top of page

Take the Hint: Body Language and Communication

Gatherings during the holidays are a great time to reconnect and renew relationships, particularly following the height of a pandemic.

But, it can also be a time when misunderstandings and messed up communications can sneak into the otherwise happy times. Therefore, it can help to learn how to understand each other better on a subconscious level.

We all know that words are not the only form of communication we use, in fact they account for around 30% of all the information in any given discourse.

Understanding one another often happens thanks to a nod, a smile or even just a look, and that makes complete sense when you think of our subconscious and how big of a role it actually plays in our lives.

Body language is incredibly useful because it shows what we are subconsciously feeling and thinking, this is exactly why most of us can innately "read" its basic forms.

This does not mean however that body language is easy or that everyone has a profound understanding of it.

And even if you do, it's still incredibly interesting - this is why I thought it would be helpful to explain it briefly.

Definition And Where It Comes From

Body language is non-verbal communication in the form of gestures, facial expressions, posture, eye and hand movement etc.

It can be voluntary (purposely mirroring body position, fake-smiling etc.) and involuntary (keeping your focus on a certain point, fidgeting to show a lack interest or nervousness etc.), however differentiating between the two can be difficult, especially if the person opposite you is good at micromanaging themselves.

Historically speaking, body language has been around since before we could form words - first because it happens on a level which we have no control over and second because we used to use it as a way to communicate with animals (think of making certain animals afraid of us while turning others into our companions).

Most scientists agree that it happens on a biological level and a good proof for that is researching people that were born blind and the fact that they still smile or frown in the same way we do.

This type of research eliminates the cultural aspect as a form of learning and leaves only genetic instincts as a source for body language.

Body Language In The World Today

In more recent times body language is still just as important if not more.

As we use more and more non direct forms of communication (phone calls, messages, social media, etc.) we get more disconnected from this form of expression - a phenomenon that has caused a lot of younger people to have trouble both in understanding their own body language and that of their companions.

However this does not mean that its importance is diminished or that we should try to avoid it.

In fact, the more we can understand our modern body language, the better conclusions we can draw for ourselves and our feelings.

A newly-learned bonus of reading body language also comes in jobs connected to reading people.

Our deeper understanding of it in roles connected with people is a huge help - think of interviewers and people working in the FBI as well as sellers of pretty much anything.

Interesting Examples

  1. Crossing arms in front of the chest - this means that the person is closing off from the conversation and doesn't want to share

  2. Talking with you hands open and palms pointing up - this means that the person is being honest and telling the truth

  3. Slightly tilting your head to the side - this shows interest in the conversation

  4. Smiling with eyes wrinkling - this is a genuine smile, it shows interest, emotion and overall positivity

  5. Copying body language - this usually happens involuntarily and if that's the case is a good sign, it shows agreement and warm feelings towards the other person

  6. Leaning in and keeping eye contact - this shows honest interest and possible desire for a deeper connection

Body language is something we all experience on a daily basis, yet we still don't understand it completely.

This proves both how complicated we actually are and how much we rely on our subconscious.

Learning how to read body language is incredibly valuable because it helps us in communicating better both with others and within ourselves.

It also provides insight on what the other person is actually thinking - some people even say it's as close as we're gonna get to mind reading, a superpower most people have dreamed of.

With all that in mind we doubt anyone would disagree when we say that body language is not only useful from a biological point of view, it is also incredibly interesting and provides insight in crucial moments of everyday life.

I’m Melanie Gallo, Ph.D., a WorkLife Psychology coach and writer specializing in personality and thinking habits. I help today’s leaders and their team members define their WorkLifeJoy, then help them discover why they don't have it, why they need it, how to get it, and how to keep it. Get in touch directly or download my free Coach2GO app today.


bottom of page