Introduction

In the Sixties, psychologists and experts in communication who worked together at the Mental Research Institute, in Palo Alto, California, began their studies starting from this observation on communication:

  • it is impossible to not communicate;
  • communication uses different registers at the same time and is not limited to the words being spoken;
  • communication must therefore be read at different levels contemporarily.

These statements are particularly true and verifiable when speaking about "non verbal" communication, meaning body language.

In fact, it is fairly easy, when we are in a "normal" mood, to control our language, to be careful about what we say, to speak or remain silent, or to use one word instead of another.

It is not as easy, however, when we are nervous, or when we are suffering from other strong emotions.

When this occurs, our real self, our true intentions are revealed, unconsciously, that is, not perceptively, in the gestures we make, and from how we behave.

Our body, often without us realizing it, and notwithstanding we try to consciously control ourselves, continuously transmits information about ourselves and our real feelings.

We will see therefore how, whoever knows how to read these messages will be able to understand what we are thinking and can verify whether what we are saying with words corresponds or not to our body language.

Body Language

By analyzing the vast number of messages our body transmits, we can divide them in different categories, according to their expressions:

  • body movement: gestures, hand movement, how we stand, posture (that is, the positions that our body takes), facial expressions, muscular contraction or distension, the speed or slowness of movement, repeated gestures;
  • the so-called para-lingual phenomena: laughter, crying, blinking, and yawning;
  • the way in which we speak, the speed or slowness of our speech, pauses, silence
  • involuntary physical phenomena, which can be visibly seen, like sudden sweating, shaking, redness, paleness, erections in men, goose bumps, hair standing up on end, hardened nipples, all the way to collapsing or fainting
  • involuntary physical phenomena which cannot be visibly seen, like the increase or decrease in blood pressure, the variation in heartbeats, substances like adrenaline that are emitted by our glands in front of particular situations, gastric hypersecretion
  • the famous heartburn
  • intestinal contractions (especially around the colon)
  • proxemia, that is, the distance we keep from other people or things
  • human communication that passes through smell or direct physical contact

All of these phenomena have been, and are, the object of study in the psychology field and studies on communication.

The use of one of these expressions or the combination of some of them, can express our true feelings for the situation we are going through.

Examples

  • if I am watching something that is interesting for me, chances are I am sitting straight in my chair, with my neck and back muscles tense, my eyes and ears open so as not to miss a single word
  • if on the other hand the show is boring, and I'm sick and tired of staying there and being bored, maybe I look around hoping to see something interesting, or I show my irritation by moving my legs, or making many small body movements
  • if I am really bored, my brain could drift off from reality, and my body could relax as much as the chair will allow and then...I can fall asleep
  • if, instead, I am at the game and my team scores a goal, it is easy to find me standing and yelling without my realizing it
  • if I am talking with friends, and I am interested in what is being talked about, I demonstrate my attention by standing with my body turned towards the person speaking, I look him in the face and lean forward
  • if I find myself looking out the window, or often looking at the clock, or I am turned away from the person talking, or I don't look his way, chances are that what is being said does not interest me, or that I'm not interested in the person speaking
  • during a business deal, businessmen work hard to give their interlocutors the idea that they are completely calm and confident; for this reason they modulate their voices in a "manly" manner, speaking slowly, they don't move their body much ..... as far as can be seen above the desk, but if a camera could film the person's legs and feet, then it would see repeated and nervous actions of the feet and ankles, muscular contractions along the legs and a series of other phenomena that would reveal the tension felt in that particular moment
  • I'm in a car with a friend who is driving dangerously, and I don't want to tell him that I'm afraid, but I suddenly realize that my knuckles have become white because I am gripping the door handle so hard, while I pretend nothing is wrong and talk normally
  • someone comes up to me who likes me while I don't like her, and I find myself with raised or tense shoulders like someone who does not want to be hugged
  • I'm nervous, waiting for a loved one to arrive, and who knows why I find myself at the window looking down into the street

There are many more examples; what you can do is to look at others differently; don't limit yourself to just listening to the words, but try to interpret the body language. Your ability to communicate and to understand communication could increase more than you ever imagined.