Before understanding the advantages of nonverbal communication, we have to really know what nonverbal communication is. As a matter of fact, many of us don’t know what nonverbal communication, or body language, is all about. We are under the impression that the only way we can actually communicate with others is by talking. But is it? Do they understand our true intentions? Is it possible that others may have a different perception of your intentions when you talk to them?
You see, we all have a dual physical messaging system – a verbal and a nonverbal. Verbal messaging refers to our spoken words and nonverbal or body language that addresses of our silent language. We all use these two messaging systems to communicate with others as we interact with them – socially or in business. If you desire good communication skills in the workplace and elsewhere, pay attention to your nonverbal communication.
We constantly send and receive nonverbal behavioral signs that include all our physical gestures. Such as:
- personal space
- how we sit or stand
- the positioning of our hands
- the way we speak
- how and how often we make eye contact with others
- certain eye movements and facial expressions
It is Important to note that these nonverbal signals continue communicating even though we may be silent and not talking. Don’t be shocked if what you say verbally and what your body language says may be the exact opposite! So don’t be surprised if your listener becomes confused and chooses to listen to your body language instead of your words. Body language is real and it is an unconscious reaction. It sends messages that show our true inner feelings and meanings – nonstop!
Interpreting Body Language
“I have learned to depend more on what people do than what they say in response to a direct question, to pay close attention to that which cannot be consciously manipulated, and to look for patterns rather than content.” ~Edward T. Hall
For many years, body language, or nonverbal communication, has been the subject of scientific studies in psychology, anthropology, sociology, and linguistics. The eye-opening results have shed new light on the mystery of the human silent messaging system.
It is, therefore, essential that we not only understand the importance of body language but also how to interpret it. We will let you see what your body is really saying about you. Therefore, you will become more aware of this amazing silent language. We will also give you some examples of body language. You will know what they indicate to others when you interact and communicate with them.
Additionally, we will give you some important tips on how to improve your first impression on others. There are some proper basics of Personal Space and its different types. Finally, we will show you the advantages and the disadvantages of body language. You will also learn how you can turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
In this article, we are only scratching the surface of body language. The study of body language is quite complex and has numerous components to it. If we were to cover everything about body language, it would take about 30 such articles to fit it all in!
We intend to introduce you to the important concept of body language. Also, we want to show you the vital role of body language in your daily communication with others. Additionally, we will show you how to read body language and determine if the verbal and nonverbal communications match.
Become A Better Communicator
We hope that this article will make you a better communicator and prevent your intentions from being misunderstood. This normally happens when you are saying one thing and your body language is quietly saying something totally different! To have effective communication with someone, your body language needs to back up your words. If it does not, then you will have some serious trust issues from the people you are conversing with.
All you have to do now is learn the basics and then practice, practice, and practice some more! You can do that. Can’t you? Okay! Let’s get started…
What Is Your Body Saying About You?
You will always leave an impression with others at the first moment they see or meet you. This occurs before you even have a chance to say a single word. How is that possible? Well, because our quiet nonverbal body language had long started talking to them! The way you move, the way you dress and all your physical gestures have been hard at work! They never stop communicating and telling others about yourself – who you are and how you are really feeling inside.
Did you know that a whopping 93% of the first impression we all give to others is based on our paralanguage? Paralanguage refers to the nonverbal component of communication by speech. For example, our intonation, pitch and speed of speaking, hesitation noises, gesture, and facial expression.
Surprisingly, only 7% of the first impression we give to others is verbal? That’s right! Is there a way to control and improve these numbers in our favor? Yes, indeed there is!
Fun Video On Nonverbal Communication
Now, wasn’t that fun?
Good Body Language Examples – To Remember
There are numerous nonverbal telltale signs that can reveal what we are thinking and feeling to others. These are all signs of nervousness and we should take notice and become aware of them. For example, some very simple gestures may tell others that we are telling a lie. They include biting of the fingernails, scratching of the nose, excessive hand movements, and sweating. Plus a lack of eye contact, covering the mouth, chewing the inside of the mouth, and drying of the mouth.
We will describe some important ones here for you to know and remember…
- Wrinkling of the nose… This normally means that the person is experiencing disgust. It can be intentional or subconscious.
- Eyebrow knit… If both eyebrows are brought close together, it shows a high emotional level of fear. It could also indicate anxiety, anger, or any combination of these. With anxiety and fear, horizontal lines in the forehead and extra white in the eyes appear. In the case of anger, the brows are lowered as well with a strong look.
- Pupil dilation… This can mean a variety of messages. Such as showing interest, liking, attraction, and fear depending on the occasion. Whereas, Pupil contraction indicates extreme dislike.
- Blinking… Excessive blinking is usually a sign of being nervous. When one lies, the rate of blinking increases as well. Knowing the normal blinking rate of a person can be used as a comparison for that particular person.
- One eyebrow arched… Shows your listener is not taking you seriously or that you may be overstating what you are saying. It can also indicate that your listener does not believe you at all! This gesture is usually emphasized with a little smile while the eyebrow is being arched.
Upper Body Gestures
- Both hands in pockets… Indicates that a person has something to hide, or doesn’t want to share with you. If we speak with hands in the pocket, it may show that we are disinterested in talking to you. If we speak with our hands and keep our palm open, it reflects submission.
- One hand to the chest… This is normally a sign of intimacy in a relationship. The chest is a vulnerable area of the body. When a woman puts her hand on a man’s chest, it indicates her deep feelings for him.
- The shoulder shrug… this is normally a clear sign of being in uncertainty, doubt, loss, cynicism, and compliance. When apologizing, often the shoulder is raised, the neck tucked down, and hands are open wide with the palms upward. It is an unconscious gesture to show smallness and vulnerability in asking for forgiveness.
- Hand on chin… This is an unconscious gesture that indicates a person is considering, figuring you, or examining something in a comfortable mood. With a thumb under the chin and the index finger on the cheek, it reflects a negative evaluation. If the index finger is on the lips, with the thumb still under the chin, the indication is skeptical or negative.
- The neck scratch… If the neck is scratched with the index finger, it shows doubt and uncertainty. This is normally done with a slight head tilt and a scratch under the ear.
- A hand grasping wrist behind the back… This unconscious gesture signals the frustration of holding back one’s anger. If someone is doing this while you are talking, it means the individual is not happy with what you are saying.
Lower Body Gestures
- Ankle crossed onto knee… This gesture usually takes place along with another gesture that can change the meaning of the ankle being crossed. If arms are also folded, it shows a sign of being aggressive – mostly with men doing it. Accompanied with further gestures, like a backward lean and finger to the chin, then it usually conveys a negative message. It shows that the sender is feeling competitive and confrontational. Lastly, if accompanied with an open facial expression, it indicates the sender has an excessively confident and yet casual personality. This could sometimes be a sign of a bold individual.
- Forward lean… shows interest in the person you are facing or listening to. It also conveys confidence and honesty. Leaning back, however, signals disinterest.
- Backward lean… this is sometimes referred to as the “lazy lean” which shows your feeling of superiority or total relaxation. It usually communicates a sense of arrogance to the receiver.
- Foot tapping or fidgeting… depending on the situation, this could be anything from keeping time with the music to nervousness… being uncomfortable with the situation.
Body language is normally a universal language and the examples above can apply to all people. However, it is important to know the culture and the customs of people from different parts of the world. This applies to different regions of a country as well. This could mean that the same exact gesture may have two completely different interpretations in two different regions. It is, therefore, a very good idea to know something about the culture of the individual you are talking to. This could indeed save you a lot of embarrassment and apologies!
Good Body Language Tips – First Impressions
You should learn and practice the following steps to improve the first impression you give to others. You may or may not agree with all of these steps but they do have a proven track record. It would be good to at least try them out to see what happens…
Before your meeting
- Dress nicely and neatly to project an overall positive image of you. Your clothing must not overpower you – they should complement you. Others should be impressed by the way you dress.
- When you enter a room, walk in at a fast pace while holding your head up and straight.
- Smile and make sure that the smile is real. Smiling is the easiest thing to do and can be seen from quite a distance – as much as a few hundred feet. A genuine smile tells others that we are trustworthy and sincere – making us approachable.
During your meeting
- If you have to stand for a prolonged time, be sure to stand with a good posture.
- Same principle as prolonged standing applies if you are to remain seated. Make sure you are sitting up with an erect back posture and not slouching backward. If you were to lean just a little bit inward during a conversation, it will show that you are interested.
- Making eye contact is always great, yet you should be careful not to overdo it. Staring at someone can be interpreted as insulting or inviting.
- A handshake is a common form of greeting when people first meet. It should always be firm and friendly. A soft handshake may suggest that we have a weak character. Some women may prefer to kiss another man or woman on the cheek when greeting them. Be very cautious and never kiss someone if you don’t know the person or are uncomfortable doing it.
- Your other gestures must show comfort and openness. Try to interact with the people you are talking to. Keeping your palms open indicates honesty and never point at people. You may want to also copy some of the gestures of the ones you are talking to. This shows that you are like them and feel at ease with them.
After Your Meeting
- This mostly applies to a business meeting with a prospective client or a job interview. It is good etiquette to write a polite short letter or make a phone call to thank the other person. If it was a business meeting, you would thank them for their time and consideration of your business offer. If it was a job interview, you would thank them for their time and the opportunity for the interview. Add that you hope to be considered for the position and are looking forward to joining their team.
- In some special cases, it may also be necessary to call someone you had just met socially. The call would serve as an emphasis that you were happy to meet them and would like to stay in touch. You would ensure that you both have each other’s contact information or set a date for another future meeting.
Communication Is A Two-Way Street
Do not overlook the most important one of all… An interaction with another individual is, and must always be a two-way street. During this verbal interaction, you must always pay attention to and read the other person’s body language. If you are talking and your listener crosses the arms, it means that your listener is disagreeing with you. Why is this important? It is important because, from that point on, whatever else you have to say may fall on deaf ears. Don’t be fooled even if the individual tells you otherwise – verbally!
Just keep in mind that we never get a second chance to make up for our first impressions. Keep tabs on and become aware of your body language and what it is saying to others about you. Your body language can make the difference between your success and your failure. This can happen without a chance for you to even say a word! Can this be really true? Yes, it definitely is true in our personal, social, and business lives.
Our Personal Space
Why do many verbal communications break down? Because of the lack of awareness to the principles of personal space. Become familiar with it now! You must properly position your body to the others present. How far or near it is to the one we are talking or listening to. This space is crucial is correct in the use of body language.
There are 4 boundaries when it comes to personal space that most people are familiar with:
- Intimate Space… from 0 to 1-1/2 feet… an area where individuals are making physical contact or are able to make contact.
- Personal Space… from 1 to 1-1/2 feet… represents an arms-length distance… normally for handshakes.
- Social Space… from 4 to 10 feet… for daily personal or business interactions.
- Public space… from 10 feet and more… when, for example, a person is speaking at a public rally.
Disadvantages Of Nonverbal Communication
Understanding the disadvantages of nonverbal communication is difficult. It is difficult because much of your body language is subconscious. This means that your actions are not entirely under your control. You can practice using good body language so that you are more aware when you do exhibit poor body language signs. The best way for you to always use good body language is to be prepared for whatever the situation is. That way you can walk in with more confidence in yourself and you will naturally exhibit the body language that you would want to be seen.
Please take note of the list below since it shows some of the many things that you may have never given a second thought to. These things can really cause you to leave a bad impression with others… In some cases, even dislike and turn offs! How about becoming aware and conscious of them? You will then be able to turn a negative into a nice positive for yourself…
Wearing too much perfume or cologne… Poor or limp handshake… Avoiding eye contact… Poor voice quality: volume, pitch, articulation, pronunciation, and rhythm… Fidgeting, tapping, and jingling… Talking too much… Superior gestures… Shifting and moving around… Biting your nail or something else… Leaning into a person before they are ready.
Advantages Of Nonverbal Communication – Body Language
The advantages of body language are evident when you say what you mean and mean what you say. We certainly hope that you enjoyed this article and learned some handy body language basics. This silent and yet never inactive, silent language is something we all possess.
The importance of body language in communication is something that you should not take lightly. If you can learn how to read body language and facial expressions, then your communication skills will be much greater.
We suggest that you practice, practice, and practice till you feel comfortable with your body and its unique language. Practice the body language gestures that match and complement your verbal message to another. Some people stand in front of a mirror and practice. By doing it this way, you can see your body language as you are talking.The most important thing you want to become good at is to synchronize your verbal and nonverbal messages. This will ensure that your Intention is, and will be, the perception that others arrive at due to your body language.
At the beginning, We presented you with what we said we would deliver. Now, how you use it is up to you. You may have noticed that many professional people including politicians and sales people are very skilled at using positive body language.
Body Language Practice
We want you to have fun practicing and learning the basics of body language…
It is indeed a lot of fun to be able to understand and speak this silent language. Since we are all having fun now, let us ask you a simple question to see how much you have learned because of this article.
Did you notice this image at the top? Well, we simply want to ask you what is this man’s body language telling you? A little hint… there is more than one possibility, depending on his surroundings and the situation he is in. Can you tell? You are welcome to send us a comment and we will get back to you with the correct answer. How is that for a practical practice?
Take Action Now!
There are many meanings in body language. A facial expression or hand position can change the meaning of another element. To explore further these meanings, you may want to order one or more of these books. These are just a few of many available. Having this kind of knowledge can help you to be more successful in life, love, and business. We gave you only the basics and these books will cover the many other areas of Body Language. You must always bear in mind… Knowledge has, is, and will always be POWER!
Want more power in your life? Take action now.
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