Body language is as much a part of conversation and interaction with others as compared to verbal communication.
In fact, it could be considered as the larger part of communication since what we don’t say can sometimes be more important than what we do say.
So how do we read body language? Here are 10 of them which you must know.
Watch the Eyes
The eyes are the windows to the soul and it appears that this phrase might not be wrong after all. The eyes can reveal a lot about what a person is thinking or feeling. For example, if a person keeps his eyes trained upon yours during a conversation, it means that he is interested in what you say. Of course, a suitable time lapse should exist between the strong eye gaze because prolong eye contact is scary.
Blinking your eyes is normal – everyone does that. The trick is to notice if there is excessive blinking or blinking is infrequent. People blinking rapidly could mean they are in distress or are uncomfortable with you while infrequent blinking could mean that they are hiding or trying to contain their emotions.
This is perhaps one of the subtlest cues in body language, mainly because it is harder to see. Emotions can cause small changes in pupil size. For example, highly dilated eyes or bedroom eyes are taken to mean desire.
Look at the Mouth
Mouth expressions and movements are also part of reading body language. For example, pursed lips could mean disapproval, distaste or distrust. When someone is worried, anxious or stressed, he or she might start chewing on the lower lip. This is quite a common body language which all of us display at one time or another!
Covering the mouth
It is a polite thing to do when you are yawning or coughing, but if you see someone covering his mouth for nothing, it might be an attempt to cover a smirk or a smile during times of distress or perhaps a frown or disapproval for something. Smiling is one of the greatest body languages of all time, but not all smiles are genuine (bet you’ve already known that). There are “fake” smiles in which it is used to cover sarcasm or cynicism.
How many times have you seen someone putting on a rather sad face and then tell you that he or she is fine with a forced smile? It is true that there are some people born with a sad face or an angry face but you can usually see through the facial expressions to determine what each person is feeling. Emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger and surprise are just some examples.
Read the Arms and Legs
The way a person places his arms and legs are also indicative of what he feels. Crossing the arms can means defensiveness or closed, while open arms indicate openness or trying to be more commanding. Standing with the arms placed on the hips normally means ready and in control, but it can be aggressiveness too.
Observe the Gestures, But Note the Culture
Gestures are perhaps the most direct and obvious body language. Pointing, waving, and forming numerical numbers with your fingers are universal body language and easy to understand. However, certain gestures such as a “OK” sign or the “V” sign can mean different things in different countries. For example, the “V” sign is often a sign of victory or peace in some countries. In the UK and Australia, it is an offensive gesture if you do the V with the back of the hand facing outwards. In some parts of India, the V means you need to go to the toilet, urgently!
Check the Posture
The way we hold our bodies is also a sign of body language. Posture speaks volumes about how a person is feeling as well as his personality characteristics. It is largely differentiated in two postures – the open and closed. Open means keeping the middle part of the body open and exposed, indicating friendliness, openness and willingness. Close means keeping the body hidden by hunching forward and keeping the arms and legs crossed, indicating hostility, anxiety and unfriendliness.
Look at Personal Space
Personal space is important when we interact with others. It is important to respect the personal spaces of others while expecting others to respect our own. According to anthropologist Edward T. Hall, there are 4 different levels of social distance – the intimate, the personal, the social and the public. Each of these distances varies and indicates the different relationships each person has with the other.
And of course, there are some basic ways to check a person’s reaction to the conversation with this handy guide:
So next time, during a conversation, do consciously note your body language: you might be sending some signals without saying a word!
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