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  1. Expert Q&A With
  2. Article excerpt
  3. Coaching on Body Language and Presentation Skills Coaching - Body Language Expert, Patti Wood, MA
  4. Body Language Basics

When a lowering of the head is emphasised in conjunction with the eyes then this may indicate a sign of submission. A raising of the head from a lowered posture may indicate an increase in interest in what someone is saying. A tilting of the head to the side can be an expression of interest in what the other person is communicating. On this basis it may be a sign of curiosity, uncertainty or questioning.

If the head is propped up by the hand when the head is tilted then this may be a sign of thinking about something or, in terms of an ongoing conversation, disinterest. A head which is tilted forwards slightly whilst being pulled backwards may indicate being suspicious.

Expert Q&A With

Emotions can also be detected through body postures. Research has shown that body postures are more accurately recognised when an emotion is compared with a different or neutral emotion. Comparing this to a person feeling fearful: they would feel weak, submissive and their posture would display avoidance tendencies, [13] the opposite of an angry person.


Sitting or standing postures also indicate one's emotions. A person sitting till the back of their chair, leans forward with their head nodding along with the discussion implies that they are open, relaxed and generally ready to listen. On the other hand, a person who has their legs and arms crossed with the foot kicking slightly implies that they are feeling impatient and emotionally detached from the discussion.

In a standing discussion, a person stands with arms akimbo with feet pointed towards the speaker could suggest that they are attentive and is interested in the conversation. However, a small difference in this posture could mean a lot.

Article excerpt

Gestures are movements made with body parts example hands, arms, fingers, head, legs and they may be voluntary or involuntary. In a discussion, when one stands, sits or even walks with folded arms, it is normally not a welcoming gesture. It could mean that they have a closed mind and are most likely unwilling to listen to the speaker's viewpoint. Another type of arm gesture also includes an arm crossed over the other, demonstrating insecurity and a lack of confidence.

The shrug is a good example of a universal gesture that is used to show that a person doesn't understand what you are saying. Hand gestures often signify the state of well-being of the person making them. Relaxed hands indicate confidence and self-assurance, while clenched hands may be interpreted as signs of stress or anger. If a person is wringing their hands, this demonstrates nervousness and anxiety.

Finger gestures are also commonly used to exemplify one's speech as well as denote the state of well-being of the person making them. In certain cultures, pointing using one's index finger is deemed acceptable. Instead, they point with their thumbs.

Coaching on Body Language and Presentation Skills Coaching - Body Language Expert, Patti Wood, MA

But this same gesture is insulting in other countries like Iran, Bangladesh and Thailand, where it is the equivalent of showing the middle finger in the US. In most cultures the Head Nod is used to signify 'Yes' or agreement. It's a stunted form of bowing — the person symbolically goes to bow but stops short, resulting in a nod.

Bowing is a submissive gesture so the Head Nod shows we are going along with the other person's point of view. Research conducted with people who were born deaf and blind shows that they also use this gesture to signify 'Yes', so it appears to be an inborn gesture of submission. Handshakes are regular greeting rituals and commonly done on meeting, greeting, offering congratulations or after the completion of an agreement.

They usually indicate the level of confidence and emotion level in people. Handshakes are popular in the United States and are appropriate for use between men and women. However, in Muslim cultures, men may not shake hands or touch women in any way and vice versa.

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Likewise, in Hindu cultures, Hindu men may never shake hands with women. Instead, they greet women by placing their hands as if praying. A firm, friendly handshake has long been recommended in the business world as a way to make a good first impression, and the greeting is thought to date to ancient times as a way of showing a stranger you had no weapons.

Body language related to breathing and patterns of breathing can be indicative of a person's mood and state of mind; because of this, the relationship between body language and breathing is often considered in contexts such as business meetings and presentations. Generally, deeper breathing which uses the diaphragm and abdomen more is interpreted as conveying a relaxed and confident impression; by contrast, shallow, excessively rapid breathing is often interpreted as conveying a more nervous or anxious impression. Some business advisers, such as those who promote neuro-linguistic programming , recommend mirroring a person's breathing pattern in order to convey an impression of mutual understanding. Covering one's mouth suggests suppression of feeling and perhaps uncertainty. This could also mean that they are thinking hard and may be unsure of what to say next.

Unfortunately, many people send confusing or negative nonverbal signals without even knowing it. When this happens, both connection and trust are damaged. Oculesics, a subcategory of body language, is the study of eye movement, eye behavior, gaze, and eye-related nonverbal communication. As a social or behavioral science, oculesics is a form of nonverbal communication focusing on deriving meaning from eye behavior.

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For example, in traditional Anglo-Saxon culture, avoiding eye contact usually portrays a lack of confidence, certainty, or truthfulness. Haptics, a subcategory of Body Language, is the study of touching and how it is used in communication. Based on the Body Language Project, [23] touching is the most developed sense at birth and formulates our initial views of the world. Touching can be used to sooth, for amusement during play, to flirt, to express power and maintain bonds between people, such as with baby and mother. Touching can carry distinct emotions and also show the intensity of those emotions.

Touch absent of other cues can signal anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude and sympathy depending on the length and type of touching that is performed. Many factors also contribute to the meaning of touching such as the length of the touch and location on the body in which the touching takes place. Research has also shown that people can accurately decode distinct emotions by merely watching others communicate via touch.

Heslin outlines five haptic categories: [25]. Donald Walton [26] stated in his book that touching is the ultimate expression of closeness or confidence between two people, but not seen often in business or formal relationships. Touching stresses how special the message is that is being sent by the initiator.

Body Language Basics

A study by Jones and Yarbrough [27] regarded communication with touch as the most intimate and involving form which helps people to keep good relationships with others. For example, Jones and Yarbrough explained that strategic touching is a series of touching usually with an ulterior or hidden motive thus making them seem to be using touch as a game to get someone to do something for them.

Another notable area in the nonverbal world of body language is that of spatial relationships, which is also known as Proxemics. Introduced by Edward T. Hall in , proxemics is the study of measurable distances between people as they interact with one another. Hall also came up with four distinct zones in which most men operate: [30]. In addition to physical distance, the level of intimacy between conversants can be determined by "socio-petal socio-fugal axis", or the "angle formed by the axis of the conversants' shoulders".

For example, when people talk they like to face each other. If forced to sit side by side, their body language will try to compensate for this lack of eye-to-eye contact by leaning in shoulder-to-shoulder. It is important to note that as with other types of Body Language, proximity range varies with culture. Hall suggested that "physical contact between two people In Latin America , people who may be complete strangers may engage in very close contact.

They often greet one another by kissing on the cheeks. North Americans , on the other hand, prefer to shake hands. While they have made some physical contact with the shaking of the hand, they still maintain a certain amount of physical space between the other person. Particular tones of voice are linked with particular types of body language. For example, if someone's tone of voice conveys the impression that they are happy, then their body language will ordinarily convey a similar impression.

This influences their body language, and also their intra-abdominal pressure IAP which is a direct influence on, and discernible in, their tone of voice. For example, if a person is feeling confident, then their breathing pattern will deepen, their IAP will increase, and their tone of voice will sound fuller and stronger.