How do you know when someone is not interested? Check out these tips from the authors of The Definitive Book of Body Language, Allan & Barbara Pease, who show you what to look for and teach you the strategies to regain others’ attention.
Early body language signs of boredom
Boredom leads us to become more preoccupied with our surroundings instead of the person in front of us. If someone is bored, they are less likely to make eye contact with you and more likely to fiddle with items like glasses and phones. And as for answering texts during a date …
Some people are better at faking interest than others. So it pays to look for the more subtle gestures too.
Subtle gestures can be faster and harder to catch, and often involve the lower part of the body. For example, your brain will often point your feet toward the direction you’d like to go, for instance the nearest door. Fidgeting may be subtle, like eye glances towards the phone on the table or having their body slightly turned away from yours.
That’s because the further away from our brain a body part is, the less conscious control we have over it. Where it is easy to control our facial expressions, we have little idea what our feet are communicating. Subtle cues can easily be overlooked in the early stages of a conversation, when you have the best chance to turn things around. So don’t wait for the more obvious signs. Pay attention to the whole body and read the cues in clusters of at least three, like words in a sentence.
Classic body language boredom signals you shouldn’t ignore
If the person you’re with is not making eye contact it usually means they’re pre-occupied with something else, or it may be because they don’t agree or aren’t interested in what you’re saying. Slouching is another sure sign of disinterest, especially when it’s coupled with resting the head in hands. If they rest their head in their hand with an elbow on the table, their body is revealing to you that they are so bored they might fall asleep. A study conducted in 2019 revealed that people who appear to be distracted or lazy are perceived as less attractive.
Body crossing gestures are another sign that the person is closed off to you or what you are saying. These include;
1. Body facing away
We turn our bodies away from what we find distasteful, unpleasant or uninteresting and this results in a person having their feet pointed in the direction they’d like to go, for example the nearest exit.
2. Crossing the body
We cross our body with our arms, hands or legs when we are not interested in what we are hearing or experiencing or if we feel emotionally disconnected. Remember, if you cross your arms, hands or legs for any reason, others are likely to perceive you as emotionally disconnected.
3. Less Eye contact
We decrease our eye contact when we lose interest in the person or subject. In social interactions in Western societies, for example, we meet eye contact with another person around 2/3 of the time and we look away 1/3 of the time. In most Asian regions and South America, however, this ratio is reversed.
4. Concealing the palms
The palms of our hands are rarely flashed when we’re disinterested in the subject, topic or person. We reveal our palms to people we are interested in or are trying to connect with.
Reading body language takes practice. Look for gestures in a cluster of three, like words in a sentence.
Strategies to win back their attention and interest in you
If someone is looking disinterested, there are strategies that you can employ to regain their attention and get the conversation flowing. These include:
1. The Elbow Touch
Gently touch them on the elbow for 3 seconds or less when talking. This regains their attention without invading their personal space.
2. Open Ended Questions
Ask open ended questions to make them re-engage with you and do some of the work. People love to talk about their favourite subject – themselves – so if you want them to pay attention to you again, ask lots of questions that get them talking about them and their interests.
3. Use Minimal Encouragers
Keep the conversation flowing with sounds like mmm hmmm… and phrases like; “meaning…?” “Uh-huh” and “tell me more….” The more they talk and engage, the easier it will be for you and the more interested they will be in you.
What is your body telling others?
If people seem to give up on you during a face to face encounter, it may be because you’re showing them you are nervous or lacking in confidence. Closing off your body by crossing your arms and legs, for example, can be read by an observer as your being negative, defensive, or non-participative so keep yourself open at all times. Ask lots of open-ended questions to the person, and listen to their stories – don’t rush to upload your own story. Use open gestures, a wide smile, elbow touching, and leaning in – we lean towards people and events we like, we lean away from people and events we don’t like. And always keep your feet pointed to them, not the exit.