How to Read People with Masks
Updated: Jul 15, 2020
Masks Might Make You a Better Reader of Body Language
I’ve done some shopping during our Covid-19 social distancing. Not much, but some. When we go out, we wear masks that my wife made. And I’ll tell you, wearing a mask throws you off a bit with how you hold your head and look around. It’s really different because I don’t have to wear a mask everyday like some people do.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was stumbling around trying to pay and I realized that my situational awareness was almost none. I was so focused on simple tasks that were now thrown off because of the mask and it took more brain power to execute than normal. This took up my attention and therefore I wasn’t scanning my environment like normal. I know I’m not alone in this, so I’m having to make more of a conscious effort to observe my surroundings and those moving around me.
This got me thinking about body language. Most of us really do have a good library of body language already. There are some universal things that we all know. And just because many people are wearing masks now, doesn’t mean that we can’t read people anymore. In fact, it might actually help.
Here are three things to look at when observing those around you wearing masks: hands, feet and shoulders.
The first thing to look for are the hands of people approaching you. Hands are responsible for pushing, striking and producing weapons. Hands are a very honest part of the body.
It’s complicated, but most people when they deceive use a lot of brain power to control their face so there’s little left over to control the hands. When in public make sure to hear what people’s hands are telling you.
Next, look at their feet. How a person positions themselves tells you where they’re thinking of going next.
Police look at suspects' feet to see if they are pointed away as if they are going to run. If someone approaches you from afar, says nothing to you but has their feet pointed in your direction, you want to take notice and look for other signs like their hands and general disposition. This doesn't mean they are going to attack you, but it can give you a warning to give that person more attention.
Lastly, let’s look at the shoulders. Think about the last sanctioned fight you saw. When the fighters came to the ring were their shoulders up and confident or slumped and relaxed?
They were up, of course.
This goes back a long way in human history, they’re trying to make themselves look bigger. Like they are a larger opponent. Normal people do the same thing. They “bow up” on their opponents or their targets. So keep an eye out for anyone who is looking like they're trying to make themselves bigger and might be looking to fight someone. Normal shoppers don’t walk around like that.
The Most Dishonest Part of the Body
Notice that none of what I’ve shared involves the face. Believe it or not, the face is the most deceitful part of the body. The face is where the lies come from. But it’s where we all look to see if someone is being honest.
So in this time of masks, let’s focus on the more honest parts of the body. This information is relevant today and everyday. Masks or not.