Psychiatrist Blog

Learning to Observe – Nonverbal Secret To Success!

group of success people

The secret to success has everything to do with nonverbal communication. It is not only body language. Nonverbal communication encompasses more than this. It’s everything which communicates who you are in a non-verbal fashion. There is a look of success and there is a look of failure. The success look includes the ability to plan, observe, act, and engage, how you look, how you speak and how your handshake feels. The look of failure is the opposite. The truth is, most of the success we see in society is the ability to pay close attention to the nonverbals that create success. Becoming a great observer is the key to success. If you learn how to observe, it will get you farther than any formal schooling, diplomas, or personal or family connections. Unfortunately, formal education has destroyed our ability to be good observers. Teachers and professors taught us to stay on task however it took away our ability to observe other helpful things. But, when you allow yourself to gain the ability to truly observe you will discover success comes to you on its own volition. And you know? It is an ability which is free.


You begin with yourself. Observe successful people you admire. Ask yourself the question, what are they transmitting to others? Take a look at how they dress. How are they projecting themselves? How do they carry themselves and what does the way they move say about them? Analyze the choices they have made and identify the reason why they made those choices.

You may not think about it, but if you identify what makes someone successful you can emulate the behavior so that you too can be successful. Identify the person who fits who you want to be, and analyze from them all the points that make them successful.

Identify the following:

1. How do they communicate:

Successful people communicate with purpose. This is nonverbal there are no additional words you can verbalize to show purpose. It’s more the feeling behind the words than the words themselves. Its language driven by direction—instead of lack of it. The biggest problem in life is the inability to achieve effective communication with a clear purpose. Too many people just go through the motions. You have to be aware of it at all times. Figure out on the other person what their interests are and what drives their conversation.

2. Work on visual cues:

That means you must be seen at all times, visual cues are the easiest way to influence those around us, you must project confidence and this confidence will make you seem important. Humans are visual beings. Vision is deeply rooted in our DNA. We unconsciously look for visual cues in others for a number of things. We observe each other nonverbally for: Danger, Emotions, Responsiveness, Personality, Empathy, Manners, Social hierarchy, Performance, Intentions, Skill, Accessibility, care and multiple other things. You look like a leader when you express yourself with full gestures. Use the expressiveness of your hands. When people’s hands are restricted, their vocabulary, level of activity, and their retentive memory diminishes. Talk with your hands. They need to be seen. People rate you as friendlier and trustworthy when they can see your hands, don’t hide them.

3. Attitude is nonverbal as well:

Bad attitude can spread throughout an entire business and turn it into a failure. If you work with someone who has a bad attitude move away from them. They take away your time. They cause frustration and take away your energy. It is demoralizing to people. Companies hire for skill but fire for attitude. If you deal with someone with a bad attitude, motivate them with things they like. It may seem counterintuitive, but motivators are the only thing which can consistently help a person’s attitude.

4. Keep Moving Forward:

You can’t move forward in the same way all the time. Life is always changing. Life is incredibly active. Life tends to be stationary for people who remain in place. And that’s most of the population. Hovering is easy. Moving forward is hard. But, a necessary challenge. This requires making decisions and doing the right thing to keep moving ahead all the time. It turns your life into an adventure. When you accept the fact that life is people, they will feel that from you. They’ll treat you with respect, and will want to be affiliated with you.

5. What About Your Clothes:

If you have to perform, and we know that life is a performance, you have to think about your attire. Maybe three-button suits are in style, but politicians wear two-button suits. Do you know why? Because it exposes your chest-stomach area, technically called the “ventral” area. And that is perceived by folks as being honest. Interestingly, when a suit is buttoned up covering up the ventral area, the perception is you’re hiding something. The reason is because this area is a vulnerable area. All our important organs are there. You will see that when you pet an animal in that same area, they feel afraid and either run away or try to bite you. When you’re exposing your ventral area, people subconsciously feel you’re not afraid to be vulnerable. It shows status.

6. How to Touch People:

Haptics, or the science of touch, is nonverbal also. Apple spends millions of dollars into research into their haptic engines and the haptics of how their products feel. Particularly the touch screens. And this research has increased their sales dramatically. Unique bonding chemicals are released when we touch each other (or touch an Apple product).

Now of course… you can’t just go touching people anywhere. In most western societies it’s acceptable to touch someone between the shoulder and the elbow. In fact, waitresses who touch their customers on the shoulder when they’re taking an order get 40% more tips than those who don’t. Loans are more likely to be approved when the money lender and customer have a conversation that involves touch. And these rules spill over into how you give a handshake. When we’re not in a pandemic, that is. If we ever go back to shaking hands with people—remember shaking hands with just your fingertips subconsciously registers as “I don’t mean it.” A handshake with both palms touching says “I care.” And if you cup your hand to avoid touching palms when you shake—just stop it. Lastly, there’s a thing called simulated touch. That’s when you reach out and pretend you’re touching someone but you don’t. If you’re weird about touching, studies show simulated touch has the same effect—except you’re being perceived as more gentile.


What’s an icon?

Think about Steve Jobs. What he represented. Or Oprah. Or the American flag. Or a politician you like. An icon is a person or symbol representing something important to others. YOU can represent something important to the people you want to lead or influence. So think about what kind of an icon you are. What do you represent? Are you protecting that icon? Do you respect it? Preserve it? Do the people who work with and for you respect that icon? Protect that image – every time you are seen, every time you present or do anything, embody the icon you choose to be. You have to value yourself enough to BE an icon. Because if you’re not an icon, you don’t represent anything.

Ask yourself: what are you doing to further what you stand for?

It’s okay to be a little egotistical when it comes to being an icon. Remember: “Self-love is not so vile a sin as self-neglect,” noted Shakespeare. Icons have value. And people give money to that which has value. Put that energy into everything you have. It will pay you dividends.

Choose Your Location Wisely

Imagine for a moment if Martin Luther King Jr rented out the Marriott to give his “I Have A Dream” speech. Definitely not the same effect as at the Lincoln Memorial. When you choose WHERE important things are revealed and unveiled, you can change the impact you have drastically. There’s a certain value in location. Use that to your advantage.

Send A Thank You Card

Seriously. Nobody sends thank you cards. But they make you look like the most thoughtful, put-together person in the world. Send a hand-written thank you card to someone who has done something nice to you or helped you. Just buy a bunch and have them ready-to-go when you need them. And not the cheap ones either. The ones that cost $1.30.

Extra benefit: it makes you feel good.

Movement To Action

When all else is equal, the only way we can change things is by moving to action quickly. And, this includes very small social things that are super low-effort. We’re primed as a species to want to hang out with people who do things for us that are pro-social. When someone needs something small from you, do it right then and there.

Be the first to introduce yourself. Be the one to walk over to someone who’s new in the room, and find out who they are. Then introduce them to everyone else. Be the first to call out the elephant in the room and make everyone laugh in relief. It’s silly that we avoid doing this stuff at all. The lack of it puts everyone on edge. But being the first to do it means you created psychological comfort. People associate that comfort with YOU. It makes people like you. And—yes—more likely to give you their money.

This Is Just An Intro

These are all things you can observe successful people doing. But it doesn’t stop here. Start noticing everything you can about successful people—and adopting their traits. This stuff doesn’t cost money. They’re things you practice and embody over time. Give yourself permission to adopt the nonverbal traits of successful people. If you want to be exceptional, you have to demand this of yourself. Then simply watch as the universe conspires in your favor.

To your success!


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