Body language expresses the nonverbal signals we use to communicate. According to experts, these signals form a large part of the daily communication process between humans.
Whether it is through body movements or facial expressions, there is a large amount of information that is communicated through non-verbal language, with body language making up 60 to 65% of the total communication process!
There is no doubt that learning the secrets of body language is very important, but it is worth noting first that it is necessary to pay attention to other signs when trying to study body languages, such as context or surrounding circumstances, for example.
Oftentimes you should view these signs as a whole and avoid interpreting them separately. how do you do that?
Well, that’s exactly what we’ll find out next! When trying to understand and interpret body language, be sure to focus on the following:
First, facial expressions
Imagine for a moment what a person could communicate to others through their facial expressions. A smile, for example, expresses approval and happiness. On the other hand, the frown indicates opposition or unhappiness.
In many cases, we find that facial expressions show the individual’s true feelings about a specific situation or event. At the time when you say, for example, that you are fine and very well, your facial expressions may show otherwise, and reveal the truth of your feelings.
Examples of feelings that can be expressed through facial expressions, we mention the following:
_ Happiness _ contempt
_ Sorrow _ anger
_ surprise _ disgust
_ the fear _ confusion
_ Enthusiasm and excitement _ the desire
_ Plus a lot of other feelings.
Facial expressions are important because they help determine whether or not we should trust that person. Because these expressions cannot lie or show the opposite of what the owner feels.
Studies on facial expressions and their interpretation
_ A study published in the Oxford Academic Journal showed that facial expressions that included slightly raised eyebrows and a slight smile express friendliness and confidence.
_ Researcher Paul Ekman has proven through his global research a wide range of facial expressions associated with specific emotions such as happiness, anger, fear, surprise, and sadness, as these feelings are expressed in one expression that is standardized all over the world.
_ In another research published on the website Plos One, it was found that judgments can be made about how smart people are based on their faces and expressions. People with long faces and prominent noses are often seen as more intelligent, as are those who are always smiling.
How do you understand different facial expressions?
Here is an explanation of various facial expressions and how to analyze them to understand the feelings of the person in front of you:
The eyes are said to be the mirror of the soul, as they reveal much of what a person thinks or feels.
When you find yourself in dialogue with someone, noticing and tracking the movement of the eyes is natural and even important in the communication process.
Some of the normal things you can notice when reading the eyes include how much eye contact the person in front of you makes. Or the number of times he blinks, or eyes sparkle while talking.
Pay attention to the following signs when assessing the eye language of the person in front of you:
When someone looks at you directly when you are talking to them. This indicates that he is interested in what you say and is attentive to what you say.
On the other hand, staring and constant eye contact may make the other party feel threatened and uncomfortable.
Breaking eye contact frequently and looking in other directions may indicate that this person is not interested in what you are saying, is uncomfortable, or is trying to hide their true feelings.
Eye blinking is undoubtedly normal, but you need to pay attention to whether the person blinks a lot or not:
If the person in front of you is blinking quickly, this indicates tension and discomfort.
If the person does not blink often, or frequently, this may indicate that he is deliberately trying to control the movement of his eyes for some reason, such as to hide a certain fact, or to show a feeling different from what he really feels.
Pupil size is a very subtle signal in communication that often goes unnoticed. While lighting mainly affects the size of the pupil, some emotions may also change it.
In general, very wide eyes usually indicate the owner’s interest in what is going on around him and the person in front of him.
2- the mouth
Mouth expressions and lip movement can also play an important role in reading body language. Biting the lips, for example, may indicate stress, fear, or anxiety.
As for the smile, it may be sincere expressing happiness and joy, or it may be used to express artificial happiness, irony, or sarcasm.
Pay attention to the following lip movements when reading body language:
_ Plumped lips are a sign of aversion, rejection, or mistrust.
_ Slight changes in the lips may also indicate a person’s true feelings
_ Biting the lips indicates anxiety and tension.
_ When the sides of the lips are slightly raised, it indicates that the person is optimistic and happy.
_ Covering the mouth with the palm may indicate the person’s desire to hide his reaction or his striving not to show a mocking smile.
_ When the sides of the lips are facing downwards, this is a sign of sadness and disapproval.
_ Covering the mouth may also be polite, in case the person is coughing or yawning.
Body gestures are one of the most obvious signs of body language. Waving hands, pointing, and using fingers to express numerical quantities are all clear and easy-to-understand gestures.
But the meanings of physical gestures may differ in different cultures. A thumbs-up (denoting admiration) or a peace sign using the index and middle fingers used in one country may have a different and even offensive meaning in other countries.
Here are pictures of some of the most famous gestures around the world, and what each of them means:
A clenched fist often expresses anger, and can sometimes indicate solidarity with others.
The hand gestures shown in the image below express approval when the thumb is up, and disapproval when the thumb is down.
Hand movement in this way means in some countries that everything is fine. Whereas in other countries it may mean that you are not worth anything. And often used in Arab countries to threaten and intimidation.
Third: the body language of the hands and feet
Hands and feet can go a long way in communicating a lot of non-verbal information. It may often express the extent of a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
When trying to analyze someone’s body language, pay attention to the following signs in the movement of both hands and feet, and consider their meaning:
_ Clapped arms may indicate that the person is closed in on themselves, is on the defensive, or that they want to protect themselves from others.
_ A standing position with the hands on the hips indicates that the person is ready and in control of the situation. It may also sometimes express aggression.
_ Holding hands and placing them behind the back, indicates that the person is feeling bored, anxious or perhaps angry.
_ Constant tapping of the fingers may indicate that the person is bored, or impatient, and may also indicate a feeling of frustration.
_ Crossed legs indicate that the person is feeling closed or in need of some privacy.
Fourth: the position of the body
Posture or posture in English refers to an individual’s general appearance or the general external appearance of an individual’s body.
General body posture can provide a lot of important information, not only about how an individual is feeling, but about their personality traits as well. It can determine whether an individual is self-confident, open-minded or introverted, suffering from low self-esteem.
Sitting up straight may indicate that a person is focusing their full attention on what is happening around them. While sitting with the body curved may indicate that this person is feeling bored or apathy.
It includes keeping the torso open and exposed, as this position indicates openness, friendliness, and a willingness to converse or talk.
It is when the torso is hidden by bending forward or keeping the arms and legs together. This position often indicates aggression, lack of affection or feelings of anxiety.
Fifth: personal space
Have you ever heard someone talk about their need for personal space? Or have you ever suddenly felt uncomfortable just because someone was standing so close to you…closer than they should?
There is, in fact, a science that studies the distances between individuals during the process of communication, and looks at the cultural differences that affect these distances. Where this science is called “Proxemics” or prognosis.
The term was first coined by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, who posited that, just as body language can provide a lot of information, so can distance between people express more nonverbal thoughts and feelings.
Edward Hull explained 4 types of social distances that may appear during people’s communication, and explain the meaning of each as follows:
1- Intimate Distance
Where the distance between the two ends between 6-18 inches (approximately 15-45 cm). It indicates a great relationship of closeness between individuals and a great sense of comfort between them. This type of closeness occurs during close contact, such as a whisper or a hug.
2- Personal Distance
They range between 1.5-4 feet (approximately half a meter to one meter). It appears in particular among members of the same family or close friends.
The closer the individuals were to each other, the more comfortable they were with each other, and the degree of closeness and intimacy in their relationship.
3- Social distance
They are about 4-12 feet (about 1 to 3 meters) long, which we often observe among people and their acquaintances.
Stand close to co-workers that you see several times a week, about one meter apart.
In the case of dealing with individuals with whom you have a light acquaintance, such as a client or a customer that you meet once a month, in this case you can stand a little more distance (two or three meters).
This social distance is exactly the distance that is currently recommended during the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, which is commonly referred to as “social distancing”.
4- Public Distance
The general distance is between 12-25 feet (3-7 metres), which is the distance we usually find during public speaking situations, or between the teacher and his students, or during a presentation presented by a department head to his colleagues in a particular company.
It is important to note that the value of personal space varies from culture to culture. Since people from Latin America feel more comfortable standing at close distances from each other, we find that North Americans need more personal distance.
what about you? Do you find physical closeness common in your culture, or do members of your community prefer communication with greater distance between them?
Full understanding of body language requires a lot of effort, and requires high analytical and deductive skills. It is not possible to interpret only one physical signal in isolation from the rest of the signs and gestures.
In order to understand other people’s body language, you must first understand facial expressions, and interpret them based on the rest of the body’s gestures, body position, and the amount of personal distance between you and them.
It is an integrated process that you have to analyze as a whole and think about it while also taking into account the aspect of verbal communication, and it takes a lot of practice and practice before you can master it completely.