Being Aware Of Our Body Language In Communication Is Half The Battle

by Diane M. Hoffmann, ph.d./th.

Body language in communication can be demonstrated in an almost unlimited list of nonverbal and verbal activities that take place in our daily communication.

Researchers have shown that verbal and nonverbal communication is a lot more subtle and difficult to categorize as it was previously thought.

We can write up a popular list of body language communication elements such as verbal, which is from spoken words, and nonverbal that show up in facial expression, gesture, attitude, posture, behavior, action, tone of voice, personality traits, cultural innuendos, appearance, presentation, stress, emotion, style, etc.

And within this list of body language in communication are also further adjective elements such as: smiling, frowning, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, signals, waving, pointing, loudness, pitch, inflection, strength, weakness, enthusiasm, depression, hesitancy, boldness, interested, disinterested, defensive, offensive, expectations, interpretations, ethical, situational, perceptional, spatial, social, normal, abnormal, familiarity, unfamiliarity, formal, informal, casual, looks, stares, blinks, friendliness, hostility, touch, contact, deficiency, abundance, hairstyles, clothing, color, mood, etc.

There are experts who spend their whole career studying what each of these elements mean. And then books are written to tell the public about their outcome which is supposed to help us read one another better.

However caution is necessary. Too many people will read a book and begin a post-reading exaggerated scrutiny of others.

Just because a book says that "crossing the arms over the chest" is a sign of domineering or un-cooperation, it does not mean that everyone crossing his/her arms is expressing that feeling! 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. I have seen in meetings, some of the most positively responding people, listening intently to a presenter, being most cooperating and happy about the subject -- all with arms crossed over the chest!

A speaker's eyes moving around the room while talking is construed to mean several things. 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 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. But most times, people are just "searching" for their thoughts.

Neither does disconnecting eye contact with the listener necessarily mean the individual is hiding something from his listener -- or is lying. They may sometimes do that, but more often they don't. These conclusions are study results of behavioral extremes.

Rather than saying that the movements of the eyes in a certain way while speaking to another represent deception, teachers should say, "... it could mean deceiving or lying, but it usually means the person is 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! And she has been like that ever since her childhood under an oppressive up-bring.

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 reconditioning him/herself. Politicians or public relations and business people learn this as part of their training or experiences. But someone who does not work in a public environment may never have even heard of it!

Observe next time you hear people speak, most people's eyes do wander around. There is a higher percent of this taking place when the person speaks, then when the person listens. It is easier to focus the eyes on a person while listening because when we are speaking, we are searching for our thoughts, our ideas, our words, and our eyes will wander off of our listener's -- unless we are trained to keep them fixed on our audience. But that can be overdone sometimes too.

On television, it is difficult for inexperienced people to focus and keep their eyes directly on the camera -- again, unless they have been taught. If you are interviewed, it is important that you keep your eyes on the interviewer as the camera is on you, but when speaking to the audience, your eyes should be on the camera lens as you speak to the listeners.

This is not an article on the study in kinesic (body motion) and proxemic (use and perception of social and personal space) behavior. There are many good books available on the subject of nonverbal and body language. Your local librarian or book store will be able to direct you to helpful reading materials.

However this synopsis should bring the matter up to our attention for the awareness and improvement of our body language in communication./dmh

Article Copyright(c)Diane M. Hoffmann. You may print this article making sure to include the following bio without any changes.

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at http://contextual-communication-hrd.blogspot.com/.

Diane M. Hoffmann is the founder of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications and author of the 296-page printed book "Contextual Communication, Organization and Training". Diane also provides a 2-part e-book version of her printed book, "Improve Communication, Verbal and Nonverbal" and "Improve Communication, Organization and Training" as well as many free articles which can be seen at her blog at http://contextual-communication-hrd.blogspot.com/.

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