The Power of Reading Body Language in the Hospitality Industry

Tuesday 20th June 2017


Did you know that up to 93% of all communication is nonverbal? So to investigate further Charlie Heavey (HR & Office Guru) demonstrated the art of reading people’s facial expressions and body language.

Often the focus of detective TV shows and films, this skill can also be applied in everyday life. Whether you are greeting your guests or organising activities in-house, the art of reading people can help you and your team achieve your goals and work together more effectively.

So if you’re itching to be the next Sherlock Holmes, or simply want to understand your colleagues and guests a little more, ask yourself the following questions.

1. Which direction are they looking when they talk to you?

It is presumed that keeping eye contact implies honesty. In fact it is usually the opposite. If someone is maintaining strong, consistent eye contact it can mean they are simply trying to figure out whether or not you believe what they are saying.

You can also tell whether someone is recalling or imagining something by what direction they look in when they are answering your questions. For example look at the diagram below:

Please note: this is applicable to right-handed people. It’s the other way around for left handed people.

2. What is their face saying while they talk and listen?

To figure out if someone really means what they say look out for the following things:

  • Raised eyebrows -> signals discomfort
  • Frequent change in voice pitch -> signals interest
  • Smiling without crinkling their eyes -> fake smile
  • Pursing lips -> anxious or upset
  • Eye shrugs -> losing interest; frustrated

3. What is their body saying while they talk and listen?

If you see any of the following they may be losing interest:

  • Crossed legs -> resistance and low receptivity
  • Crossed arms -> defensive (can also be a sign of lying)
  • A shaking leg -> shaky inner state (due to high levels of negative emotion such as stress)
  • Shoulders facing away from you -> subconsciously looking for a way out
  • Fast head nodding -> impatient

If you see any of these you may be in luck:

  • Leaning towards you -> interested in you and what you have to say; enthusiastic
  • Relaxed arms, palms up or towards you -> they trust you
  • Dilated pupils -> interested in you and what you have to say; comfortable
  • Slow head nodding -> attentive listening
  • Mirroring -> a sign of agreement and comfort in your presence

So next time you’re out on a team building day, organising in-house events, or just want to get to know the people around you a bit better use this guide to read them. This can also be a great way to consider how you come across to other people. You learn something new every day!