Body language is nonverbal communication that involves body movement. “Gesturing” can also be termed as body language which is absolutely non-verbal means of communication.
People in the workplace can convey a great deal of information without even speaking; through nonverbal communication.
Not all of our values, beliefs, thoughts and intentions are communicated verbally. In an ongoing communication, most of those are communicated non-verbally.
In Non-verbal communication, our human body expresses our feelings and intentions through conscious and unconscious movements and postures, accompanied by gestures, facial expressions, eye contacts and touch. This collectively forms a separate language of the body within the ongoing communication. This is called Body Language.
How does the Body Speaks?
Our human body speaks through the conscious and unconscious movements and postures, hand gestures, facial expressions, eye movements and touch.
Each of these physical movements of the body parts could be seen as separate words and can be interpreted differently by other human beings within a given context of communication.
Why is Body Language Important?
Since interpretations of body language differ from people to people and cultures to countries it is important to learn about them. Body language alone comprises of 55% of total communication whereas spoken words comprise of 7% and tone of voice comprise 38%.
Body language is usually grouped along two lines…
- Parts of the body
Parts of the body
From head to toe, here are the groups when grouped for body parts:
- The Head – Movement and placement of the head, back to front, left to right, side to side, including the shaking of hair.
- Facial Expressions – The face has many muscles (anywhere between 54 and 98, depending on who you ask) that move several areas of the face. Each combination of movements of the following face elements communicates a state of mind:
- Eyebrows – Up, down, frowning.
- Eyes – Left, right, up, down, blinking, eye dilation.
- Nose – Wrinkle (at the top), flaring of the nostrils.
- Lips – Smiling, snarling, puckered, kissing, opened, closed, and tight.
- Tongue – In, out, rolled, tip up or down, licking of lips.
- Jaw – Open, closed, clinched, lower jaw left or right.
- Body Posture – The way you place your body and arms and legs, in relation to each other, and in relation to other people:
- Body proximity – How far or close to other people.
- Shoulder movements – Up, down, hanging, hunched.
- Arm placement – up, down, crossed, straight.
- Leg and feet placement – straight, crossed, weight placement, feet towards speaking partner or pointing elsewhere, dangling of shoes.
- Hand and finger gestures – How you hold and move your hands and fingers are particularly insightful in reading people.
- Handling and placement of objects (e.g. pens, papers, etc). – The odd one out… technically not a body part, but objects do play a big role in reading body language.
Another way to group types of body language is along Intent:
- Voluntary/Intentional movements – Usually called “Gestures”. These are movements you intended to make, like shaking a hand, giving the finger, blinking with one eye…
- Involuntary movements – Usually called “tells”, but “ticks” also fall into this category. Any body movement you have no control over falls in this category. While technically not a body movement, sweating also applies.
Tone of Voice
While usually seen as body language, tone of voice and intonation are a separate group from body language. For completeness sake, these are the groups that are found in tone of voice:
- Pitch of voice – high voice, low voice, intonation.
- Loudness – Everything from shouting to whispering.
- Breathing – Slow, fast breathing, shaky voice.
Body Language of Gestures
“It is an expressive movements of a part of a body especially hands or heads”.
- It has vital effect or part in oral communication.
- Gesture of a person conveys much more than what he speaks.
- Thumbs up sign indicates wishing “Good Luck”
- Pointing Index finger, indicates allegation/charge
- Shrugging of shoulders indicates indifference & unconcern
- Shaking Hands display the friendship
The body language of posture: Means “an attitude or position of body”
• Each movement of body has expressive & defensive functions.
• The way, in which we sit or stand, walk in walk out tells a lot about us.
• A good posture indicates confident attitude
Eyes: Windows of the soul, excellent indicators of feelings.
Honest person has a tendency to look you straight in the eye when speaking. At least listeners accept it like that. People avoid eye contact with other person when an uncomfortable question asked.
Try to reduce tension and build trust rather than increase tension.
The raising of one eyebrow shows disbelief and two shows surprise.
People are classified as right lookers and left lookers. Right lookers are more influenced by logic and precision, left lookers are found to be more emotional, subjective and suggestible.
Face: the face is one of the most reliable indicators of a person’s attitudes, emotions & feelings
By analyzing facial expressions, interpersonal attitudes can be discerned and feedback obtained. Some people try to hide their true emotions, in such cases, take notice of the other aspects of their overall body language.
Hands: Tightly clenched hands usually indicate that the person is experiencing undue pressure.
It may be difficult to relate to this person because of his tension and disagreement.
Superiority and authority are usually indicated when you are standing and joining your hands behind your back.
Cupping one or both hands over the mouth, especially when talking, may well indicate that the person is trying to hide something
Putting your hand to your cheek or stroking your chin generally portrays thinking, interest or consideration.
Fingers bent across the chin or below the mouth most often shows critical evaluation.
Rubbing gently behind or beside the ear with the index finger or rubbing the eye usually means the other person is uncertain about what you are saying.
Leaning back with both hands supporting the head usually indicates a feeling of confidence or superiority.
Arms and Legs: Crossed arms tend to signal defensiveness. They seemingly act as a protective guard against an anticipated attack or a fixed position which the other person would rather not move.
Conversely, arms open and extended toward you generally indicate openness and acceptance.
Crossed legs tend to seem disagreement. People who tightly cross their legs seem to be saying that they disagree with what you are saying or doing.
If the people have tightly crossed legs and tightly crossed arms, their inner attitude is usually one of extreme negativity toward what is going on around them. It may be difficult to get agreement.
Posture: sitting and walking
Sitting with your legs crossed and elevated foot moving in a slight circular motion indicates boredom or impatience.
Interest and involvement are usually projected by sitting on the edge of the chair and leaning slightly forward.
Generally, people who walk fast and swing their arms freely tend to know what they want and to go after that. People who walk with their shoulders hunched and hands in their pockets tend to be secretive and critical. They don’t seem to like much of what is going on around them.
Dejected people usually scuffle along with their hands in pockets, heads down, and shoulders hunched over.
People who are preoccupied or thinking, usually walk with their heads down, hands clasped behind their backs and pace very slowly.
Be conscious of the non-verbal signals you send.
Be observant of the non-verbal signals, others send.
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