Body language is the non-verbal signal we use to communicate. These non-verbal cues make up a more significant part of everyday communication, according to professionals.
From our facial expressions to body actions, what we don’t say can still express in many ways, i.e. through expressions or micro-expressions.
In many studies, body language has been recommended to account for 60% to 65% of all communications. Some bestselling authors, including Joe Navaro, a retired FBI special agent have laid out key determinants of non-verbal language in a dictionary of body language https://amzn.to/3LuV0j2
Understanding body language is an art, but paying attention to other signals such as context is also essential. It is necessary to think about the signal as a whole in several situations rather than concentrating on a single action. So, you can understand every way of communication.
What is body language?
The word body language mentions all forms of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal is all the information that people send without words. Body language includes facial expressions, postures, gestures, and other action-based clues.
Body language is often joined with verbal messages to communicate clearly and efficiently. It is often one of the essential elements of communication. Some specific types of body language are:
- Facial expressions, also called micro-expressions, such as smiling faces, frowning faces, and rolling eyes
- Gestures such as greetings, inviting someone, counting fingers, etc.
- Hand postures like bending, sitting upright, leaning on someone, etc.
- Other types of cues, such as shrugging, clapping, saying hello
Understanding and Interpreting Body Language
Being aware of other people’s body language means you can spot problems and negative emotions that you don’t talk about. Not just negative thoughts or feelings, sometimes you can feel positive feelings like if someone secretly likes you or has unique feelings for you. Here are some non-verbal symbols to watch out for.
Eye behavior can be very informative. When communicating with someone, look carefully whether they make direct eye contact or look away. If someone is looking here and there, this may be a sign of boredom, indifference, and even deception without direct eye contact, especially when someone is talking.
On the other hand, it is generally a sign of tension or obedience when looking down.
Also, check someone’s dilated pupils to see if the person sitting in front of you is in love with you. The pupil expands as cognitive behavior rises, so if someone is concentrated on somebody, or somewhat they like, the pupils will automatically expand. Pupil dilated can be hard to spot, but it should detect under appropriate situations.
A person’s blink rate can also tell a story about what is happening inside. Blink rates increase when people think more or feel worried. In some conditions, the increased frequency of the eyelids points toward lying, particularly when touching the face (mainly the mouth and eyes).
A glance at something indicates a desire for it. For example, if someone gazes at the door, it could show a wish to leave. A glance at someone can reveal a willingness to talk to that person.
As for eye behavior, it’s thought that rolling the eyeball to the right tells a lie and to the left shows that the person is telling the truth during a conversation. The reason is that people look up to the right when they use their imagination to create a story and look to the left when they remember their happiness.
Pay attention to breathing patterns.
Body language associated with breathing and breathing patterns can indicate a person’s emotional and mental state. For this reason, business meetings and presentations often consider the relationship between body language and breathing. Deep breathing, which uses more diaphragm and abdomen, is generally interpreted as an impression of happiness and self-confidence. Conversely, shallow, fast breathing is often interpreted as an impression of sadness or frustration.
Some business consultants, such as those advocating neuro-linguistic programming, suggest reflecting on a person’s breathing patterns to convey the impression of mutual understanding.
Watch for genuine smiles
Anyone can use a fake smile to hide emotions, but fortunately, there is a way to determine if someone is really happy when they smile. A genuine smile outlines the skin with the corners of the eyes, creating a pattern for the crow’s feet. You will know that other people like to talk to you if you recognize this.
It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. When you speak, other people will “read” your voice as well as hear you. They will pay attention to your timing, rhythm, the volume of your voice, your pitch and tone, and the voice that conveys your understanding of “oh” and “um”. Think about how your tone of voice expresses sarcasm, affection, anger, or self-esteem.
Pay attention to the gesture of hands
Many people use gestures to emphasize when speaking. Research has shown that gesturing when someone asks a question tends to answer someone’s question quickly, which is an immediate benefit.
The more passionate gesture, the more likely someone is to feel aroused. Also, in many cases, we often manage people we are particularly close to without our knowledge.
Here are some more detailed things to note:
- Hands with open palms may unknowingly reflect openness.
- Punches can express sadness and frustration, particularly those trying to defeat these emotions. You may find that their facial expressions remain neutral even when relaxed.
- An intuitive touch of the cheek can indicate that someone is thinking about something or interested in what you have to say.
Look at the other person’s feet
One of the body parts that people often “lose” critical nonverbal signs is the foot. The reason people unknowingly convey nonverbal information through their feet is that they often focus on controlling facial expressions and upper body postures, so vital signs are exposed through their feet.
When standing or sitting, people usually turn their feet in the direction they decide to go. So, if you observe someone’s feet pointing in your direction, it could be a good sign that they have a crush on you. That is true for both one-on-one interactions and group interactions.
You can learn a lot about group dynamics by understanding the people’s body language, especially the direction in which their feet are facing. Also, if someone seems to be talking to you, but that person’s feet are pointing in the direction of another person (whether or not the upper body clues suggest something else), you may prefer to talk to people.
Considering body positions
Based on how a person is standing and sitting and where they are doing it, you can get clues about how they feel.
Your posture or how you hold yourself is not always easy to control, making reading body language difficult. Still, we can provide some information, especially if it is different from a person’s normal behavior.
Here are some things to look for:
- Leaning against a wall or other support can indicate boredom or irrelevance.
- The affinity to talk to or lean on someone generally represents interest or excitement.
- Sometimes, when standing, put your hands on your hips to express excitement, enthusiasm, and self-confidence.
- Standing with both hands sideways is a common resting position and motivates you to participate and listen.
- Support your head with one hand to show your interest. Supporting your head with both hands can make you feel bored and tired.
- Tilt your head or body to one side to see your interest and focus. Some other body language indicators can also suggest attractiveness.
The level of physical distance that a person keeps when speaking to you can sometimes give you signs about their mood and how they feel about you. Remember that many people, especially unfamiliar ones, prefer to stay away from others. On the other hand, some people are used to having less personal space. They can stand close or sit close together because they interact.
That is, it can be said that some specific behaviors are:
People who often stand or sit near you may like your company.
- If you take a step forward, a person who stands out and makes an effort back may want to keep some distance (physical and emotional) from you.
- Sitting close enough to touch or reach out to speak, especially a smile or a short touch, often recommends physical attraction.
- Raising a hand or arm when stepping back usually indicates a desire for a physical hurdle or greater distance.
How to understand body language?
You can take some steps to progress the understanding and interpreting body language. These steps are as follows:
The first stage in understanding body language is paying attention to it. Improving your observation skills may be easier than you think. Perhaps you are already unaware of your body language and interpreting every day.
Think about the friendliest employee you’ve met at work. Are they smiling as you walk past them in the hall? Do they maintain eye contact and nod when you talk to them? Their body language can help you think they are friendly.
Improving your body language observation skills will increase your awareness. Mindfulness means focusing on others and their movements regarding body language.
Focusing on getting used to the normal behavioral standards of others increases the likelihood of correctly interpreting communication and expressions. Bouncing or shaking your feet under a table is usually a sign of nervousness or anxiety. But, if your employer always looks to be shaking their leg when they are happy or interested, you can accurately interpret this body language.
This way refers to considering body language in the proper context. One of the most excellent methods to understand the body language of others is to try to know their point of view. By considering the details of someone’s character and situation, you can better understand what their body language is likely to convey.
For example, if you meet a co-worker, avoid eye contact, fold your lips, and cross their arms, they may find you angry or irritated. But if you’re eager to sympathize, you may find them under pressure as the deadline approaches. You can get a clearer picture of their body language and what it conveys by considering their situation.
The third phase in improving your body language communication skills is to become more aware of nonverbal messages. You may be a professional in reading other people’s body language, but if you don’t understand your body language, you may not be able to reach your full potential.
Being aware of gestures involves recognizing how one physically interacts with others, controlling facial expressions, and making gestures consciously. By practicing non-verbal communication, you can use body language to develop your ability to show interest, commitment, and professionalism.
The importance of nonverbal communication
Signs to nonverbal communication- how you hear, observe, move, and react- you know if you care if you are honest and listen well. Tell the person you are communicating with. When your nonverbal clues match what you say, they increase self-confidence, clarity, and relationships. Otherwise, tension, distrust, and confusion will occur.
If you need to become a good communicator, it’s essential to be sensitive to body language and non-verbal signals in yourself and others.
Non-verbal communication and expressions can play five roles:
- Repetition: Repeat the verbal message and often emphasizes it.
- Contradiction: Show your audience that it may not be consistent with the message you are trying to convey, so you may not be telling the truth.
- Substitution: Can be used in place of verbal information. For example, facial expressions are often sharper than the text conveys.
- Complementing: It can augment or increase your verbal information. A boss praising patting an employee on the back can significantly impact the message.
- Accenting: Oral messages can be emphasized. For example, knocking on a table can highlight the importance of the message.
Understanding body language goes a long way in improving communication with others and interpreting what they are communicating.
You may want to separate these cues one by one, but it is significant to look at these nonverbal cues in terms of verbal communication, other nonverbal cues, and conditions.
You can also emphasize improving non-verbal communication and learning to let people know you feel without using words.