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Body Language in Nonverbal Communication
By []Dr. Diane Hoffmann
Nonverbal communication is the message that is transferred between persons by our
body language such as facial expressions, head movements, body posture and actions,
clothing, mannerism, personality behaviour, etc.
You probably heard that 55% of the total impact of our personal communication is
determined by our body language (nonverbal communication). Another 38% is
determines by the tone of our voice. And only 7% is determined by the words we use
(verbal communication).
Researchers have found that some specific acts in our body language have specific
For instance, head, facial movements and gestures give information about the type of
emotion being expressed; body position and tension reveal the intensity of the feeling.
One body language I notice a lot in people is the facial grimace when they listen to
someone labouring to express or explain something.
This is quite rude actually, it is as if they are saying, "Come on can't you tell it fluently",
"Why are you having such a hard time to talk", rather than just patiently waiting and
listening for the person to speak in the best way he/she can.
Another type of body language example is someone dozing off during a seminar
presentation; this says something about the feelings of that participant toward the
seminar, the speaker or the company -- either the presenter is boring, or the
participant is totally disinterested and disrespectful.
In all of this body language analysis, caution is necessary. Too many people will read a
book or study a course in body language and begin a post-study exaggerated scrutiny
of others.
Just because a book says that "crossing the arms over the chest" is a sign of
domineering or uncooperation, it does not mean that everyone taking that posture is
expressing that message. Not at all.
How many times have you done it and you were not being uncooperative. Often, this
posture is simply because one is tired of having his/her arms hang down the sides
during someone's long, drawn out speech! It is a comfortable position. I do it often
without any negative meaning whatsoever.
I have seen in meetings, some of the most positively responding people, listening
intently to a presenter, being most cooperating and happy about what the presenter
was saying or doing -- all with arms crossed over the chest!
Another common body language topic is about the speaker's eyes intermittently
moving around the room while talking. This is construed to mean several things. I've
even seen listeners look up to the ceiling because the speaker's eyes were focused
there momentarily.
Some studies have gone to the extent of saying that the direction of the eyes even tells
what information they are "fetching" where in the brain (i.e. eyes to the left, searching
in the right brain, eyes to the right, searching in the left, etc.).
I've seen people looking toward one corner of a room while speaking simply because
there happened to be a distraction there!
The right-brain/left-brain mechanism has a lot of truth to it, but sometimes "experts"
can get too carried away. Nobody understands everything about the brain yet.
Most times, people are just "searching" for their thoughts. Actually if you observe
carefully, you will notice that people disconnect eye contact intermittently while
talking, but focus steadfastly while listening. Most of us do that.
Neither does disconnecting eye contact with the listener necessarily mean the
individual is hiding something from his listener -- or lying as some "expert" will tell
you. They may sometimes do that, but more often they don't. These conclusions are
study results of behavioural extremes.
Rather than saying that the movement or disconnect of the eyes in a certain way while
speaking to another represents deception, teachers should say, "... it could mean
deceiving or lying, but it usually means the person is searching for words, may be shy
or uncomfortable in the presence of authority or a stranger, or simply is not aware of
a bad habit.
And there could be a whole list of other reasons. Shyness is often the cause of such
behaviour. My sweet little seventy-five year old mother is so shy that she can't even
look in the eyes of the cashier at the grocery store!
Someone may have never been taught how to communicate. Indeed, this habit is
eliminated after a person has been made aware of it and has worked at correcting it -in other words after conscientiously reconditioning him/herself.
Politicians or public relations people learn communication and body language as part
of their experience or training. I watch this all the time and find it most amazing how
some can stay the course of their eyes constant on the listener even while speaking.
Some are born or raised to be able to do it -- it's part of their personality type.
But someone who does not work in a public environment, has not been taught about
it, is not as skilled and may even never have heard of it! Make it a point to begin to
observe this, and then begin to train yourself. It's not easy. Or you might find that you
are doing quite well as you are. Then appreciate that fact and feel good about yourself.
This is not a lesson in kinesic (body motion) and proxemic (use and perception of
social and personal space) behaviour. Many good books are available on these
subjects. However this summary about body language should bring the matter up to
our attention for the purpose of awareness and improvement of our personal and
business communications./dmh
Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and the
web site which is the home of her
e-books "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve
Communication, Organization and Training", and her 296-page printed book
"Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". (You may print this article
making sure to include this bio without any changes.)
Article Source: [] Body Language in Nonverbal Communication