Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 779:
What Does Staring Indicate?

A question I often hear is: What does staring mean? The answer is not as straight forward as some would like it - for its meaning is dependent on the other body language signals with which it is coupled. When someone is staring at you (not to be confused with someone staring "through you" aka "The Thousand Yard Stare"), six common meanings should spring to mind. Not in any particular order they are: anger, intimidation display, sexual attraction, curiosity, intense concentration or an attempt for a person who is lying to try and look honest/sincere. Intriguingly, a person who is lying may also have diminished eye contact (see Secret # 335: What does "eye contact" really mean?).

This video of a young girl (Sofia) at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand, shows how staring commonly sets off primal instincts - even across species. It is common for a person (or large felines, dogs, etc.) to go into "protective mode" (flight, fight or freeze) - when being stared at. Instincts often assume the worst, - with the original emotion being completely misinterpreted. Here Sofia's curiosity is being mistaken as a threat. This happens on varying levels in human-to-human interactions billions of times daily. What have you misinterpreted today?