SERIES: Five Steps to Profiling People

As social engineers or those who are interested in social engineering it is important to learn how to profile people. Profiling means being able to figure out as much about a person just by observing small verbal or nonverbal cues about them.

Being able to successfully profile a person can help you to create an environment that will influence the target into taking the actions you want them to take. Even more importantly, being able to profile your target can give you keys to know how to communicate with them on a level that will make them very comfortable with you.

We have compiled the top five elements to profiling a person. Each of these five points are a book unto themselves, but with a little work and an outline you can become efficient at putting these tips to use in short order.

For the next few newsletters we will cover one of these tips and discuss how they are used to profile targets in a social engineering engagement. The first step to profiling is being able to observe the targets body language.

The First Stage – Body Language

It is a fact that people say one thing with their words but a completely separate thing with their nonverbals. This topic can cover novels, and one great book to read on this topic is Joe Navarro’s book, What Every BODY is Saying.

But maybe we can talk about just a couple body language signs that can tell you clearly what a person is thinking.

SERIES: Five Steps to Profiling People
Arms Akimbo

The nonverbal “Arms Akimbo” usually denotes dominance and that your target has some issues in their current situation. If you approach your target and they have this stance you may want to not come on hot and heavy. You may determine they are already in a bad mood, on the defense or distressed and may want to approach with a more empathetic approach.

Arms Crossed, Thumbs Down


What is important to notice here is that the hands are folded but the thumbs are pointing down. Again the subject is talking about or in a situation he doesn’t like. His confidence is diminished and he really doesn’t want to be where he is.

The approach on this person would be empathic and softer. Coming on too strong would be very disquieting to this person and you can cause him to clam up. Anything to make the person feel calm and in control can make the difference in your success.

Confident Open Stance

This body language queue shows that the target has great confidence in themselves. They are confident about what they are saying and their situation. The feel empowered and in a strong position.

The approach on this person could feed into that feeling and fueling their positive feelings to make them feel comfortable with you.

There are many body language signs that can mean something much more significant. Here are six that can enhance your ability to profile your targets.

1) Slumped posture

You may notice this in their shoulders or their demeanor as a whole. If you do it can mean that the person’s spirits are low. This should affect your approach to this type of person, it also means that they may be able to feel saddness or empathy much easier in this state.

2) Erect posture

You can easily notice this type of body language as the person exudes comfort and confidence. This person will have a lot of energy and be in high spirits. They will be more alert and aware so it may be harder to influence them.

3) Lean forward

When you are communicating with a person and they lean forward into you it can be a key indicator that they are open to your ideas and interested in what you are saying. Take note of this as it can indicate to you that you are on a good path with this person.

4) Lean away

On the flip side if the person is leaning away from you this can indicate they lack interest in what you are saying. You will need to work hard to change this fast. If you see this body language display be aware that you are turning this person off.

5) Crossed arms

Some people sit this way naturally as it is comfortable, but take notice if someone does this during your approach or conversation as this can be an indicator that they are defensive. This shielding mechanism can be a clue that they are not really feeling warm with what you are saying.

6) Uncrossed arms

Whereas if they are talking to you and uncross their arms this is a good sign. They are feeling open enough to “let you in” and that means you are making a good impression.

This short list of tips is by no means a fully comprehensive list of all body language indicators but it is a good place to start.

In the next part of this series we will cover how to notice peoples reactions and what to do with the observations you make of them.<?p>

‘Till next time try this points out and let us know how they work.

Written by Chris Hadnagy