Scientists say that the reason we fidget when we’re nervous is because the stress triggers an innate physiological response, leading us to unconsciously believe that we’ve sat on a plate of eggs Benedict.
Interestingly, actually sitting on such a plate is surprisingly relaxing, but, nevertheless, it’s still occasionally frowned upon in good quality restaurants and arguably invalidates the warranty on your underpants. [Ed – I’ve just discovered that it definitely does.] Below are some body language pointers.
Signs of worry:
• Repetitive actions such as pacing back and forth, rocking from side to side, or impersonating a stuck record. One man on death row is reported to have thought he was a broken gramophone. He was put to death with a stake through the heart, as per his final request. Although, on reflection, the authorities figure this request was probably just his dinner order – steak and chips – but for 3 weeks he’d been unable to get past the first word.
• Shaking. Easy to spot since as a cover such people often pretend they’re a washing machine on its final spin. This is a good tactic, but the downside is if someone shoves soiled socks into your mouth. Many up and coming politicians have given nerve riddled speeches while impersonating a cocktail shaker. Queen Elizabeth’s tactic is to wave a lot. Not only does this hide the shakes, it’s also a far better solution than her idea of holding a duster and pretending she’s polishing the Duke.
• Running hands through hair. This is very common. If you have long locks it’s also the reason to never sit next to a worried looking bald guy.
Signs of romantic interest:
• Staring. A well-known sign, usually initiated by the line, “Fancy coming back to my place for a staring contest, followed by sex?” Make sure you listen out for that end bit, otherwise it can be a tad awkward, or perhaps a pleasant surprise. It really depends on how much you like your vicar.
• Flipping of the head or hair. Not without its problems because it’s very easy to misread – as documented by French writer Albert Camus. His father suffered much distress after watching a woman be executed with a guillotine. As her severed head flipped to the floor, Monseir Camus senior mistook this for flirting and became mortified by the one sided conversation.
Signs of defensiveness:
• Crossing arms. Researchers looked into this common defensive posture to assess its effectiveness. The results were most revealing: they discovered that 9 out of 10 people all lost their teeth while doing so in a boxing match.
• Closing the mouth tightly and refusing to talk. Care is needed to avoid misinterpreting this one, because it’s also a sign of an inability to distinguish a tube of toothpaste from a tube of superglue.
Signs of confidence:
• A good listener. In a study of 20 world leaders, psychologists discovered that most of them have what biologists call ‘ears’. These ‘ears’ (strictly speaking, ‘Ears’) give them a distinct advantage when it comes to what is known as being able to ‘listen’. 67% of them responded favourable when researchers said ‘hello’. This compares to only 30% of earthworms, which either showed no reaction at all or simply mumbled, “What’s that? Say again?”
Signs of drug and alcohol use:
• Extremely rapid speech. Don’t confront such a person about this because they’ll often accuse you of having slow ears. The big problem being that if true, you might not even realise what they said until 3 days later. This happened to a politician who – several days after the event – suddenly announced, “But my ears work perfectly fine.” His timing was most unfortunate, and consequently he is no longer welcome as a trustee for a leading charity for the deaf.
• Slurred speech. Be careful at pointing the finger as they may simply have a speech impediment. It’s difficult to tell because speech therapists often advise their patients to drink heavily as a cover.
Hopefully you have found the above guide helpful. Incidentally, last month I was sat with my eyes shut, underpants on my head, while attempting to impersonate a woodpecker. Using your new found knowledge, try to decide what positive character traits one can draw from such behaviour. Send your answers to the Senior Partner of Beckett Solicitors (London office), together with any other reasons as to why you don’t think I should have been fired.