Body language refers to the outwards reflection of the emotional state of an individual. It is a valuable tool for a person to express his or her real feelings. Only a minor part of how we present ourselves to another person is expressed through words. Creating a good impression requires you to know and control your body language.
Sometimes, body language creates confusion in the receiver’s minds because you tend to deliver dual messages. Body language never lies.
You cannot hide your emotions with body language. You may pretend to act normal, but your body language will unravel your discomfort, without you being aware of it.
Verbal communication only contributes to 7% of the actual message. Remaining part of the message is communicated in the following order:
- Paraverbal communication - 38%
- nonverbal communication - 55%
The perception of the receiver about your body language cannot be described in words and you actually cannot prove what impression you have created in the other person’s mind.
It is believed that women have a strong ability to read a person’s body language and compare it with the verbal signals.
Words are mainly used to convey information, but body language works out interpersonal attitudes as well as acts as a great substitute for verbal messages often.
Biological rules of evolution control human reactions, actions, gestures and body language. However, it is fascinating that a human being is rarely conscious about its movements, postures, and gestures that reveal one story while the vocal cords may narrate a completely different story.
Therefore, it is important to understand your own body language before assessing another person’s body language and drawing conclusions.
An individual expresses his/her true feelings through the medium of body language. For example, you may find it difficult to tell a person directly that you dislike him/her. However, your body language, consciously or unconsciously communicates the message successfully. The opposite holds true as well.
Studies reveal that when you meet a person for the first time, the other person observes your body language more than your words. If both don’t correspond well, it creates a doubt in the receiver’s mind, which leads him/her to question your intentions. For example if you feel defensive, you will cross your arms and legs.
Body language plays an important role in determining what type of message is imparted. Eye movements and facial expressions have a great impact in expressing your feelings and emotions. It is always stressed that during a meeting you must maintain eye contact with each audience member, failing which your message will lack impact.
Another factor of body language is voice modulation and tone of speech. An ideal message, i.e. words interpreted in their real sense is characterized by the factors including correct voice intensity, posture, breathing pattern, and voice modulation.
When you look at the other person’s face directly while talking, it represents intimacy or confrontation. When you disagree with a point mentioned by the speaker you shake your head from one side to another in order to express disagreement.
The way you stand is an effective way of communicating your real intentions to another person. The default standing positions include standing straight and facing your audience with your head placed firmly on your shoulders and an erect spine.
When you wish to keep a strong point in front of your audience, you must place your feet at a short distance apart and your hands must be kept on the hips. When you are presenting an award, or giving something, keep one foot in front of you, point your foot straight towards the receiver, and bend your body at an angle equal to 45 degrees.
GESTURES AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
Gestures refer to the visible movements of face, hands, or other body parts to communicate messages, replacing speech or in congruence with the spoken words.
Cultural misinterpretations of gestures may cause embarrassment. You must always consider a person’s background before concluding his or her behaviour, gestures, and body language.
Gestures transmit specific messages. Different gestures are interpreted in different manner across all cultures.
Although few gestures have different interpretations across different cultures, most gestures are associated with a universal meaning along with a certain connotation in certain cultures.
Gestures are classified into the broad categories including
- facial expressions
- head gestures
- arm gestures
- foot position
Facial expressions refer to the movement of the face muscles present under the skin. An observer understands the emotional state of a person through the facial expressions.
It is an important tool of social interaction and communication. The movement of face muscles creates distinct lines on your face and result in the movement of other facial parts such as your eyebrows and mouth.
Facial expressions are associated with two neural pathways – voluntary expression and emotional expression. The former involves movement of face muscles from your main motor cortex up to your pyramidal tract that helps in changing expressions, while the latter involves movement of the subcortical nuclei that produces genuine and unconscious facial expressions.
It is easier to understand the body language of children because of their innocent and subconscious reactions. In addition, the children are quick to react with obvious gestures. For instance, if a child is telling a lie, he or she will put his hands over his mouth; it alerts the parents about the lie.
Head Nod implies agreement; it is an inborn gesture signifying submission. Moving the head from one side to the other to expresses disagreement. There are two advantages of the Head Nod. To express an affirmative feeling, you will nod your head along with speaking. Head nodding is a great tool to encourage rapport, attract more approvals, and cooperation.
Putting your head down is a sign of dejection or disapproval. People with their heads down generally tend to analyze your statements very critically.
The head shrug is a gesture where you raise your shoulders and pull your head between the shoulders to protect yourself from injury. People use the head shrug to offer submissive apology that saves you from being belittled.
You keep talking while using your hands often. Some people match their hand movements perfectly with their statements to communicate their message properly. Few people tend to overuse their hand gestures which divert the attention of the receiver from the context, while others do not engage much in hand movements when they are talking.
If you do not use your hands at all when talking, it communicates indifference. The receiver may feel that you are not talking seriously. If you keep your hands at the back, it implies that you are not trustworthy. If you keep your hands open and place your palms at 45 angle it shows that you are broad-minded and honest.
Likewise, if you keep your palms down and hands open it displays your determination. When your palms face each other, it means you have the expertise in the subject matter. If you sit down and grasped your hands in front, it means you are feeling nervous or are hesitant to speak on the topic.
The way a person stands or sits talks a lot about his or her personality. The leg movements are a reflection of the actual mental state of an individual.
Since, the legs are quite far from the brain, a person is not aware about the leg movements; leg movements are an accurate reflection of a person’s mental state rather than the person’s facial expressions. It is because facial expressions can be easily manipulated by an individual due to his or her mental awareness but the same is not applicable to the leg gestures.
If you are a shy person, you will twist your legs around each other or the legs of a chair to hide your negative emotions. Even when that person stands while talking to another person, he or she will cross one leg before the other, trying to hide the rear foot.
A seating posture with crossed legs expresses a defensive attitude; it shows that the person is submissive and narrow-minded.
Shy women usually practice the gesture of leg twine. The gesture involves locking one foot on top of the other under the knee. Usually, women wearing short dresses implement this gesture as a sign of intimacy.
When a person stands straight with legs apart, it provides stability. When you stand with shoulder-distance between two feet, it is regarded a relaxed standing posture. Greater width will make the person appear to be confident and grounded. It is also a sign of dominance and power because you cover more area with the increased width between your feet.