Sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, you have passed a message without opening your mouth. This doesn’t mean you passed it by writing, text messaging, or sign language, but with body language.
What is body language?
Body language is a nonverbal communication method that uses physical expressions rather than word of mouth. Whether you know it or not, you are giving and receiving nonverbal cues more often than you can imagine.
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Nonverbal cues include facial expressions, body posture and movement, eye gazing or rolling, mouth movement, and hand gestures. Sometimes, it is easy for the person you are talking to pick your body language. For example, you may speak of one thing, while your body language expresses the opposite.
Body language is often followed by facial expressions or hand gestures, which makes it so easy for other people to understand. However, you might not be aware of it in some cases. It is, therefore, essential to understand body language so that you can understand what others are saying beyond their words.
Types of body language
Reading body language can help you understand someone’s true feelings or intentions or help you communicate your emotions effectively. Below are types of body language that will enable you to understand body language better.
Facial expressions can be used to convey an array of information. For example, facial expressions such as smiles and brow movements can show happiness, friendliness, approval, or appreciation. Other emotions expressed by facial expressions include anger, sadness, excitement, confusion, fear, and surprise.
Your facial expression can reveal your deepest emotions, however hard you try to suppress them. “The face reflects your emotions and thoughts,” the wise sayeth.
Facial expressions are the only universal body language, especially frowning or smiling. Other expressions may differ slightly, but almost everybody will smile while happy or shed tears while sad.
Body posture can be described as open or closed. Available body posture refers to a free body posture with no coiling or bending. This may signal openness, friendliness, and not being intimidated.
A closed body posture involves crossing your legs and arms and leaning forward. This may signal unfriendliness, fear, anxiety, or tiredness.
How you walk, stand, sit, or the position of your head can also convey information about your feelings and thoughts. For example, sitting while leaning forward and holding your chin may signal boredom or tiredness, while sitting upright may signal focus and alertness.
William Shakespeare wrote: “The eyes are the window to the soul.” Someone can draw tons of information by looking at your eyes. Rapid eye movement or blinking can signal fear. In contrast, steady eye contact means paying attention or being interested in whatever is said.
A stare or long gaze can signal confusion or intimidation. Pupil size can also signal interest, surprise, or fear. It is, therefore, essential to understand the situation, mood, and environment before concluding what a particular gesture means.
Hand gestures are the most commonly used and quickly understood nonverbal communication methods. Gestures such as a thumbs up, waving, pointing, or showing a number with fingers are among the most common and easily understood signals.
Some hand gestures may vary from culture to culture. For instance, a V shape made by separating your index finger and middle finger may signal peace in some cultures, while in some, like Australia, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, it’s an insult.
Edward T Hall, an anthropologist, coined the proxemics theory in 1963 to describe the distance between people when they communicate. Like other forms of body language, the space between two people can send information.
According to T. Hall, a space between 0 and 2 feet is a close distance, like close contact between lovers or people who are very comfortable with each other. A 2-4 foot length is personal space, like that between family members or friends, signaling closeness and comfortability.
4-12 feet is the social distance between people you are not so close with, like delivery people or mail carriers. Lastly, more than 12 feet is public distance and is often used in public speeches in the hall or classroom.
Why do people smile
In most cases, smiling is a form of nonverbal communication that indicates happiness or a great mood. When you are happy, your body releases endorphins, and signals are sent from your brain to trigger smiles.
However, smiles can be natural or fake.
How can you tell a genuine smile from a fake smile?
If you pay attention, it is easy to tell a genuine one from a fake one. A simple smile comes so effortlessly, and you can notice the cheeks moving up and the eyes closing slightly. To point out a fake smile, look for the following clues;
A person faking a smile will not have crow’s feet — forming wrinkles on the outer part of the eyes while smiling.
A genuine smile will cause orbicularis oculi muscles to move, and your eyes will close slightly. A still upper face while smiling indicates a fake smile.
Showing bottom teeth
People who wear a genuine smile are unlikely to show their bottom teeth unless they laugh widely. However, a fake smile is likely to show the bottom teeth.
Understanding body language
A person’s body language can tell much more than words. For example, understanding body language can help you become a better communicator or help you get out of tricky situations.
However, remember that body languages and hand gestures differ from culture to culture. So reading body language has to be in the context of a situation or culture. Also, don’t rely on body language entirely because some people are master manipulators.