye contact with you, and their eyes dart around the room, they are being evasive, and possibly dishonest, or else they could just be disinterested.

  • If a person talks at a fast rate and mumbles or isn’t clear on what they are saying they could be nervous or might be lying, trying to stall for time, or not telling the full truth (being vague). Although sometimes people just mumble as part of their speech pattern.

Poker Face

Poker is a popular game in America. Since the days of the Wild West and the frontier, the phrase “poker face” is a common term to describe somebody who appears stoic, stone-faced, and doesn’t give off any emotion. This, of course, stems from the game of poker, where a competitor will try to use another person’s facial expressions to determine if they are overly excited, nervous, lying, or bluffing.

Warning

This is first part in a series of posts on body language, the universal language of the world. Please feel free to contact me directly with questions, and I will address them immediately.

The 5-Step Caveman Business Plan

Using a 5-step process of creative brainstorming and analytical testing, I can improve the marketing effectiveness and sales activities of any business, increase awareness and drive more traffic to the brand.

1) Determine the core business
a. What is the Mission, Vision, Values, Goals, Objectives?
b. What do you want to accomplish in the business?
d. Identify customer needs / wants / pain points

Before doing anything else, you need to know your own business. What is it that you’re selling? What are you trying to achieve? Why do you exist? Always Start With Why (Simon Sinek). After that, determine what you need to achieve those goals? What will you have to invest to get there?

2) Determine the message
a. What is the story you want to share with the world?
b. What is the unique selling proposition?
c. What content do you want to share, and why do you want to share it?

The best blog posts contain expert opinions that many people will benefit from. The best tweets either direct people to that same important information online, or provide informative updates. The best Facebook posts give people direction, and allow them to act directly to achieve a common goal. Only release content that is valuable and meaningful. Make sure you post consistently, maintain an active schedule, and you don’t give up simply because you don’t get traction immediately.

3) Determine the platform/medium
a. What social outlet is right for you? What are you trying to achieve?
b. Do you have a blog? You need one.
c. Who else out there is doing the same things as you? Find them.

One of the biggest problems that people run into is trying to do many things at once. Like the Caveman, it is best to keep it simple. Start with one social media site if need

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be, whether it is the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, LInkedIn, or something else.

4) Build and Grow the Community
a. Engage: listen and respond.
b. Use the proper monitoring tools.
c. Reach out to other people and connect with them.

Google is great because it offers everything for free. Google Analytics and Google Alerts are absolutely essential. That way you can track the level of traffic on your site, and also know what else is being said about you around the Internet. Second, it is important to commit to a schedule to check your social media sites, to be familiar with conversations that take place, and engage in them accordingly.

5) Evolve
a. Continue to test and refine your strategies. What works, what doesn’t?
b. Adapt as needed.
c. Continue to post compelling content, update regularly, and engage users.

The best laid plans of mice and men… Often things happen that we can’t foresee. It will sometimes be necessary to adjust your strategy, change your approach. Do what it takes. The most important thing that you can do is continually test your strategies, so you can provide concrete data and examples to determine what is effective and what is not. The Caveman was always evolving and adapting. So are we.

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