How to Read the Body Language
Body language is en element of our communication, certain non-verbal signals that reveal
actual emotions of the speaker. Many people want to know how to read body language, but it is not always as easy as it seems. Crossed arms or legs do not signal ’defense’ every time. Meaning of any nonverbal expression varies depending on several factors. In this article we’ll give you a few tips that will help you identify those factors.
What is the Baseline
Body language is closely related to the reactions to various stimuli. Individual gestures or other components of non-verbal communication reflect our underlying feelings and
attitudes. If we want to be able to detect those hidden feelings, we need to start by
learning how to gauge a person’s baseline body language. A baseline is a basic pattern of behavior exhibited under normal amounts of stress.
Changes in the Baseline
Establishing the baseline will help you determine normal speech patterns and gestures. Certain behaviours like finger tapping or sitting with your legs crossed may simply be within the person’s baseline and those gestures do not indicate changed emotional state.
However, when the finger tapping stops, or the position of the legs changes, it should be noted. This deviation from the baseline means that something has changed in the person’s mindset. It is up to us to notice this and to adequately assess this observation.
Orchestra of Signals
It is impossible to read the body language based on only one body signal. We need to consider an entire orchestra of several signals to make conclusions. When the person feels sad, face in’t the only place where the emotion is reflected. Sure, tears and trembling lips are a tell-tale sign, but notice that there are also other signs of sadness, like fallen shoulders and flat speech tone. This applies to other emotions, too. An angry person will speak with a higher pitch and anger will demonstrate itself through tension within a face and torso. While it may be tempting to pick apart signals one by one, it’s important to look at them in relation to spoken communication, your own emotional state, as well as
Context is an essential part of our everyday lives. It is the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event or situation. Notice how you behave differently in the company of buddies versus when you are having dinner with your grandparents, or, how you act when you are with someone that you have a crush on. This is a context that also affects our non-verbal communication.
Read yourself, too
Our inner state, which includes our emotional settings is reflected in our ability to read non- verbal communication. When we’re experiencing strong emotions like excitement, anger or fear, we may not be able to observe and receive non-verbal signals properly. Prejudices or expectations may overpower our perceptions and therefore our conclusions may be misleading.
Remember to listen
Understanding body language can go a long way toward helping you better communicate with others and interpreting what others might be trying to convey. It will also help you to project the image of yourself that you want to show others. But don’t get so caught up in trying to decode someone’s gestures that you forget to listen to what they say. You can’t get a complete picture based on the body language alone. When you put body language in the context of the surroundings and their words, you will get a lot more information than you would when considering either type of communication alone.