Body language

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Department description[edit | edit source]

This is a Wikiversity content development project for learning resources related to body language.

Body language is a form of paralanguage; that is to say - a method of communicating that precludes the use of verbal language.

Body language uses physical gestures

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Body Language is the unspoken communication that goes on in every Face-to-Face encounter with another human being. It tells you their true feelings towards you and how well your words are being received. Between 60-80% of our message is communicated through our Body Language, only 7-10% is attributable to the actual words of a conversation.

Your ability to read and understand another person's Body Language can mean the difference between making a great impression or a very bad one! It could help you in that job interview, that meeting, that business function, or special date!

Every one of us has experienced that feeling of an instant like or dislike of someone but without necessarily knowing why. We just weren't happy, there was something about them. We often refer to this as a hunch or gut feeling, two descriptions directly relating to our own body's physiological reaction.

How Body Language Affects Personal Interactions[edit | edit source]

Body language has a huge effect on all of your personal interactions no matter where they occur or with whom they occur. There is simply no way to fully separate non-verbal communication from influencing an interaction.

Body Language Conveys Truthfulness or Deceit It takes a very skilled liar to match his or her body language to words that are not true. The majority of people show some sort of conflict between verbal communication and non-verbal communication when they are attempting to deceive someone else. Why? Because body language is such an innate part of communication that you have to make a concerted effort to use it in a way that goes against your natural tendencies.

As receivers, we all take in verbal communication and body language, comparing them to help us determine if the message sender is being truthful or deceitful. Parents do this a great deal when interacting with their children because children typically are not very good at hiding conflicts between their words and their body language. It is generally quite easy to spot when a child is not being truthful, and it’s almost always due to the child’s non-verbal communication.

There are some variations, though, to the weight we give to conflicts between verbal and non-verbal communication. When we receive a message where those two elements are conflicting, our minds (consciously or unconsciously) evaluate how difficult it is to ‘fake’ a particular kind of body language. The more difficult it is to fake, the more likely we are to believe it even if it conflicts with a person’s words.

Body Language Influences The Length And Type Of Personal Interaction Your body language has a huge influence on the length and type of personal interactions you have. It can tell the world around you ‘stay away, I want to be left alone’, or it can tell the world ‘say hello to me, I’d love to talk with you’ – all with non-verbal cues that can be as simple as averting your eyes or holding your body in a certain position.

For instance, let’s say it’s early Sunday morning and you’re making a quick dash to the supermarket to pick up the newspaper and an espresso. You throw on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, hoping you won’t run into anyone you know along the way. However, you do far more than just hope; your body language, consciously or unconsciously, sends out cues that you don’t want to be noticed and don’t want to have any personal interactions.

How does this happen? It happens in many ways, such as:

Averting your eyes as you’re walking Hunching your shoulders and looking at the ground Keeping your facial expression neutral or even a bit on the grumpy side Wearing a hat pulled down as far as possible on your head Walking quickly to and from your destination Pretending not to see other people, just in case you might know one of them All of these are cues to others that you’re not interested in lengthy personal interactions and you’d be much happier if they would all just pretend you’re not there, thank you very much. But what if you’re feeling happy, confident, and perfectly willing to stop and chat with someone else? Take another look at the list above, and think about doing the exact opposite of what’s on the list. Those are the types of body language cues that would invite others to interact with you.

Body Language Communicates When Words Can’t There are times when words simply can’t communicate properly in a personal interaction. For instance, when you’re comforting a grieving friend the simple non-verbal act of putting an arm around his or her shoulder is far more powerful than any words you might say.

Or, you and your spouse might attend your child’s piano recital. Your sense of pride in his or her performance swells almost to bursting, so you turn to each other and make eye contact. You might smile, squeeze each other’s hands, or lean together. These are all ways of non-verbal communication something important in a way that’s far more effective and meaningful than using plain old words.

How Body Language Influences Daily Life[edit | edit source]

Body language is part of every aspect of your daily life. It affects your interactions with other people your observations of other people, and even your interactions and observations with yourself. Many people don’t realize just how powerful body language is when it comes to self-esteem, self-confidence, and just generally feeling good about yourself.

How Does Your Body Language Affect You? Maybe your mother told you to smile, even if you don’t feel like it, because it can help you and the people around you feel a bit better. This old piece of advice has very real roots in reality, because your own body language has a powerful effect on you as well as on the people around you.

Let’s go back to the smile for a moment. Try it for yourself right now; smile for a few seconds and notice how you feel. You might feel a bit silly, of course, but chances are you also feel at least an inkling of more positive feelings. Counsellors and mental health professionals often use this technique to help people with depression literally lift their own spirits, encouraging those people to make a conscious effort to smile as much as possible.

Body position and posture is also an important factor in your self-esteem and self-confidence. You can try this for yourself, too. Stand up and walk across the room with your shoulders slumped, your head tilted down, and your feet dragging just a bit. How does it feel? Now walk back across the room with your shoulders square and back, your head held up, and your feet moving briskly. How does it feel? What differences did you notice?

Applying Your Body Language to Your Daily Life Okay, so your own body language does have an impact on your daily life. What advantage is there to knowing this? Well, for one thing, it gives you a greater amount of control over your own emotions and attitude. Now, of course a smile alone is not going to correct a great deal of sadness, fear, and the like, but when used consistently and in combination with other non-verbal self cues, it can help you start to feel better.

Another part of applying body language to your daily life is your appearance. What happens when you just throw on a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt? How do you feel? Now think about when you get dressed up in nice clothes with your hair neat and makeup (if applicable) looking good? How do you feel? Chances are the simple action of putting on nice clothes and a bit of primping leaves you feeling confident, happy, and attractive.

Think about all of the different ways your own body language gives your own brain some important non-verbal clues. Sometimes it is really hard to force yourself to ‘perk up’ and change your body language. It may even feel as if you’re ‘lying’ to yourself a little bit. Despite these feelings, rest assured that there is nothing deceitful about using non-verbal actions to build up your own confidence and self-esteem. Just the opposite, in fact, because knowing how and when to do this is a powerful tool in your arsenal of dealing with the challenges and opportunities of daily life.

Why Does Body Language Matter?[edit | edit source]

Many people do not care about body language or its effects on communication and everyday life. This is not surprising, given the lack of good resources on this topic. Some are too technical and academic, while others are simply fluff or just plain misguided. It is extremely difficult to slog through what is out there and maintain much of an interest.

The effort is well worth it; however, as understanding the influence of body language is a powerful communication tool. In other words, you should care about body language because it has tremendous practical and positive applications in your daily life.

Body Language is Integral to Life Communication is an integral part of your life, affecting everything about what you think, say, and do; and body language, of course, is an integral part of communication. How integral, you might wonder? Let's take a closer look.

Personal relationships - Body language affects and influences personal relationships, sometimes deliberately and sometimes spontaneous. Think about the last time you went to dinner with a special someone - what kinds of body language did you use to communicate affection, interest, and the like?

In the same vein, think about sitting down in a business meeting next to another person whom you do not particularly like. What kind of body language did you use to maintain a polite business demeanour without expressing levels of friendship you did not genuinely feel?

Professional and business endeavours - Body language has a great deal to do with how you perform and how you are perceived in the business world. Perhaps the most obvious application is in sales and customer service, where body language is an active part of working with clients and customers to solicit and maintain their business.

For instance, how well would you do as a customer service agent if you consistently frowned, turned away from customers, and generally showed body language indicating you really did not care?

Parenting - Body language is a huge part of parenting, both in how you communicate with your children and how you interpret their communication with you. Babies and infants obviously use a great deal of body language since they cannot speak, but so do toddlers and pre-school aged children. Have you ever seen a toddler throw him- or herself to the ground in a fit or tantrum? That is powerful body language indeed.

Teenagers are also talented purveyors of body language. They can quickly and clearly indicate their disgust with a roll of the eyes, or show interest in someone else with the tilt of a head or a coy smile.

Putting Knowledge of Body Language to Work - When you possess knowledge about body language, such as how to use it and how to understand it, you can put that knowledge to work throughout your daily life. Some typical examples might include: Negotiating an agreement Interviewing for a job Showing friendship or intimacy Group interactions Conveying leadership Managing employees Dealing with disagreements Expressing respect Walking your dog Walking with confidence to promote personal safety Of course, applying your knowledge of body language is not an exact science. There are so many variables and so many influences on this aspect of communication that you cannot possibly read them accurately 100% of the time. Much of your interpretation of body language comes from your familiarity with the person or situation; your own state of mind at the time; and your general observational skills.

In the end, the more you know about body language and more proactively you apply that knowledge, the better the quality of your communications and interactions. With all of the benefits you gain from learning about body language, doesn't it just make sense to care about it as much as you care about any other part of your life?

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