“I speak two languages: Body & English.” A quote by classical Hollywood actress, Mae West may put a light on the importance of body language in communication. Since body language isn’t any spoken language but her words emphasis on how it impacts our daily life.
What is body language?
Body language is a way of non-verbal communication, which constitution of the following actions:-
- Head movements
- Facial expressions
- Eye contact
People can perform them consciously or subconsciously to convey their thoughts and feelings towards countless things. But all of these are not just universal to all humans, other animals also communicate with body language. In fact, animals mostly rely on this since they don’t have any way of verbal communication.
When we are capable of “reading” these signs, we can use it for our benefits. For example, it can help us to comprehend the entire message of what someone is trying to tell us and to enhance our attention to people’s reactions to what we say and do.
We can additionally use it to modify our own body language so that we look more positive, engaging and approachable.
To provide you with an example, think about the phrase “Thank you.” A positive connotation is usually associated with this phrase. However, assume how you might understand it differently if the individual saying it does so with a strict or curt tone of voice (or perhaps whilst rolling their eyes). You may interpret it in a totally different way, and “Thank you” in this context will likely seem much less nice. Intonation is just as crucial as the words themselves when it comes to conveying “feeling.”
Intonation changes, just like facial expressions, don’t differ too much from culture to culture. You can easily read disgust on someone’s face, whether they are Arab or European. Similarly, intonations associated with happiness and sadness are generally effortless to pick up on no matter where you are from. In addition to intonation, body language also consists of physical gestures.
Gestures & movements
A gesture is a type of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication in which visible physical movements deliver particular messages. Either by replacing or in conjunction with, speech. Gestures consist of movement of the hands, face, or other parts of the body. For example, if someone is interested in what you are telling them, they probably won’t interrupt you and say, “This is really interesting! Please, continue.” Instead, they will lean closer to you to hear you better. Or they might nod their head in agreement to what you are saying.
Gestures allow people to convey a variety of feelings and thoughts, from contempt and hostility to approval and affection, often together with body language in addition to words when they speak. Gesticulation and speech work independently of each other but join to grant meaning and emphasis.
A facial expression is one or more motions or positions of the muscle tissues under the skin of the face. According to one set of controversial theories, these movements carry the emotional state of a person to observers. Facial expressions are a type of nonverbal communication. They are a primary means of conveying social information between humans. However, they appear in most other mammals and some other animal species as well.
The eyes are often considered as vital features of facial expressions. Aspects such as blinking rate can possibly be used to point out whether an individual is worried or whether he or she is lying.
Eye contact takes place when two animals look at each other’s eyes at the same time. In human beings, eye contact is a type of non-verbal communication and is thought to have a massive effect on social behaviour. It can influence the positive or negative outcome of a conversation.
Coined in the early to mid-1960s, the term came from the West to often outline the act as a significant and vital sign of confidence, respect, and social communication. The customs and value of eye contact differ between societies, with religious and social differences often altering its meaning noticeably.
The importance of body language
In the late 60s, Albert Mehrabian conducted several experiments to figure out just how necessary gestures and intonation are for conveying a message. And the results? Only 7% of communication is verbal, 38% is considered para-verbal (meaning tone and intonation) and 55% is non-verbal! As you can see, gestures, hand signs, and different body actions are extremely significant to know how to use!
Mehrabian himself stated that they were the result of a controlled experiment and that they don’t entirely mirror a realistic situation. These numbers may be quite debatable However, the results did allow Mehrabian to make this point: words alone are not enough to fully comprehend the complete intention of someone’s message. Intonation and the way the message is sent also count for something.
Now, this can be confusing as sign language is not really part of body language but is still greatly related. Although body language is as old as human history, sign language was invented in the 17th century. The purpose behind the invention of it was to make a way to communicate with the deaf and dumb. Sign languages are considered as full-fledged natural languages just like spoken languages. But as they are non-verbal, you can say that they also belong to the category of body language. And for the same reason, you can see how important body language is.
Ways to detect negative body language
Suppose, you are giving a lecture or a presentation. There are a number of ways to know if a person is bored and not curious about what you are saying. Carefully lookout for the following signs:-
- Arms folded in front of the body.
- Minimal or tense facial expression.
- Body turned away from you.
- Eyes downcast, keeping little or no contact.
- Using mobile phone
- Fidgeting with accessories, picking at clothes
Re-engaging your uninterested audience
Now that you are aware of the negative body language your audience could project, you should know how to tackle them. Use the following methods to re-engage your audience who get bored:-
- Use repetition
- quizzing/ asking follow-up questions
- Use humour
- Have surprises
Signs of positive body language
Seeing good body languages from your audience indicates that they are well engaged in your speech. And, it’s also important that you project positive body language too. This way your audience will think you are confidently delivering your speech and they will listen attentively. Positive body language includes the following:-
- Direct eye contact
- Head nodding in agreement
- Sitting straight
- Leaning closer
- Open and upward-facing palms
Practising positive body language
When giving presentations or lectures, just knowing about body language isn’t enough. You have to practice to improve your own body language too. Otherwise, your audience will show no interest in your speech at all. There are several ways for practising positive body language:-
1.In front of the mirror
This may seem quite weird but people actually do a lot of things in front of a mirror. So you can use your reflection to see how well you are performing hand gestures just like you do with your looks. You can even work on your posture to look more confident and practice a smile to appear approachable.
2.In front of friends or colleagues
Before facing a larger audience, it’s always a good idea to rehearse in front of friends/colleagues. They can give you feedback on how to improve your speech as well as your body language. You can ask them first hand which part they should focus on more: how you move your hands or if you are smiling enough.
The importance of body language has effects on first impressions as well, especially during an interview. It takes only a few seconds for the recruiter to get a first impression of you. Although there are other factors that can affect a first impression, you can consider body language as most vital. And it starts right from the moment you enter the interview room. So make sure you give your recruiters a proper greeting and sit appropriately throughout the interview.
Considering the importance of body language in different parts of your life, it’s also essential to learn the positive ones. To impress people with good body language and also to read others’ ones.
Want to know about the effects of body language in different parts of your life? And know about the positive and negative ones as well? Continue reading to learn more.
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