Patterns of Behavior

What’s normal behavior for one person may be completely out of whack for someone else. Some people are naturally smiley; others show their happiness with a peaceful look on the face. There are folks who use touch to establish relationships, and then there are people who recoil when strangers lay an innocent hand on their forearm. If you know someone well enough, you know how she acts and perceives the world. In fact, you’re probably already aware of her pattern of body language. When you notice changes in her behavior, do you jump to the wrong conclusions or wait for the situation to play itself out?

Tune Into Others

Any radical change in behavior—for better or worse—can indicate that something big is going on in a person’s life. You’ve seen this before: Your normally glum sister was all smiles in the weeks before she announced her pregnancy. Your always-cheerful grandmother was down in the dumps before she told you she’d been diagnosed with a serious illness. In each case, you pressed her for information—you just felt there was something to know. Once you heard the news, you said to yourself, “I knew something was up! I could tell by the way she was acting!” Part of what you were noting was a change in body language. If your sister were normally a giddy person and your grandmother suffered from chronic depression, their secrets might have been safe forever (or at least for several more months).

Losing Touch

Knowing how to read patterns and changes in body language is a useful tool. Even if the other person is trying to hide his feelings, you can often pick up on the smallest nonverbal cues—your outgoing friend has been avoiding your eyes, for example, or your normally happy husband hasn’t been smiling lately—and instantly know that something in this person’s life is amiss.

A change in nonverbal cues is simply someone’s way of letting the world know that all is not well with her. Making mention of it is your way of saying you care.

One thing you don’t want to do is let your observations get ahead of you. In other words, don’t start looking for signs of love—or deception—in everyone you meet. That’s the fastest way to go from leading a sane life to living a completely miserable existence. Take people as they are and learn to read their nonverbal cues as they appear. Once you know individuals fairly well and are used to their patterns of behavior, you’ll know what’s normal and what isn’t.

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