What are Social Cues and How to Read Them

by / ⠀Personal Branding Startup Advice / March 10, 2022

The primal nature of subtle social cues and what they mean to our subconscious.

Social Cues by Part of Your Body

What’s with the strut? Psychologically there are many cues that denote the feeling of confidence. They display our intent, betray our falsehoods and reveal our attractions. Many of these actions we cannot control and some of the micro twitches in our face, that we consciously miss, can be picked up by our subconscious which leads to the gut reactions we feel about people. Assume you’re in a conversation with a colleague:

Cues with your Eyes

The most important indicator of status, the eyes can establish dominance, or subservience. Sounds dramatic but its true, when addressing people it is always considered proper to look into their eyes. For most people this can be difficult, there is an uneasy feeling associated with looking in the eyes of another. Especially in same-sex encounters it is important to maintain eye contact. Most times we know who the more dominant figure is, but when status is in question the eyes are often a deciding factor for the amount of respect you gain from the opposite party. Look away and you’ve lost the battle for respect, the other person feels as though they made you look away or uneasy, a subconscious cue for a bow of dominance. This allows them to take the reigns of the conversation or relationship. This reflects poorly on you as well as makes you seem self-conscious.

Cues with your Mouth

Second to the eyes, the mouth plays an important role in determining your intent or mood. Disarming a situation is one genuine simile away. The difference between a genuine smile and one that is easily detected as fake or malicious is the micro twitches at the corner of the mouth. When you force a smile these twitches alert the opposite persons subconscious to your mood or intent. Remember this the next time a fake smile is forced, most people can tell.

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Cues with your Chin

Although the movement is not attributed to the chin, the elevation of the chin in relation to the shoulder will determine if a person seems depressed or arrogant. Too high and the prevailing reaction will be that this person has a large ego and knows how important he is. Averting the eyes down along with the chin exposes a mood of depression; chin down with eye contact portrays a sinister intent. One of the most important tips is the continuity of eye contact, this usually insures that the chin reflects the right intent and remains at the correct elevation.

Cues with your Shoulders

Shoulders back or shoulders forward? Shoulders forward show the world that you are slightly closed off, depressed, shy, or all of the above. The reasoning behind holding the shoulders back is to portray good posture, which is more attractive and authoritative then the opposite. This is just one small piece of the business swagger puzzle.

Cues with your Hands

In a sense our hands provide a visual cue to describe the words we are saying. The most effective way to use the hands is descriptively to help the listener understand a certain piece of a presentation or conversation. For example the hands could be used to show the difference in height for the comparison of 2 objects.

Cues with your Walk

Some examples of swagger in a walk motion are to keep the speed of the walk high but not uncomfortable. The walk should portray that you have a purpose, somewhere to be. It should be slow enough to show that the person is not late. Walk with purpose to add an air of authority to your business swagger.

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Cues with your Swagger

Work on each piece of the puzzle and eventually build a complete business swagger portraying importance and authority to all who see it. Remember as much as entrepreneurs hate it, a lot of the authority and status are derived from visual cues.

Brain Cox passions include web design, marketing and innovating. 

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.