Body Language: Form of Non-verbal Communication
- Body postures, gestures, facial expressions, grunts (para-linguistics), tone of voice, eye contact and eye movements etc form the body language.
- Using this kind of body language, one can express or communicate.
- Body language can be used in conjunction with verbal message or without it.
- One could use a single body language cue or use in concert with other body language cue(s).
- Body language may provide cues regarding one’s attitude or state of mind. It may indicate relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, boredom, attentiveness, aggression, to quote a few of the cues.
Average Percentage of Body Language in Communication
Based on certain researches:
Some people estimate it around 90% to 95%. Others estimate it at 60% to 70%.
It may not be wrong to conservatively estimate that at least some 50% of the meaning of any communication is understood from non-verbal cues or the body language. Even then it is pretty high percentage.
Therefore, understanding the body language for using it for one’s own communication or in understanding others’ communication is important.
If communication consists of 50% verbal and 50% non-verbal, the two together must be interpreted. At times the two components may be in harmony with each other (complementing each other) and at other times, the verbal communication may not be matched equally by the body language. It is important, then, to specifically interpret the body language.
Parts of the Body Language
You can send signals with individual parts of the body as well as in concert. Given below are the details of various parts of the body.
- Head: face, cheek, chin, mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, nose, eyes, eyebrow, forehead, hair.
- Arm: elbow, hand, finger.
- Torso: neck, shoulder, chest, back, belly, bottom, hips.
- Legs: thigh, knee, foot
Body Language: Kinesics and Proxemics
- Facial expressions: Smile, frown, narrowed eyes, transmitting friendliness, anger.
- Gestures: Pointing fingers, thumbs up sign, shakes of the head, transmitting an emphasizing focus, congratulations or disagreements.
- Movements: Quick pacing up and down, finger drumming, leisurely strolling, transmitting impatience, boredom or relaxation.
- Physical contact: Shaking hands, prodding with forefinger, clapping on the back, transmitting greetings, insistence or friendship.
- Positioning: Keeping a respectful distance, looking over someone’s shoulder, sitting close to someone, transmitting awareness of differing status, a close working relationship or relaxed mutual trust.
- Posture: Standing straight and erect, lounging, sitting hunched up, leaning forward, spreading oneself in a chair, transmitting alertness and care, self-confidence (or even over-confidence), nervousness.
- Para-linguistics: Feedback sounds of surprise or agreement, of annoyance or impatience- “uh-uh”, “whew”, “oops”, “tsk”, “tut-tut” etc.
Body Language and It’s Interpretation
- Generally, person crossing his arms across the chest can indicate that he is positioning an unconscious barrier between him and others. He is defensive.
- When situation is amicable, person crossing his arms across the chest can mean that he is thinking deeply about what is being discussed.
- But in a critical or confrontational situation, person crossing his arms across the chest can mean that he is expressing opposition, especially if he is leaning away.
- In addition to what is described in the earlier point, harsh or blank facial expression can indicate hostility.
- At times, crossed arms can be interpreted for submissiveness.
- Standing and rubbing hands together quickly can show anxiety.
- Standing and rubbing hands together slowly (in washing the hands motion) can state that I am through with it.
- Pulling right or left ear, putting finger inside the collar or pulling eye lid with finger can show disagreement with the other person.
- Speaking with palms upwards may mean open attitude or person is requesting help.
- Sitting at the desk, with elbows on the desk and hands being in steeple position looking like church tower with finger tips together can indicate keen listening.
- Seated, looking down with crossed legs may point to pensive mood.
- Hands on knees, leaning slightly forward and feet flat on the ground may indicate readiness or the person is about to respond.
- Palm on my face with one finger pointing towards ceiling can show that the person is immersed in deep thought.
- Hands supporting the chin and shoulders start to droop may be an indication of fatigue or feeling a bit depressed.
- Hands on hips may indicate impatience.
- Locking hands behind the back may indicate self-control.
- Locking hands behind head may indicate confidence.
- Sitting with a leg over the arm of the chair may be interpreted as indifference.
- Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying.
- Consistent eye contact can also mean that the other person does not trust the speaker enough to take his eyes off the speaker.
- Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity.
- Persons with anxiety disorders are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort.
- If a person is looking at you but is giving the arms-across-chest cue, it can indicate that something is bothering the person and that he wants to talk about it.
- While making direct eye contact a person is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it can indicate that his attention is elsewhere.
- When a person is not convinced by what someone is saying, his attention invariably wanders and the eyes will stare away for an extended period. Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze or by touching the ear or scratching the chin.
- Person looking down and picking up imaginary bits off the suit or clothes when someone is speaking with him can mean boredom, not listening or snobbery.
- Boredom is also indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused.
- Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact, such as standing and listening properly.
- Deceit or the act of withholding information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation.
- Excessive blinking is a well-known indicator of someone who is lying.
- Absence of blinking can also represent lying