Last updated on March 21, 2022
Body language is part of non-verbal communication which we cannot always understand and can sometimes create misunderstandings between people. At Northwest we are all part of a community and it’s very important for all of us to create a comfortable and understandable space around us. Therefore, learning new types of communication will help us to increase our level of relation.
Emotions are often expressed not only through intonation and words, but also through gestures. In convention, “only 7% of the information we get from words, 38% from the tone they are said of voice, and the remaining 55% is transmitted by body language” (Albert Mehrabian, Silent Messages 1971). Even if a person can tell a lie with words, we cannot fully control body language.
At the same time we should not forget that everybody’s movement can have a different definitions or interpretations. Our own body movements can mean something totally different than another person’s same body movement. We need to summarize everything that we see and then conclude depending on what we observe. Like any language, body language consists of words and punctuation marks. For example, someone scratching the back of their head could mean a thousand different things – dandruff, sweat, insecurity, forgetfulness, or telling a lie depending on what other gestures accompany the scratching. You should consider the whole complex of accompanying gestures for an accurate interpretation
Gestures can usually accurately reveal a person’s actual state, mood, and attitude. Such factors can eloquently express a person in a positive mood such as a quiet expression of the eyes, a faint smile at the corners of lips, and drooping eyebrows. Also detachment in the eyes and the corners of the mouth downwards can be a sign that this person may be in a bad mood. A sign of someone expressing interest may be shown by a slight raise of the eyebrows or broader than usual open eyes. If the speaker’s mouth is somewhat hollow that is a sure sign of surprise. The person may be enraged or indignant if the interlocutor shows tightly pressed lips, frowning eyebrows, and flared nostrils. If the speaker’s face takes on an elongated shape during a conversation, with raised eyebrows, it often indicates apparent disrespect and even sometimes contempt. Crossed arms and legs may show resistance to another person’s ideas. These can be physical barriers, and they reflect the interlocutor’s insularity to what a person is saying. No matter how much the interlocutor’s conversation partner may smile, and no matter how pleasant the conversation maybe, the person most likely won’t agree in the end. It is an unconscious reaction and is then the most obvious one. A squint usually accompanies a natural smile. When it comes to smiling, the lips can lie, but the eyes cannot. For example, for some people smiling can cause the skin around the eyes to fold into “crow’s feet.” Many people often hide their true thoughts behind a smile; notice what happens to the eyes when they smile. If the noticeable creases do not appear the person may not be sincere. Constant nodding indicates irritation. That’s right when someone sees an interlocutor nodding more often than usual. It might mean that people are concerned that the conversation partner may think the person cannot understand them or perceive their instructions.
If people get a lot of eye contact, it’s maybe a sign of lying. Have you ever noticed that other people cross their arms and move them apart just as you do? Have you ever seen how the person you are talking to copies the tilt of your head? Repetition of other people’s gestures occurs unconsciously and shows a connection between other people. This is usually a good indicator that the conversation is moving in the right direction, and one party is ready to communicate with the other. It is imperative when negotiating because it helps to understand the true thoughts and intentions of the interlocutor regarding a person’s cooperation.
According to behavioral analyst and body language expert Lillian Glass, some liars will purposefully keep their gaze on others too long, so it will even cause some discomfort. They may also stand still and not blink. If the inner corners of the eyebrows don’t move up and inward, the person probably isn’t as sad as they seem. The person can’t tense those muscles despite their best efforts. If one side of the face is more active than the other, the emotion may be fake. The vast majority of facial expressions of emotion are bilateral, meaning they appear equally on both sides of the face. Next time you decide to tell a joke, try to see if the people you are talking to are smiling symmetrically.
This knowledge, and being aware of others’ feelings is a bridge to healthy relationships. By using and reading other body language, we can build a world of openness, trust, and warm feelings around us.