Body Language: Everything You Should Know About Body Language
Gesture and body language are part of our inheritance received through our ancestors, and therefore it is also part of our subconscious. Body language has been the subject of many studies and also the origin of many myths such as the one that says that 93% of communication is non-verbal.
Although it has become popular because many people have read it and dedicated themselves to repeating it. The real study that started that belief has too many deficiencies to be taken at face value.
Perfect Body language expression gives us the awareness that we have a unique and extremely useful tool for our communication. Our body language says more about how we feel than any verbally articulated word. This information is subconsciously interpreted by the people around us. Some of our gestures project positive messages while others denote negativity. However, the influence of body language on our social skills is not negligible, as well as being an excellent mirror of the real emotions of our interlocutors.
Surely you know people who, despite not being especially unfriendly or unpleasant, generate mistrust. You couldn’t say what it is specifically, but they give off an aura that makes you not want to confess your real emotions to them.
That’s because there is a contradiction between their verbal communication and their body language, as this study demonstrated at the time. There’s also a possibility that you are generating this contradiction and you don’t even aware of it!
We do not necessarily observe all the information; as it depends on the attention we are paying. If we also know the mechanisms of gestural language, we can consciously interpret the messages as if they were a language. Studying our body expression allows us to observe our psychomotor apparatus and erase the habitual expression, largely regulated and even self-imposed, and allows us to find our own language for communication with others. Here’re the Advantages and Disadvantages of Nonverbal Communication.
With this article, I hope you understand the main concepts of body language so that you can better read others and correct possible mistakes that you may be making. Let’s go there!
What is body language?
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication that uses the gestures, postures and movements of the body and face to convey messages and information about the emotions and thoughts of the sender.
This type of conversation is usually done at the unconscious level, that’s it is a very clear indicator of the emotional state of people. Along with vocal intonation, it is part of non-verbal communication.
However, body language shouldn’t be taken as an absolute truth because there might be many environmental factors involved that can influence it. That is why you should never reach a conclusion by interpreting a single body sign; the key is to observe congruent sets of signs and to rule out possible external causes (temperature, fatigue, noise, etc.).
Importance of body language:
Body language is the most important type of non-verbal communication since the gestures and posture of the body express our feelings. Our body language encompasses facial expressions, gestures, and all unconscious signals that the body provides. This is so because it is difficult to hide people’s emotions, feelings, and intentions in everyday communication.
Language is very misleading because we can think and feel something very different from what we say in words. Even with lies, the interlocutor can be intentionally deceived. However, with body language, it is very difficult to lie, as a large part of it occurs unconsciously. It is only necessary to know how to interpret the signals.
Consciousness and unconsciousness:
Breathing impatiently, pursing our lips in anger, rolling our eyes impatiently, are signs that reveal our feelings. That’s why there are people we like from the first moment, or we don’t like them at first sight, because we see what their bodies express. All of these are signals that we emit involuntarily, that is, unconsciously.
But there are conscious body signals, which we use to reinforce certain messages. They are the gestures that are framed in our cultural environment, such as the smile of the cordial greeting, or the thumb raised to indicate approval. Here’re the Secret Body language signals of successful people.
Influence of body language:
The importance of body language is high enough to affect people’s first impressions. The way we externalize what we say, and the dynamics that we imprint on our words is decisive in communication. In public speeches, the body language of the speaker influences his credibility. In the work or personal environment, the agreement between what is said and what is expressed in the body is visible.
For example, someone who claims to be interested in a proposal but looks around with restless movements does not show body agreement. The discrepancy between what we say and what we express with our attitude generates confusion and bewilderment.
Occasions where the non-verbal is more important:
In the world of work, and especially in job interviews where time is limited, body signs become more relevant for both parties. Job applicants often deliberately use gestures. Touching your hair or beard, crossing your arms, are details that acquire decisive importance. Also in negotiations, whether with clients or between boss and employee, body language is relevant. You can express sympathy and at the same time firmly defend your position. Here’re the 10 Body Language Tips for a Video Conferencing on Zoom or Skype.
The mirror technique is an effective strategy, by which small gestures are acquired from the interlocutor that indicates a willingness to agree. Peace-making gestures, such as revealing a palm, can lower tension: Just as crossing arms can mean that the limits have been exceeded. The important thing is not to get carried away by emotions and to be attentive to the signals to use the appropriate non-verbal language for the benefit of each situation. Here’s a detailed article on the Importance of Body Language in Communication.
What your Body Language says about you?
Let’s see everything we are capable of communicating with our body and face.
1. Meaning of face gestures
The face is the magnifying glass of the emotions that is why it is said that it is the reflection of the soul. But as in any interpretation of non-verbal language, you must be careful not to evaluate the facial gestures separately since they are usually part of a global emotional state and can give rise to several interpretations.
Isn’t it true that when a child sees something they don’t like, they cover their eyes in an attempt to make it disappear from their reality? Or do you run to cover your mouth after telling a lie?
Well, although in adults the magnitude is much smaller, to a certain extent we are still tied to this primitive behavior. And that gives many clues because many unconscious attempts to block what we say, hear or see can still be detected on the face.
In general, when someone puts their hands to their face it is usually the product of some negative thought such as insecurity or distrust. Here are several concrete examples of our face gestures.
Covering or touching your mouth: If someone cover or touch the mouth unconsciously in a conversation, it may mean an attempt to hide something. While if it is done while listening, it may be a sign that the person believes that something is being hidden from him.
Touching the ear: Touching the ear is one of the unconscious representations of the desire to block the words spoken by the person in front of you. If your converser does it while you are talking, it may mean that he to end the conversation.
Touching the nose: It can indicate that someone is lying. When you lie, catecholamine’s released, substances that inflame the inner tissue of the nose and can cause itching. It also happens when someone gets angry or upset.
Rubbing one eye: It is an attempt to block what is seen so that you do not have to look the person you are lying to in the face. Beware of people who touch their noses a lot and rub their eyes when talking to you?
Scratching your neck: Scratching your neck when talking to someone is a sign of uncertainty or doubt with what you are saying yourself.
Put a finger or something in the mouth: It means insecurity or the need to calm down, in an unconscious expression to return to the safety of the mother.
2. Head positions:
Understanding the meaning of the different positions that someone can take with their head is very effective in understanding their real intentions, such as the desire to like, to cooperate or to be haughty.
Pay special attention to highly exaggerated postures, because they mean that the person is doing it consciously to influence you.
Raise your head and project your chin forward: A sign that is expressly intended to communicate aggressiveness and power.
Nodding your head: This is a contagious gesture of submission that can convey positive feelings. It communicates interest and agreement, but doing it several times very quickly can communicate that enough has been heard.
Tilt the head: It is a sign of submission by exposing the throat. If you do it while nodding when you are listening to someone, you will increase the trust of your interlocutor towards you. In the case of women, it has also been observed that it is used to show interest in a man.
Supporting the face on the hands: The face is usually exposed with the aim of “presenting it” to the interlocutor. Therefore, it shows attraction to the other person.
Rest the chin on the hand: If the palm of the hand is closed, it is a sign of evaluation. If the palm of the hand is open it can mean boredom or loss of interest.
3. The look also speaks:
Communication through the gaze has a lot to do with the dilation or contraction of the pupil, which reacts to the internal states that we experience.
For this reason, light eyes are usually more attractive than dark ones: because they allow pupil dilation to be shown more clearly, a response associated with positive emotions.
When you speak, you usually maintain eye contact between 40 and 60% of the time. This is because your brain is busy trying to access information (NLP postulates that depending on the type of information you are trying to retrieve, you will look to the side, but it has already been scientifically proven that this is not true).
In certain social situations, lack of eye contact can be interpreted as nervousness or shyness. So simply pausing prior to responding will save you time to access information without having to look away.
Looking directly into the eyes of the person when making a request is also helpful in increasing your persuasiveness. But there are also other functions of the gaze:
Vary the size of the pupils: It cannot be controlled, but the presence of dilated pupils usually means that something is being seen that pleases, while the contracted pupils express hostility.
In any case, they are very subtle variations that are often masked by environmental changes in light intensity. It has also been discovered that mirror neurons are responsible for the size that our pupils adjust to that of our interlocutor, in an attempt to synchronize body language to generate a greater connection.
Raise the eyebrows: Raining eyebrows in a conversation is a social greeting that implies the confidence, absence of fear and pleasure. Do it in front of people you want to like.
Lower your head and raise your eyes: In the female sex, it is considered a position that transmits sensuality to attract men. In fact, many profile photos of women on online dating sites are taken precisely from above (sometimes with the additional intention of showing cleavage). In men it is the other way around: lower shots to appear taller and more dominant.
Keeping your gaze: For women, making eye contact for 2-3 seconds and then looking down can be an indicator of sexual interest. In such situations, lowering the gaze is not as easy we think of. You might also be interested in Secret Body Language Signals in a Romantic Relationship.
Blinking repeatedly: This is another way of trying to block the vision of the person in front of you, either out of boredom or distrust.
Looking to the sides: Looking to the sides in a conversation show disinterest. It is another way of expressing boredom, because unconsciously you are looking for escape routes.
4. Types of smile:
The smile is an inexhaustible source of meanings and emotions. You have a whole article about all the benefits of smiling as well as what it is possible to communicate with it. In addition, thanks to mirror neurons (a distinctive class of neurons); smiling is an extremely contagious act capable of provoking very positive emotions in others.
But there is not just one, it is actually possible to distinguish several types of smile according to what they communicate:
In a false smile, the left side of the mouth tends to rise higher because the part of the brain that is most specialized in emotions is in the right hemisphere, which mainly controls the left part of the body.
The natural smile (or genuine smile) is the one that produces wrinkles next to the eyes, lifts the cheeks and slightly lowers the eyebrows.
A tight smile, with tight lips, denotes that the person does not want to share their emotions with you and is a clear sign of rejection.
“The biological function of the smile is to create a social bond, favoring trust and eliminating any sense of threat. It has also been shown to convey submission, which is why people who want to appear powerful and women who want to retain their authority in typically male professional settings avoid smiling.” Welpe I. et al.
5. Arm position:
The arms, together with the hands, support most of the movements you make. They also allow you to defend the most vulnerable areas of your body in situations of perceived insecurity.
The proprioception has taught us that the path of communication between the body and the mind is reciprocal. When you experience an emotion your body will unconsciously reflect it, but the opposite also happens: if you voluntarily adopt a position, your mind will begin to experience the associated emotion. This becomes especially evident when you cross your arms.
There are many people who believe that they fold their arms because they feel more comfortable. But gestures are perceived as natural when they are aligned with the attitude of the person, and science has already shown that crossing them predisposes to a critical attitude, no matter how comfortable the gesture may seem. Note that when you are having a good time with friends you do not fold your arms!
Here are what you communicate when you take a certain posture with your arms:
Cross your arms: Show disagreement and rejection. Avoid doing this unless you want to send this message to others. In a sensual context, women often do it when they are in the presence of men who seem too aggressive or unattractive.
Crossing one arm in front to hold the other arm: Indicates a lack of self-confidence when needing to feel hugged.
Arms crossed with thumbs-up: Defensive posture but that at the same time wants to convey pride.
Joining the hands in front of the genitals: In men, joining the hands in front of the genitals provides a sense of security, in situations where vulnerability is experienced.
Join hands behind your back: Demonstrates confidence and fearlessness by exposing weak points such as the stomach, throat and crotch. It can be helpful to adopt this posture in insecure situations to try to gain confidence.
In general, folding your arms implies that you are experiencing insecurity; Hence the need to protect the body. There are many variations such as adjusting the watch, placing the briefcase in front of the body, or holding a bag with both hands in front of the chest, but all come to mean the same thing.
6. Hand gestures:
The hands, together with the arms, are one of the most movable parts of the body and therefore offer a huge range of non-verbal communication possibilities. The most common is to use them to point to certain parts of the body in order to show authority or sexuality.
They also serve in the best way to support oral messages and give them greater strength and clarification.
There is a part of the brain called Broca’s area, in the frontal lobe of the dominant hemisphere, usually the left, of the brain with functions involved in the speech process. But it has been proven that it is also activated by moving your hands. This implies that gesturing is directly linked to speaking, so doing it while expressing yourself can even improve your verbal ability. Very useful in people who are blocked when speaking in public!
It has also been shown in a study that reinforcing a sentence with gestures makes the words to use come to mind earlier, and also makes your message much more persuasive and understandable. In this research, it was found that the most persuasive gestures are those that are aligned with the verbal meaning, such as pointing backward when referring to the past.
Below you will find everything that is known about the meaning of hand gestures:
Show open palm: Expresses sincerity and honesty, while making a fist shows the opposite.
Hands in pockets: Denotes passivity and lack of involvement in the conversation or situation.
Emphasize something with the hand: When someone offers two points of view with their hands, usually the one they like the most reinforces it with the dominant hand and palm up.
Interlock the fingers of both hands: Transmits a repressed, anxious or negative attitude. If your interlocutor adopts this position, break it by giving him something so that he has to hold him.
Joined fingertips: Expresses confidence and security, but can be mistaken for arrogance. Joined fingertips are very useful to detect if opponents have good hands when playing poker.
Holding the other hand behind the back: It is an attempt to control oneself, therefore it expresses frustration, lack of confidence or an attempt to hide nervousness.
Showing thumbs out of pockets: In men it represents an attempt to show confidence and authority in front of women who attract them. Although in a conflictive situation it can also be a way of transmitting aggressiveness.
Hide only the thumbs inside the pockets: It is a posture that frames and highlights the genital area. Therefore it is a sexually open attitude that men perform to show the absence of fear or sexual interest in a woman.
Put your hands on your hips: Indicates a subtly aggressive attitude, since you want to increase physical presence. Men often use it both to establish superiority in their social circle and to appear more masculine in the presence of a woman who attracts them. Moreover, the more the chest is exposed, the more eagerly it will communicate.
7. Leg position:
The legs play a very interesting role in body language. Being further away from the central nervous system (the brain), our rational mind has less control over them and allows them to express internal feelings more freely.
The further away a body part is from the brain, the less control you have over what it is doing.
In general, the human being is programmed to get closer to what he wants and move away from what he does not want. The way someone positions their legs can give you some of the most valuable clues about non-verbal communication as it will be pointing you to where they really want to go.
Leading foot: The leading foot almost always points where you want to go. In a social situation with several people, also point to the person that you consider the most interesting or attractive.
If you want someone emotionally to feel that you are giving them your undivided attention, make sure your feet are facing them. In the same way, when your interlocutor points his feet towards the door instead of you, it is a pretty obvious sign that he wants to end the conversation and wants to leave the meeting room.
Crossed legs: Crossed legs show a protective, defensive and closed attitude that protects the genitals. In the context of courtship, it can communicate sexual rejection on the part of the woman towards the man.
However, in a social situation, having a person sitting with arms and legs crossed probably means that they have withdrawn from the conversation. In fact, researchers Allan and Barbara Pease conducted an experiment that showed that people remembered fewer details of a lecture if they listened to it with their arms and legs crossed.
Sitting with one leg raised supported by the other: Typically masculine, reveals a competitive or ready-to-argue attitude; it would be the sit-down display version of the crotch.
Wide-spread legs: Another basically masculine gesture that wants to convey dominance and territoriality.
Sitting with the legs curled: In women, sitting with the legs curled in communication usually means a certain shyness and introversion.
Sitting with one leg on top of the other in parallel: Several authors recognize that in women it can be interpreted as courtship when trying to draw attention to the legs. Since in this position they are more pressured and offer a more youthful and sensual appearance.
How to improve your body language?
1. Controlling our gestures: The gesture is the body movement of the joints, mainly of the body movements made with the hands, arms and head. Before moving, we will visualize the movement with our eyes closed and decide whether or not it is the right one for what we want to express.
2. Hold objects in front of your body: A cup of coffee, a bag, a book, etc. Holding objects in front of your body denotes shyness and resistance. It is as if you hide behind such objects to avoid direct contact with the people around you. Instead of holding them in front of you, try pushing them aside.
3. Look at the time, the cell phone or the nails; when someone is talking to you and you do any of these things, you project very powerful signals of boredom.
4. Remove lint from your clothing. If you do it during the course of a conversation, most people will subconsciously assume that you disagree with what they are saying.
5. Learning to relate to other bodies: Reacting in a controlled and conscious way to what the rest of the expressions around us cause us is very useful in this regard.
6. Stroke your chin: This gesture makes the person in front of you feel judged and analyzed.
7. Squinting your eyes: When you squint, you project the impression that you don’t like the person in front of you or their ideas. Squinting is a universal expression of anger present in many animal species. Many people squint when making a mental effort and yet project the wrong idea.
8. Be very close: Depending on the culture, the interpersonal separation can vary. If you break the socially established limits, you make the person in front of you feel uncomfortable.
9. Look down: Especially when you meet someone. It denotes disinterest or shyness. Keep your head steady and your gaze straight ahead.
10. Touching your face during a conversation. Touching your face and especially your nose when you are speaking denotes deception. If you also cover your mouth with one hand, the message is magnified.
11. Fake a smile: Fake smile is another clear sign of deception. Genuine smiles are easily identifiable because they cause a wrinkle at the corners of the eyes and this changes the overall expression of the face. However, in false smiles, only the mouth and lips change. The eyes remain unaltered.
12. Rest your hand on your head or cheek. It denotes superiority and arrogance.
13. Cross your arms: Defense and resistance sign. It can also be interpreted as a sign of selfishness. Try to keep your arms on either side of your body.
14. Scratching the back of your neck or head: Denotes doubt and insecurity.
15. Increase the frequency of your blinks. It is a clear sign of anxiety.
16. Have slumped shoulders: Reflects lack of self-esteem. Try to keep your shoulders firm and pulled back. You will project security and at the same time, you will also feel more secure.
17. Sit on the edge of the chair. It is a clear indication of feeling physically and mentally uncomfortable. Keep your back close to the backrest occupying the entire surface of your seat.
18. Drum with your feet or fingers: Indicates stress, impatience, and boredom. So, try to avoid them for effective communication.
19. Move small objects between your fingers. Such as a coin, a pen, etc. It is another clear sign of anxiety and lack of preparation. Conversation with clear hands gestures produces real interest.
20. Constantly shift your body weight from one leg to the other. It denotes both physical and mental discomfort. You convey the feeling that you are about to leave the conversation. So, avoid changing your weight more than once every 2-3 minutes.
Our body parts’ movements speak for us unconsciously in verbal communication (Interpersonal communication). Although it is true that gestures and movements usually accompany our words, the moment the conscious decides to lie, this parity dissolves, since our deepest self is incapable of giving false signals, unless it is, in addition to giving false information, believing it to be true.
Learning to detect inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal (body language) can be very useful to improve your communication skills. What the body indicates is usually very reliable, since humans are unable to control all the signals it is emitting.
Remember that you must interpret all these body signals within a global context and with certain limitations. Moreover, never draw conclusions from a single body gesture or expression. Someone might fold their arms because they are simply cold, or because it is a movement that they have mechanized and taken away some of its real meaning.
I advise you to practice the positive and open gestures that I have described here to improve your self-confidence.
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