Eyes, wrinkles and hands – what tale does your body tell?

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash

There was a movie scene where one guy pointing guns at two other fellows, having only one bullet left, asks his buddy: “Which one do I shoot first?” and the guy replies: “Shoot him, he’s got more scars!” , because scars were showing experience, making him more dangerous. (I would be grateful to anyone who can remind me the name of the movie).

Our bodies can tell a story through their own appearance if we learn to observe. This is a static observation, so don’t mistake this with body language. Learn to observe!

Observe face wrinkles. The face expression we make most often tends to become embedded on our face. The forehead can easily show signs of anxiety and frowning.  Lips’ corners and the eyes can tell if that person has been laughing a lot or smiling. Disgust and contempt leave traces around the nose edges. It could be a story of the past or one of the present. Look for any lines under the eyes. People that have suffered trauma often present dashes under their eyes, bad posture with head down and arched back, reflecting low self esteem, therefore they don’t look you in the eye. Lines going in diagonal, starting underneath the eyes, from their middle towards the cheeks (always on both sides) indicate that person has cried a lot. It means you’re looking at someone who shows emotion, not a cold person, someone who would thrive in a warm environment, but may not react well in aggressive or competitive settings.

Photo by Anderson Miranda from Pexels

Observe the eyes. If the whites of the eyes (called the sclera) turned yellow, it’s usually an indication of internal organs disease (most often liver or bile). That in turn translates to low stamina, need for rest, inability to keep the pace on physical effort.

Red eyes are caused by dilation of tiny blood vessels (and eventually breakage of those vessels), which may have a number of causes including: allergies, infections, but also: lack of sleep, fatigue, substance abuse. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause at a glance, but when this condition becomes persistent it’s clear the body is undergoing continuous stress, no matter the cause.

I interviewed once a fellow who has presenting multiple signs of either extreme fatigue or substance abuse, either way not a good moment to show up for an interview. Yet, I could excuse fatigue and potentially give a second shot. Since he mentioned that he was quite happy with his current work schedule and rarely did overtime, I asked him to underline the correct answers on a sheet. He couldn’t underline with a straight line a single word. Then I asked him to write an answer. The lack of coordination, combined with potential signs of substance abuse, a bit of slurred speech were a clear indication of (at least temporary) brain damage (because that’s what substance abuse does, but also sleep deprivation). About five years later, a common friend told me that the guy in the interview, used to have a chronic medical condition which at that point in time indeed made him turn to substance abuse, as a coping mechanism.

Dark circles under the eyes often indicate sleep deprivation, fatigue or stress (all of them correlated). Sleep is one of the most important mechanisms the body has for self-regulation. Generally sad people can’t sleep enough. Either way, this is not the person you would want exposed to a heavy workload or intense and lasting intellectual effort. Although the person may be able to carry it for a while, he or she may collapse in the end (burnout).

Observe the hands. Calloused palms suggest a person spending a lot of time outside, or lifting weights (I didn’t say in a gym).  Climbing trees, rocks, doing all sort of activities will leave also scratches and small scars. That’s definitely an active person and possibly in a good mental state.

Darkened knuckles, typical to people doing contact sports (martial arts, boxing, etc) indicate besides the actual effort put into that sport, someone that knows effort, dedication and who will not give up easily when faced with obstacles.

Fingernails. Women who pay extreme attention to their fingernails (doing complex artwork, but ignoring other parts – like their hair, fitness or outfit) usually perceive themselves as ugly and they tend to compensate by overdoing one thing. We’re talking self-perception here which may not match reality. Fingernails, besides hygiene, can reflect vitamin B or mineral deficiencies – basically a poor diet that can come from neglect, if we’re not talking poverty. These deficiencies can negatively influence emotional stability. However vertical or horizontal ridges indicate a medical problem. I remember I was having an interview once with a guy in a leadership position who dressed well, looking neat, had a complex hair style with tons of hair gel in it, but with dirt under his fingernails – he was not what he was trying to pass for.

The key is to connect the dots. All these are hints that you will have to correlate with body language, voice intensity, tone, cadence and wording. Put this on top of behaviour and you will get a full image in a matter of minutes. All it takes is practice.

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