Definitions

body-language

Body language

Body language is a term for communication using body movements or gestures instead of, or in addition to, sounds, verbal language or other communication. It forms part of the category of paralanguage, which describes all forms of human communication that are not verbal language. This includes the most subtle of movements that many people are not aware of, including winking and slight movement of the eyebrows. In addition body language can also incorporate the use of facial expressions.

Understanding body language

Although they are generally not aware of it, many people send and receive non-verbal signals all the time. The technique of 'reading' people is used frequently. For example, the idea of mirroring body language to put people at ease is commonly used in interviews. It sets the person being interviewed at ease. Mirroring the body language of someone else indicates that they are understood.

Body language signals may have a goal other than communication. Both people would keep this in mind. Observers limit the weight they place on non-verbal cues. Signallers clarify their signals to indicate the biological origin of their actions.

  • One of the most basic and powerful body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest. This can indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. It can also indicate that the person's arms are cold which would be clarified by rubbing the arms or huddling. When the overall situation is amicable, it can mean that a person is thinking deeply about what is being discussed. But in a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition. This is especially so if the person is leaning away from the speaker. A harsh or blank facial expression often indicates outright hostility. Such a person is not an ally, and may be considering contentious tactics.
  • Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn't trust the speaker enough to "take his eyes off" the speaker. Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety disorders are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort. Eye contact is often a secondary and misleading gesture because we are taught from an early age to make eye contact when speaking. If a person is looking at you but is making the arms-across-chest signal, the eye contact could be indicative that something is bothering the person, and that he wants to talk about it. Or if while making direct eye contact a person is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it could indicate the attention is elsewhere.
  • Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. When a person is not being convinced by what someone is saying, the attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.
  • Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused. A head tilt may also indicate a sore neck, and unfocused eyes may indicate ocular problems in the listener.
  • Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact.
  • Deceit or the act of withholding information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation.

It should be noted that some people (e.g., people with certain disabilities, or those on the autistic spectrum) use and understand body language differently, or not at all. Interpreting their gestures and facial expressions (or lack thereof) in the context of normal body language usually leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations (especially if body language is given priority over spoken language). It should also be stated that people from different cultures can interpret body language in different ways.

How prevalent is Non verbal Behaviour?

Some researchers put the level of nonverbal communication as high as 80 percent of all communication. More reasonably it could be at around 50-65 percent. That’s exactly what Mehrabian discovered in his communication study. He found that only 7 percent of communication comes from spoken words, 38 percent is from the tone of the voice, and 55 percent comes from body language. However, Mehrabian was only referring to cases of expressing feelings or attitudes, such as when a person says "I do not have a problem with you!" when people commonly focus on the tone of voice, and body language of the person, rather than the actual words said. It is a common misconception that these percentages apply to all communication.

Body language in groups

In groups there is typically one person speaking at a time but many more can be showing their responses via body language . This may be an important reason behind groups tending to be more emotional and less rational than individuals.

Personal Space as it Relates to Body Language

Generally, if you are closer than arm’s reach, then you are in someone’s personal space. To create more space in crowded areas such as elevators and bars, people often tense up and use their arms as protection. They will hold them close to their body – often crossed – and will also avoid eye contact. People guard their intimate space passionately, wherever it is, and do not appreciate others invading it. Respecting people’s intimate space involves not invading it with objects like bags or jackets, or with body parts unless they are welcomed. Intimate space is closer then 50 centimetres (18 inches), social is at around 50 centimetres (18 inches) - 1.5 metres (5 feet) and casual (for strangers) is at 1.5 - 3 metres (5-10 feet). These distances differ from culture to culture; in China for example, they are smaller.

Female Interest and Body Language

Women commonly display interest in men via sexual cues. These serve to entice men to approach them. Some of the cues to signal female interest include: the parade, echoing and mirroring, room encompassing glance, pointing, leg crossing, the pointing knee, neck touching, head tilt, shoulder shrugs, rotation of the pelvis, showing wrists, skirt hike, laughing and smiling, the tap, forehead bow, eye contact, touching, childlike playfulness and proximity to name many.

The Rule of Four

The rule of four states that in order to be sure that another person is unequivocally displaying non-verbal sexual interest, four connection positive symbol must be present and they must have imminent direction. A person who is simply sexually aroused might display one or a great variety of cues, but they might be generally directed toward a room and not at anyone specifically.

References

  • Albert Mehrabian and his 7%-38%-55% Rule.
  • Allan Pease Body Language (over 30 years of research)
  • Argyle, M. (1990). Bodily communication (2nd edition). New York: International Universities Press. ISBN 0823605515
  • Livingston, Drs. Sharon and Glen (2004). How to Use Body language. Psy Tech Inc.
  • Grammer K. 1990. Strangers meet: laughter and nonverbal signs of interest in opposite sex encounters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 14: 209-236.
  • Perper T. 1985. Sexual Signals: The Biology of Love. ISI Press, Philadelphia.
  • Hall, E.T. Silent Language. Doubleday & Co, New York, 1959.
  • Henley, N. M. Body Politics: Power, Sex and Non-Verbal communications. Prentice-Hall, 1977.
  • Hickson M. 1985. Nonverbal Communication. Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers, Boston.
  • Hinde, R.A. (ed). Nonverbal Communication. Cambridge University Press, 1972.
  • Hirsch, L.R. and L. Paul. 1996. Human male mating strategies: Courtship tactics of the “quality” and “quantity” alternatives. Ethology and Sociobiology 17: 55-70.
  • Nierenberg G.I. and H.C. Calero. 1971. How to Read a Person Like a Book. Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York.
  • Pease, A. Body Language. Sheldon Press, London, 1984.
  • Cohen, David. Body Language, What you need to know, 2007.

Further reading

External links

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