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Poker Expert’s Four Body Language Tips for Dating and Interviews

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Whether it’s a job interview, first date, or any other stressful interaction, strong body language is key to making a solid first impression.

Famed body language researcher Albert Merabian concluded that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% actual words. At the poker table, monitoring body language is one of the strongest ways to read an opponent. Certain tells and signals can indicate to opponents what sort of cards you have and what your next move will be. The same logic applies to employers looking to grow their teams or singles looking for quality relationships.

In a previous blog post, we had a body language expert asses some of the telltale signs of lying to help identify tells when playing poker. In this article, we’ll assess how these body language tips can be used in other real-world scenarios, featuring insight from 19-year poker veteran Jonny Chapman.

Constant Fidgeting

One of the most common things people do at a poker table is play with their chips. Constant clacking is a soundtrack of the game, as many players make a habit of messing with their stacks as they’re trying to read other players and plan their next moves. But this is often a strong tell that a player is at some level of discomfort, which can tell you how confident they are in their hand.

“Oftentimes, it’s not just someone constantly playing with their chips, but how they actually put them into the pot that’ll be the giveaway,” says Chapman. “Whether they’re splashing the pot or lightly placing chips on the table, it’s good to keep track of how this tendency changes if at all.”

In the interview stage, this can be similar to fidgeting fingers or having a restless leg. An employer could see it as a clear sign that the candidate is nervous or easily distracted. While this is natural, it doesn’t give off as strong of an impression as someone who’s confident and composed in such a stressful scenario. Being mindful of what you’re doing with your hands and feet will emphasize that you’re worry-free and can keep your composure when things get difficult, which are strong traits in a prospective employee.

For dating life, few things can be more annoying than a constant fidgeter. Nervousness is more acceptable on a first date than in a job interview, but if someone is constantly playing with their keys, silverware, or anything else in sight, it can be enough to convince a potential partner that a second date isn’t worth it.

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Eye Contact

Wandering eyes can be seen as a red flag in any setting. When poker players are trying to spot a liar, eye contact is often one of the most easily identifiable actions. One example is when players are constantly looking up and to their right. This is because the right-hand side of the brain is associated with imagination, not memory, so subconsciously looking this way can be an indication that they’re making something up or lying to you.

“There’s a reason we see so many pros sporting sunglasses on the main stage,” says Chapman. “The eyes can give away so many different things, but it’s just more acceptable to wear sunglasses at a poker table than in most other settings.”

For interviews and dating, lying is never a good sign. Potential employers can see it as a clear sign of poor credibility, while potential partners often see untrustworthiness as a clear red flag in relationships. While the obvious solution is to just not lie, it’s natural to embellish certain things to impress people. Keep this to a minimum, but be sure to make consistent eye contact. In fact, experts suggest making direct eye contact 50-70% of the time while you are talking and listening.

If you’re being interviewed by multiple people, be sure to give equal attention to everyone and avoid having your eyes stray away too often. Focusing too much on one person can also make the others feel less important, so being consistent with everyone will create strong impressions for all involved.

If you can exude confidence in any why while discussing something, people will be more likely to believe it and be impressed by it, and direct eye contact is one way to achieve this. It’s also good to be conscious of blinking, as doing so excessively can be another indication that you’re uncomfortable because you’re not being completely truthful.

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Face Touching

It’s common for people to touch their hair, face, and neck in uncomfortable situations. This idea also extends to licking or biting lips, which often happens when people are nervous. In poker, it’s never good to give away to opponents that you’re nervous, as it could mean you’re not confident in your hand. This could also mean that you’re bluffing and aren’t comfortable keeping the lie going. Experienced players will be able to keep track of when opponents touch their faces more often and what specifically they’re giving away by doing so.

“Like many physical tendencies, you’ll have to monitor how hands play out to determine what the actual tells are, but common signs that a player being nervous are definitely things to look out for,” says Chapman. “Though it shouldn’t be the only thing you act on, players being visibly uneasy would definitely be an important thing to consider as you plan your next moves.”

In professional and social settings, easy signals that someone is unsettled often have a negative effect on the interaction. In most professional and social settings, portraying confidence and comfort can go a long way in impressing someone, so managing and minimizing the indicators of discomfort would be a valuable skill. Especially in the era of COVID, touching your face can be off-putting from a health standpoint, so making sure your hands don’t wander to the head or neck area is especially beneficial. It’s good to occupy your hands by talking with them, as this will also help demonstrate that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about what you’re discussing.

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Tone of Voice

Poker doesn’t require players to speak, but it’s common to chat while sitting at a table for hours on end. While a lot of this conversation can be friendly and casual, certain things can be tells for your opponents. Obviously what opponents are actually saying should be considered, as players are likely to interject after a bad beat or voice their frustrations at getting bad cards. But the way people speak is also something to consider.

For example, if when presented with a question someone often responds by repeating said question, it’s a telltale sign that they’re lying. Similarly, if responses appear to be unclear or indirect, it’s another red flag, as people are likely to speak more cohesively when being honest. Deep breaths can also be something to look for, as inconsistency in breathing habits before speaking could be a sign of discomfort or stress.

When it comes to managing tone of voice in interviews or date settings, the way we say things can have a big effect on how they’re interpreted. The goal should be to speak clearly without being too loud or strong. It’s also good to adjust your tone depending on what you’re saying or what points you’re trying to get across. These are things that can take practice to master, but something else to keep in mind is to avoid being monotonous. Doing so can easily bore potential employers and partners, while constantly speaking too low for anyone to hear can be troublesome. Finding the natural balance in vocal tones can ultimately lead to more people listening to what you have to say.

Reading body language is a difficult skill to master, but it presents myriad benefits in professional and social life. In poker, body language can be used to determine others’ behaviors and throw opponents off. In the dating and professional world, where first impressions mean everything, having strong body language skills can help secure new jobs and lasting relationships.

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