Body language and its importance

It is widely known now that humans are such complex beings and there is not only one way to understand human mind and behavior but rather lots of ways and dimensions that help us have a better understanding of how we function in general. However, in this essay I will be talking about a particular dimension which is Body language and its importance.

Body language refers to “the conscious and unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes and feelings are communicated”. While body language spectrum contains lots of variations and types, I will mention some of the most important ones and which are easier to detect on yourself or on others. Worth to mention also, is that people in general have more difficulties in detecting and controlling their own body language, while doing this in others appears to be easier but only for the detecting part.

You might well have heard the popular statistic that only seven percent of any message is conveyed through the words you choose. The other 93 percent is allegedly found in subtle clues like your tone of voice and body language. This claim stems from a study done by psychologist Albert Mehrabian in the late Sixties.

The different types of nonverbal communication or body language include:

Facial expressions. As we all know, the human face can generate countless emotions and expressions without saying a word. An important and very interesting fact is that the facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust are the same across cultures.

Body movement and posture. I want you to think about your perceptions and interpretations of people considering the way they walk, sit, stand, how they keep their hands and legs or the way they hold their head. Everything that we do is information for others and they will interpret it in order for them to gain understanding of your behavior.

Gestures. You may wave, point, beckon, or use your hands when arguing or speaking animatedly, often expressing yourself with gestures without thinking. However, the meaning of some gestures differs across cultures.

Eye contact. Eye contact is a very important type of nonverbal communication. The way you look at someone can show disgust, affection, fear and all the possible emotions. Also, you may have noticed how when you have a strong eye contact it maintains the flow of conversation while on the other hand when you don’t have eye contact it may be interpreted as lack of interest and response.

Touch. Think about the ways you have processed a weak handshake, a warm hug, a pat on the shoulder or a controlling grip on the arm.

Space. Each of us has some kinds of “limits” when it comes to physical space. It may have happened to you that you felt uncomfortable during a conversation because the other person was standing too close or invading your space. We all have this need for a personal physical space although that need varies depending on the culture, the situation and the closeness of the relationship.

Voice. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When you speak, people read your voice in addition to listening the words and the content of what you are saying. This includes: your timing and pace, how loud you speak, your tone, the sounds you make. Your tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, anger, affection or confidence.

Your nonverbal communication cues, the way you listen, look, move, and react, tell the person you’re communicating with whether or not you care, if you’re being truthful, and how well you’re listening. When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you’re saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don’t, they can generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.

If you want to become a better communicator, it’s important to become more sensitive not only to the body language and nonverbal cues of others, but also to your own. Body language plays a crucial role in your job interviews, careers, and everyday life. Paying attention to body language could make strong impacts on your behavior, which could help you achieve better results.

-Elda Ndoja

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