Communication and body language

By Yulia Pabat

Body language and facial expressions are important parts of communicating face to face. Over the past number of years scientists have done a lot more research about body language and facial expressions. Some researchers have told that people communicate the majority of information through body language rather than by speaking; for this reason, many people believe it is essential to learn to read body language accurately. It is a tricky subject, and researchers have not been able to determine whether or not body language is universal or if it varies across cultures. There are some explanations of the main components of body language.

Have you heard that a person’s eyes are the window to the soul? This seems true when we can see a person’s feelings by the way their eyes look. The way people move their eyes, eyebrows, lips and cheeks show emotions. Other facial movements such as winking and eye contact have also been shown to indicate emotions, intentions or level of confidence. Dr. Paul Eckman has shown that facial expressions are the same no matter where people are from. The way a European person’s face looks when he/she is angry is the same as an African person’s face when he/she is angry. Have you thought about how your face looks when you are angry? Your brows are probably drawn close together, your lips are pressed tightly together, your nostrils may be slightly flared etc. Have you noticed that other people look the same when they are angry?

Researchers have discovered that a sitting or standing posture also indicates emotions. For example, a person who has his arms or legs crossed and is jiggling his foot is feeling impatient or detached from a conversation, and if a person sits leaning forward and nods along with the other person talking that means that this person is feeling open and interested. Have you noticed these postures before? If you have not noticed sitting postures before, it’s interesting to start looking out for them. It can tell you a lot about the interest level of the people you talk to. Hand and finger gestures have different meanings depending on where they are used. For example, the famous thumbs up or “ok” gesture which is used in the US and many European countries is offensive in Bangladesh, Iran and Thailand. Researchers have noticed that how people hold their hands indicates emotion as someone wringing their hands is probably nervous or anxious.

Researchers still have not reached an agreement regarding how body language is learned or if some of it is known from birth. It is probably a good idea to be open to the fact that some body language is culturally determined to avoid misunderstandings and disagreements. If you have not thought much about your own body language, it is good to start noticing how you communicate your emotions nonverbally so when it is possible to control it, you can do it.


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