Non-Verbal Communication:  What We Can Learn from Body Language

Body Language


Non-Verbal Communication:  What We Can Learn from Body Language

There’s no doubt that communication is key in any relationship – whether it be with a spouse, child, friend or boss. But did you know that the way you communicate can be altered – and even improved – by your body language?

What is Body Language?

But what is body language, exactly? Body language includes all the nonverbal signals that we use to communicate, such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, and tone of voice. These signals can be used to send a wide range of messages, both positive and negative.  It can be used to emphasize or contradict the words we are saying, to give clues about our emotional state, and to build or damage trust in relationships.  It is important to keep in mind that some body language is universal and understood across cultures. Other gestures and movements are more culturally specific and may require a more nuanced understanding.

Nonverbal Communication

People communicate with one another all the time, and often without realizing it. Our body language is a huge part of the way we communicate, and it can say a lot about our mood, our feelings about someone else, our level of interest in something, and intentions in a given moment.  In fact, studies have shown that a majority of communication is nonverbal, which means our body language, eye contact and facial expressions can reveal a lot to others as well as communicate signals to ourselves about our emotional state.  By being aware of body language cues, we can understand ourselves and others better, and respond more effectively.

Our body language is expressed in different ways and often we might think of our posture, eye contact, gestures and facial expressions as prominent modes of communicating through our bodies.  Posture is the way we hold and position our bodies when we are standing or sitting. It can be used to convey a number of different messages, such as confidence or dominance. 

Gestures are any movements we make with our bodies, including the actions we do with our hands and arms when we’re speaking.  Gestures can be used to emphasize points, or to add visual interest to our conversations.  Facial expressions are the way we express our emotions through our faces. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of positive body language. It shows that you’re interested in what the other person is saying, and it helps to build trust.

Body Awareness

What message is my body sending?  There are various messages and clues that our arm and body positioning, intonation in our voice, eye contact and facial expressions can express at any given moment and it can be helpful to be aware of whether or not our body language is congruent with what we are experiencing internally.  There may be times when our body language suggests that we are angry or closed off, for instance when we have our arms crossed, when that may not be the exact feeling or mood we are intending to portray.  Often eye contact can be interpreted differently across cultures as a sign of one’s respect for another person or a sign that someone is lying or dishonest.

When we consider body language and our own mental mental health, it may be helpful to consider how our bodies naturally move and what might be helpful to us in making improvements for our well being.  There are studies that suggest our body posture can actually impact our mental state and thought processes.  It is recommended that we be mindful of our posture and make attempts to sit upright rather than slouched or hunched over, as the upright position connects us to feeling more confident.  Additionally, our posturing in how we walk can also impact our sense of energy.

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