I have learned to depend more on what people do than what they say in response to a direct question, to pay close attention to that which cannot be consciously manipulated, and to look for patterns rather than content. --Edward T. Hall
Do you know? Most people believe that their body language does not reveal their innermost secrets! THEY ARE WRONG! Now, although each of us is unique, there are certain tendencies that we share. For instance, around the world, happiness is displayed with a smile :) and sadness usually with a frown :( These facial descriptions stem from hard wired impulses - signals sent directly from the brain to the facial muscles. Because of this, there is not much of an opportunity for individuals to alter their expression,
Each and every facial expression, even the smallest, reflects something about you and how you are feeling at any given moment. The language of the body not only supplements what we say but usually dominates our conversation with small gestures, eye movements, facial expressions and postural changes. For the most part, we know this language, many of us just don't know how to properly "speak" it. How many times have you audiologically heard one thing but visually "heard" another. How many times have you intuitively felt something was not in sync with the words and the body language?
Nonverbal communication /body language has been studied for years in the fields of psychology, anthropology, linguistics and sociology and the findings are amazing.
Did you know there is a specific spatial region for different settings? This is known as Proxemics, the study of the effects of spatial distance between persons interacting with each other, and of their orientation toward each other (Dorlands Medical Dictionary). Proxemics, derived from the Latin term Proximus meaning nearest; closer to any point of reference is how people communicate non-verbally through the use of territory and spatial relationships. Personal space, together with social perception, leads to an interesting dynamic in how space and its uses affect our behavior.
In mastering non-verbal communication, a person needs to be aware of the significance of specific body movements. Sometimes signals are distorted to the point where the initial intention or sentiment is not conveyed. When this happens, there is often a disruption of space which usually results in a breakdown of communication. One way to avoid this intrusion of territory and space is to identify the roles of the people in the relationship.
There are four boundaries that most people recognize: intimate, personal, social-consultant, and public.
Intimate space is considered 0-1 1/2 feet. This is the zone in which people are usually touching or can easily touch.
Personal space extends from 1 1/2 to 4 feet. This is within arms length. Usually the handshaking zone.
Social space generally extends from 4-10 feet. Most commonly this is experienced in everyday encounters or at business meetings.
Public space extends from 10 feet outwards. A familiar example would be a speaker in front of an audience at a rally.
Try it out sometime. Next time you are in a public place, take note of the zones around you and others. Notice, for instance, if you come very close to an acquaintance, do they recoil? Stand closer than normal to someone in a grocery store; what happens?
Some examples of body language that can SPEAK volumes.
What your body language says about you
From the moment you meet with a person, he/she forms an impression about you. Why? Because even when we are silent, we communicate.
Our movements, clothing and gestures all say something about us.
Realize that during our conversations, especially the first minute, only 7% of the first impression we give is via words. The remaining 93% will be based upon paralanguage; pitch, amplitude, rate, and voice quality of speech as well as body language.
So what skills can we bring to the table even if we are a nervous wreck?
Make an entrance
Walk into a room briskly and with purpose holding your head up high. For drama, pause momentarily at the door before entering.
If you are to remain standing, stand erect with excellent posture. If you are to be seated, sit up straight never slouch backwards. Leaning slightly inward when having a conversation will allow you to appear interested.
Windows of the soul
We all know eye contact is crucial - but too much of anything is no good. Gazing can be nice but outright staring can be insulting.
Try visualizing a triangle on the other person's face. Keeping the eyes and nose in this triangle you will always have the appropriate eye contact.
Smile - when genuine, most of us can have a GREAT smile. We can identify a smile more easily than any other expression, even from a distance of up to 300 feet. Physiologically, a smile tells our brains that we are safe, and that we can relax. When we smile at others, it sends a message of trust and sincerity. Thus, we're seen as open and approachable.
Some people shake hands when they first meet. a firm and friendly handshake is the best. Never use a wimpy handshake which can suggest a weak character. Some choose to kiss hello. Most women kiss once softly on the right cheek when greeting you hello or goodbye. Never kiss hello if you are not comfortable with it. There is nothing worse than being smacked in the face with hard lips from someone who is uncomfortable. Women will greet the men usually with a nod or handshake the first meeting then on subsequent meetings will sometimes kiss men on the cheek. Some do not actually kiss instead they touch cheeks and kiss into the air. Most people greet with a handshake However, it really boils down to what is more comfortable for you.
Gestures to add comfort
These should be open - try involving others in what you are saying. Keep palms up and open to suggest honesty and avoid pointing. Try mirroring (copying) some gestures of the person you are speaking to. Copying is a way for us to tell others that we are like them and that we are comfortable with them.
Dress to impress
Though not strictly body language, dress is a vital component in creating the overall image you project.The clothes you wear should complement you, not overpower you.
Look out for all the signs
Finally and probably most significantly, don't forget an interaction is a two-way street. Remember to read body language. If upon speaking your listener folds their arms, you may have said something they disagree with, so it may be pointless continuing your line of argument, even if the other person may be verbally agreeing with you.
Realize that every second counts.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Make sure that you spend some time working on your body language. It can make the difference between building a relationship or shutting a door.