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Uncloaking the Mysteries of Body Language and Personality Types

Kyle 2 weeks ago 5 comments

Have you ever gotten a “bad vibe” from someone? It’s possible that your brain translated their body language into an uneasy feeling.

On the other hand, you might have had a feeling of clicking with someone right from the start. Chances are, your mutual enthusiasm was partly communicated by body language, giving you both a subconscious green light to connect.

Or maybe someone has deliberately used body language to influence you – whether you realized it or not. For example, a salesperson whose wide eyes and admiring nod made you feel good about buying an expensive garment.

Body language plays a big part in social communication and perception. Being aware of body language can help us express ourselves and even give us a window into other people’s feelings and intentions – good or bad.

Here at 16Personalities, we wondered how personality type relates to body language. In this article, we’ll explore research on that subject and what it might mean in the real lives of various personality types. How does your personality type compare? Let’s find out.

Personality Types and Body Language Awareness

We’ll start by seeing how all 16 personality types responded to two important, basic questions about body language. In our “Emotional Intelligence” survey, we ask, “Do you have a hard time reading other people’s body language?” and while overall agreement was low, personality type was indeed a factor. Check out the responses below:

Agreement with “Do you have a hard time reading other people’s body language?”

The chart above suggests that Architects (INTJ), Logicians (INTP), Logisticians (ISTJ), and Virtuosos (ISTP) have the most trouble reading body language. While not a majority, their agreement is notably higher than other personality types. That makes sense, based on what we know about their traits.

These four Introverted, Thinking personality types are less prone to seeking human contact than others and are usually not as concerned with social connectors like empathy. They’re also less likely to practice social abilities, preferring consciously intellectual forms of interaction. While they may be good communicators, they likely pay more attention to words and concepts than cues like body language.

On the other end of the spectrum, the chart above also shows that, overall, Extraverts and personality types with the Feeling trait report the least difficulty reading body language. These types tend to be socially focused, each appreciating human connections in their own way. Accordingly, they’re relatively likely to value – and naturally practice – social abilities like body language.

Let’s now consider self-awareness. In the same “Emotional Intelligence” survey, we ask, “Are you aware of your own body language?” Let’s look at the responses below:

Agreement with “Are you aware of your own body language?”

The above chart again shows Architects, Logicians, Logisticians, and Virtuosos being relatively challenged when it comes to body language. However, Mediators (INFP), Defenders (ISFJ), and Adventurers (ISFP) are also notably less likely than Extraverted personality types to agree.

So, why do Introverts tend to group together on this question more than the previous one?

It may be that, since Introverts are generally less expressive and energetic than Extraverts, their own body language is not as much of a focus. They tend to be quiet observers, compared to Extraverts. It’s also possible that Introverts’ body language is simply less vibrant or noticeable in general – even to them.

But the stronger agreement of Advocates (INFJ) is a notable exception among Introverts. Why have you broken away from your fellows, Advocates? Don’t you like them anymore?

Actually, their higher agreement could be because Advocates do like the grand potential of human connection. They place deliberate emphasis on their social values and ways to achieve them – perhaps including body language as a form of empathetic communication.

Advocates’ higher agreement might also reflect their imaginative Intuitive trait and the preference of their Judging trait for certainty: they often firmly believe what they envision. This might give them a better sense of awareness of their own body language.

With these broad ideas about how different personality types relate to body language in mind, let’s look at something specific and powerful: physical reactions.

Body Responses to Social Interaction: 16 Divided Personalities

If body language is a form of social communication, it’s no wonder that Extraversion and Introversion somewhat divide responses on this subject. People on these two sides of the personality spectrum value and practice socializing in very different ways.

As much as physical body language can outwardly communicate our inner state, so can it be affected by external social factors.

That tenseness is a physical reaction, much more likely among Introverts, that could easily be perceptible as body language. That sounds potentially significant in real-world terms.

The idea that communication itself might cause tension – which is then communicated through body language – might seem odd. But many of us have noticed someone acting visibly uneasy in social situations, perhaps because tension was altering their body language. This may sound unpleasantly familiar to some Introverts.

It can be an unfortunate feedback loop if communication causes tension, and that tension interferes with communication. (If that kind of thing tends to be a problem in your life, our Premium materials can aid your social growth.)

But tenseness isn’t the only way our body language can change during social interactions, especially considering the differences between many personality types.

In our “Conversation” survey, we ask, “Do you tend to mirror the other person’s body language, either consciously or unconsciously?” Overall, Feeling personality types are much more likely than Thinking types to agree that they do this. Extraverts are also slightly more likely than Introverts to agree. Let’s look at the results below:

Agreement with “Do you tend to mirror the other person’s body language, either consciously or unconsciously?”

This data backs the idea that body language is more important to personality types who are more inclined toward social or emotional interaction. Physical mimicry may be a way to fit in, or it may indicate empathy, connection, or receptiveness.

Whatever the intent or effect, mirroring someone’s body language is almost certainly an expression of social interest.

This possibility is backed by the fact that Campaigners (ENFP) – often openly passionate about their place in the human community – are among the most likely personality types to agree with the above question. And Virtuosos, who are known for such intense personal focus that they can seem antisocial, are the lowest-agreeing type.

So, conscious or not, body language seems to be a more powerful physical influence on Feeling and Extraverted personality types. As a group, their sensitivity to it, and tendency to express it, are greater. However, it’s Extraverts and Assertive personality types who are more likely to believe that this is conscious.

It’s not certain that Assertive personality types’ control over their body language is as superior as these numbers might suggest. Assertive types tend to be confident: they’re likely to self-assess more positively than Turbulent types of similar ability, and this can affect their survey responses.

Conscious control of body language may also relate to deliberate use. When we ask (in the same survey), “How often would you say you consciously use body language to help communicate?” about 69% of Extraverts say “often” or “very often,” compared to 52% of Introverts.

Now that we’ve got a solid idea about which personality types find body language most relevant, let’s consider some ways this can relate to life.

When Things Get Real: Body Language Consequences

Body language can present some risks, like perhaps being woefully misinterpreted – or telling others more than we’d like to share. For example, in our “Body Language” survey, a modest majority of all personality types (about 67% on average) agree when we ask, “Has body language ever ‘betrayed’ you in a way that cost you something?”

Some people are more affected by such “tells,” or are at least more aware of them. For example, around 73% of Turbulent personality types agree with the above question, compared to 58% of Assertive types. Types with the Feeling trait (71%) are also somewhat more likely to agree than Thinking types (61%).

Clearly, the effect of body language on our lives can be significant. The body “betrayal” described above could be a problem in any number of situations, from a classroom presentation to a job interview to a business negotiation. The stakes can be high in personal social situations too. Body language can play a major part in love, as well as other areas of life.

Let’s look at another example from the same survey.

Furthermore, the vast majority of all personality types say body language is at least “moderately important” when it comes to physical attraction.

Various personality types may respond differently to many aspects of body language, but the above examples indicate that, in real-world social situations, it can matter a great deal.

Conclusions

Some personality types show more conscious regard for body language, and perhaps even more adeptness at using it to communicate. Overall, our research indicates that body language is more relevant to Extraverted and Feeling personality types than to others. They’re more likely to emphasize it in both their actions and perceptions.

This makes good sense, if body language represents a form of human connection. These personality types tend to be more conscious of their own feelings – and the feelings of others. It matches their goals and values to be sensitive to physical expressions of such inner energy. Body language can be a wordless window to people’s inner world.

It’s important to remember that the differences between personality types are relative statistics. The types to which body language seems least important still tend to give robust minority agreement in some surveys – and modest majority agreement in others.

There is no personality type to which body language isn’t important – it’s just a matter of degrees.

Introverted, Thinking personality types generally stand out as being the least concerned with body language, though they’re likely still subject to its effects. Having less interest doesn’t necessarily mean that they can control their bodies’ broadcasts better than anyone else. Possibly, the opposite is true.

Body language offers helpful advantages. Awareness of body language makes it much easier to understand other people. And it can help anyone express themselves better, including less socially inclined personality types. (We’re looking at you, Architects, Logicians, Logisticians, and Virtuosos.)

Such personality types can keep in mind that body language isn’t just about empathetic connections. The powerful language that the body itself speaks can vibrantly animate the most esoteric, intellectually sophisticated concepts. This can enhance any exchange, regardless of an individual’s social inclinations.

Do you have any body language-related practices that help you in life? Share your clever methods in the comments below!

Further Reading

Let’s Talk to Other Personality Types: The Art of Conversation

“Can’t Read My Poker Face”: Personality Type and Masking Emotion

Personality Type and the Need to Be Liked

Telling Stories at Parties: Which Personality Types Do It Best?

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