In many social interactions, people can say one thing while feeling another. But if you ever want to know how someone’s really feeling about you, their feet may hold the answer.
The feet are the most authentic part of the body that someone can notice when reading body language. And if they’re pointing their feet away from you, that’s a bad sign, according to a body language expert.
"Our feet quite often are the most honest part of our body,” said Joe Navarro, a former FBI spycatcher and author of “Be Exceptional: Master the Five Traits That Set Extraordinary People Apart.”
“That's the area of the body that people mostly miss. …By social contract, by social convention, if you smile, I smile. But our feet don't have that contract,” Navarro added.
Through 25 years catching spies, Navarro learned that every part of the body — the hands, face, shoulders, and even neck — can communicate. But our feet are more in touch with our survival instincts and subconscious.
The feet take cues from the limbic system, which is buried deep in the brain and is responsible for survival, emotions and reactions. The limbic system keeps us from entering dangerous and psychologically distressing situations.
“That same system also tells you, you know, you don't like this person, deny them your most vulnerable area, which is your ventral side,” Navarro said.
When the limbic system is active, you’ll notice it in someone’s feet.
“Even when you're talking to a good friend and you've got to go before you even look at your watch, most people will orient one of their feet towards the exit,” Navarro said. “Our feet immediately react to any threat, anything that might be injurious, even psychologically injurious."
Empathy can be communicated better with body language, according to Navarro.
“You can't really show empathy with words. You do it with body language. You do it with an arm around the shoulder. You do it with a hug. Love. Try doing that with just words. Well, we call that poetry, but that can only get you so far. Nonverbals are essential. For effective human interaction.”