Body language and other methods of nonverbal communication pre-date human speech. Over the course of thousands of years of evolution, body language has become a universal lingua franca-spoken by all, yet not understood by all. This is one of those topics where everyone has an opinion of their own and it becomes hard for a common man to tell myths from realities.
Body language is universally encoded in human behavior but how to react to it depends upon how well you are able to read it. There are personal, social, and cultural variations and you have to be aware of these to read the body language of other people.
Research shows that “When emotions expressed by faces and bodies are incongruent, recognition of facial expressions is affected by emotions revealed by the body”
– (Meeren et al: 2005)
Utility of Body Language
Popular media often portrays body language as something using which you can “read other people like a book”. This is probably an exaggeration. Even the expert psychologist and nonverbal communication experts are only able to pick up certain cues and then they string them together.
Additionally, you can use the knowledge to work on your own body language. If you can send positive vibes without using speech, it can be very advantageous for you in a variety of personal and professional scenarios.It is a scientifically proven fact that “Dynamic body expressions, gestures, and actions of others are a richer and more ecologically valid source of information for social interaction. Click To Tweet
Importance of body language
Personality building goes a long way in your life. Honing your skill of reading the body language of others and mastering your ability to send the signals of your choosing to other people, without uttering a word, is impressive, to say the least, and life-changing to say the most.
Politicians during an election rally, people of authority, candidates during a job interview, people on their first date, and a new CEO – all rely on the power of body language. A lot of people go by “The first impression is the last impression”. This proverbial first impression is actually your body language.
Myths and Realities
In the modern world be it any psychology topic in general, and body language in particular, people have their own expert opinions. Due to this many realities get shrouded under the veils of myths and people find themselves in a dilemma, as to what is true and what is not.
We have tried to separate fiction and reality using scientific knowledge.
Liars will not make eye contact
Feet facing away
Rely on natural signs
Connecting the dots
This gets thrown around a lot. It is believed that if someone is lying then they will be reluctant to look into your eyes. This is the reason that many movies use the line “Look me in the eye and say it”.
It might be a bummer for many, but this is not true. Not only expert liars but really any normal level liar can make eye contact.
If someone is seated opposite to you and their feet face away, they are looking for an opportunity to excuse themselves and escape this conversation. This is also not particularly true because, for all we know, they just might be sitting in an uneasy posture. Therefore the feet facing away argument is fictitious.
Now, this is actually true and scientifically proven. If you have expertise in picking up natural cues, it can be really helpful. Let’s say someone has drooping eyelids, hunched shoulders, and they are yawning.
It can be safely assumed that they are tired. Similarly, some facial expressions transcend geographical barriers and they mean the same thing everywhere. A nod means “yes” and a shake of the head means “no”, almost everywhere.
Contracted eyebrows and squint eyes signal suspicion, half-smile means that this is a forced smile. Two fingers on the chin mean that they are mulling over something and the list is not exhaustive by any means.
Most of the time, it is not about solitary signs but about the persona in general. Posture is a big telltale sign. Erect posture signals attentiveness while a hunched one means disinterest. Similarly crossed hands can mean introversion.
The way they use their hand gestures show how invested they are in the discussion. What it comes down to, is that none of these signals mean anything on their own, yet when strung together, they are powerful personality building tools.
Improving your Body Language for Professional Life
Nail the walk
Your walk says a lot about you. It can be your first weapon which you can use to win jobs by nailing the interview. A good walk means you should have a straightened posture with a stiff neck. Let your arms fling feely by your body. Do not put your hands in the pocket. Ask for permission to sit if you have not already been offered a seat.
Be it for a man or a woman, handshakes are usually the first contact we make during a professional encounter. Never shake hands when you are sitting with someone who is standing. Always get up first and hold the hand firmly. It sends a positive signal. A lousy handshake shows your non-seriousness or disinterest.
Make eye contact
It is said that “eyes are windows to the soul”. Try to make good eye contact. Good eye contact does not mean that you have to stare into the eyes of the interviewer. This will totally spook him out. You should look into his eyes when making a strong point or send a strong signal. Mostly it is a circumstantial thing and you will learn it by practice. A balanced eye contact exhibits your confidence.
Show that you are a good listener
Interviews are not always about speaking. They also test your listening ability. Being a good listener means that you are a team player and you also have the positive attribute of incorporating dissenting voices if need be.
Do not interrupt the person who is interviewing you. Instead, listen to him through, take your time to formulate a response, and then give your answer.
Smiling is really important. It just brings in so much positive energy into any conversation, be it personal or professional. Always keep a welcoming smile on your face which will show warmth and sincerity.
Maintain an erect posture
If you are seated in a chair, sit all the way back. Unnecessarily leaning in will make your shoulders droop, giving you a casual appearance and it is counted negatively by the interviewers.
Body language in personal life
The governing principles in professional and personal life are just the same. However, since personal settings are much more information you can expect some things to go differently, especially those based upon intimacy and frankness.
- Pick up signs of intimacy
- Try to make them comfortable by giving them room
- Touch signs are big indicators especially on a date
When it comes to body language, you can use it to win jobs as well as for improving and building personalities. Deciphering body language is both an art and a science and there is really no set formula to translate this language.
General consideration of atmosphere, mood, cues, facial expressions and other things can help you reach a definitive conclusion. Decoding human behavior from body language and then using it to tune how to react to it can indeed be a very helpful thing.
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