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Understanding Body Language: Uncomfortable
The foundation of any behavioral analysis program begins with a deep understanding of what a person is conveying through their nonverbal communication. Tying the domains Kinesics and Biometrics together allow us to quickly make decisions about a person’s intentions, capabilities and emotions.
The six clusters that we use to classify an individual’s behavior (Dominant, Submissiveness, Uncomfortable, Comfortable, Interested, Uninterested) are the science behind our observations. With all of these clusters, don’t forget about the Combat Rule of 3’s – that we are going to look for three indicators that all lead to the same cluster before we make a decision. If you have the science part of the observation down, you are ready to apply the art of the observation and decide if that cluster you have identified fits the baseline or is an anomaly.
The following are gestures on the body that I would put into the “Uncomfortable” Cluster. Keep in mind, if different contexts, the same gesture could be put into a different cluster, but are all derived from the limbic system’s response to threats and the preparation to the freeze, flight or fight response.
The Uncomfortable Cluster
The Uncomfortable Cluster is a result of the Limbic System's Flight response. This shows that the person perceives a threat and has determined that the best chance for their survival is to either leave the area or close themselves off to protect themselves from the attack. Even though in today's society, we likely to not physically leave the area when presented with minor threats, the concepts of blocking and distancing are still displayed.
- Feet bouncing (limbic system preparing the body for flight)
- If flight isn’t an option, the knees may come together to protect vital areas
- Feet oriented towards a door or exit (showing what our intentions are, preparing for flight)
- Leg’s crossed while seated, forming a barrier (protecting vital areas)
- Leg’s shoulder width apart while standing (body capable of defending itself)
- Torso leaning away (distancing from a threat)
- Torso rotated away from person or object (either facing exit to prepare for flight, or turning to protect vitals area)
- Arms crossed across chest (establishing barriers to protect vital areas) this could also include gripping the opposite arm
- Arms may be extended or up around face as a means to block a blow to the face or body
- Arms/hands covering crotch/groin (establishing barriers to protect vital areas)
- Shoulders raised (response to a threat to protect neck/carotid artery, and head)
- Increase use of Pacifying Behavior (resulting from the energy manifested by the Autonomic Nervous System)
- Facial Expressions of: surprise or fear
- The body may maintain a tight tension, showing a lack of comfort
- Chin tucked in to protect the throat
- Avoiding eye contact
- Increased blink rate
- Eyes flicking back and forth looking for an escape or a way out
- Putting any object between themselves and the threat
If the person feels that the flight response was not sufficient to ensure their survival, or if a person's aggression rises, they may shift from the Uncomfortable Cluster into the Dominant Cluster if they feel the need to fight their way out and launch a pre-emptive strike
Being able to identify people who are Uncomfortable and Comfortable help assess who is experiencing a limbic system response in their body. Let's say you are looking at a woman who is giving off an overwhelming number of Comfortable cues and that becomes your baseline for her. If you were to observe a man who you assumed would be a stranger to that woman walk past, how did that woman respond? If he was in fact a stranger, you would likely see a shift out of the Comfortable Cluster as the unknown man could be a threat, causing her body to shift from one cluster to another. Or if she didn't respond at all, didn't perceive that man as a threat, perhaps they have a pre-existing relationship that you were unaware of.
Identifying the cluster is only the first step, noticing shifts and changes in the cluster will help you find the people who don't fit in with their surroundings. Always be looking for 3 or more indicators that lead you to this conclusion. You have classified people in these categories before, these are just some descriptions and specific gestures to help you communicate why you believe in your assessment.