Body language is an integral part of our professional communication.
A positive body language helps us in projecting ourselves in a more successful manner.
The study of body language is important for us as it alerts us to the inconsistencies, which exists between what one says and also what one conveys.
Because it is with the help of the micro and macro expressions of body language that we can comprehend the attitudes and emotions of people in dyadic as well as in interpersonal situations.
We can make out whether a particular individual is humble or arrogant or is condescending or too demanding etcetera and at the same time, whether one is talking under certain depression or is in angry mode whether one is impatient or indifferent etcetera.
So, these signals of body language help us to understand the true personality and the true intention of a person.
We can say that the body language alerts us to the possibilities of reading an individual in the same manner in which we can read a book and decipher its meaning.
We can find out the inconsistencies, which exists between the verbal statements and the nonverbal communication with the basis of the intonations, gestures, voice control etcetera and therefore, we understand the truth and then we can also provide the necessary feedback accordingly.
Definition of Body Language?
Hedwig Lewis has described body language as “the communication of personal feelings, emotions, attitudes and thoughts through body movements; gestures, postures, positions and distances either consciously or involuntarily, more often subconsciously and accompanied or unaccompanied by the spoken language”.
Body language or nonverbal aspects of communication can be used either in addition to words or even independent of words.
For example, in a crowded room we can try to attract the attention of a friend or a colleague by making certain gestures even though the voice is not audible.
At the same time, we find that when we look at the communication in its totality that is the words as well as the nonverbal aspects of communication, we can imagine the totality of the situation.
The complete picture emerges before us only when we combine the two.
It also provides the immediate feedback, for example, we are talking to a person and then looking at the expressions of that individual we can make out how much has been internalized by that person or whether some more clarifications are required about a particular aspect.
Significance of body language?
Professor Ray Birdwhistell and Mehrabian noted and recorded almost a million nonverbal cues and signals.
Albert Mehrabian at one moment had suggested that the total impact of a message is a combination of verbal content, paralanguage and body language.
He had put verbal content at 7%, paralanguage that is the tone of the voice intonations inflections etcetera, at 35% and body language that is gestures postures eye contact etcetera at 58%.
Components of Body Language?
The first aspect of body language which we are going to study is Proxemics.
Proxemics is a study which analyzes the communicator's sense of physical distance with the recipient in terms of signals and codes; that means, how much distance we want to keep between the two of us if it is a dyadic situation between us and the other people if it is an interpersonal group situation.
Now, at the same time we find that Proxemics does not only study the distance between the two or more interactants, it also looks at the arrangement of the space in different socio-cultural patterns.
2. Oculesics or Study of Eye Movements
Oculesics studies and analyzes the behaviour of the eyes.
The language of the eyes the movements of the eyes and whether it is different in a right-handed person and in a left-handed person.
So, these aspects are studied in Oculesics.
The different type of gazes and their interpretations in a professional world are important to understand for all of us.
The language of touch or let us say it also studies the absence of touch in those situations, where it matters it analyzes communication which is done through human touch and how this touch communicates our feelings and emotions whether it is socially appropriate or not.
In the visuals, you can look at how the same touch can convey different attitudes and emotions to people.
Kinesics studies body gestures and postures in the movement of the people particularly.
There are three aspects of Kinesics, which we shall study and these 3 aspects are known as Emblems, Illustrators and Affect Displays.
Emblems looks at the codified meanings of fixed symbols.
For example, the underwater swimmer's coat has a particular codified meaning or for example, or traffic signal person actions.
So, or the language of the deaf and the dumb.
So, these are emblems and therefore, because it is a codified study of fixed symbols in their meanings, we are not going to look at this aspect of kinesics.
We would focus on the next two aspects that is illustrators and affect displays of kinesics.
What exactly are?
These are those micro and macro signals which illustrate what we want to say.
For example, if I want to say yes I would not speak it out with a deadpan face and say ‘yes’, I would rather say ‘yes’ or I would not say ‘no’ in a deadpan manner I would say ‘no’.
So, you would find that these expressions are illustrators no human being can speak without introducing some component of body language in one’s communication.
It is true that those of us who are extroverts use body language in a much more relaxed manner our gestures and postures would be more expressive.
On the other hand a person who is shy and introvert would be using fewer gestures, but it is very strange to look at a person using a speech without illustrating it with body language.
Affect displays are also a type of illustrator. The only difference is that illustrators, illustrate the true intention of a person, but affect displays allow us to tell a lie.
Now there are certain social situations where a polite lie is perhaps expected.
You might have visited a friend and HIS MOTHER HAS PREPARED THE DINNER, which is not well prepared.
So, what do you say? “It’s tasty” no, you would say “oh! It’s so yummy it’s so tasty” but you say it with a false smile in order to communicate your happiness and at the same time in order to appreciate the true sentiments over which it has been served to you.
So, sometimes you would find that these polite lies are the requirements of society, these are affected displays. However, we cannot continuously use these affect displays to hide the true intention of our heart.
Very soon within a couple of seconds, the true intention comes out and therefore, affect displays can serve their purpose only for maybe a minute or two unless and until we are trained actors.
It is everything which is related to our voice except the meaning of the words.
We can pronounce the same word in order to convey different types of meanings.
Those of us who are in teaching know how to use it very effectively, if there is a latecomer in the class we may allow the latecomer, but we would allow it with very effective paralanguage to convey what exactly we feel about that particular person.
We can say ‘yes come in’ or ‘yes come in’ or ‘yes do come in’ (with different expressions).
So, you would find that the anger, the irony is being expressed over this variation of tone with a variation of inflections.
Sometimes it can be artificial, but most of the times it comes out naturally. Paralanguage is studies the voice codes and at the same time, it also studies the silences in those places, where the words should have been spoken.
It analyzes the role of time and communication.
We keep time in different ways we keep time as an individual, we keep time as a society we also have a cultural definition of time.
So, these aspects of time would be studied in Chronemics.
Chromatics is a study of colours particularly the social aspects and we find that colour is also used to communicate a particular type of massage. So, these aspects we would study under chromatics.
Olfactics is based on our sense of a smell.
A smell can be positive as well as a negative one.
It can be a personal choice, but more often now we find that it has become a social and cultural choice.
There are certain cultures in which it is almost compulsory to wear some type of a smell, there are certain cultures in which smells are particularly the smells we wear on our body are frowned upon.
So, it is a personal statement, but more so, it is also a social and professional statement. So, we would study it is significance under Olfactics.
Artifacts analyzed communicator’s sense of dressing style of putting makeup accessories on body etcetera which become a statement of personality and emotions.
This is not exactly a part of our body, but at the same time, we study it is a part of body language because like our body gestures and postures etcetera, it is an extension of what we want to say.
Importance of Nonverbal aspects of communication
So, nonverbal aspects of communication involve those nonverbal stimuli in a situation, where we not only look at the message which is being communicated through words, but we are also looking at what type of nonverbal aspects have been used by the source that is the sender as well as by the receiver or by the listener.
So, we would find that it can be intentional and it can also be unintentional though most of the time, it is unintentional.
Most of the times we find that a speaker are not even conscious of their own body language.
Sometimes when we want to use it with certain intention as we might do in our use of affect displays this particular aspect of kinesics, we find that we can control it in a very limited manner, we cannot control it for more than 2 minutes or maximum 3 minutes.
And that is why in most of the spoken competitions the time which we said is at least 3 minutes.
At the same time our body language is also a product of our society and culture.
The inter-cultural aspects of body language are so important that if we ignore them it can lead to certain misgivings and misunderstandings.
These aspects of cultural variations and differences would be a compulsory part of each of our discussion.
Scope and Relevance of Body Language
We would find that in our highly competitive professions body language has become more and more important.
As the nature and demands of different professions is growing, we find that our understanding of body language would help us in understanding the intentions and attitudes of the people and at the same time it would provide us a better orientation.
Whether it is related with patient counselling or physiotherapies or rehabilitation courses on nurses etcetera or whether it is the job of a caregiver of children with special needs or it is the job of a school teacher or people who are working as information analyst or criminologists or of police interrogators etcetera or practicing lawyers’ managers or even, us, simple university teachers.
So, you would find that an understanding of body language helps us in avoiding the misinterpretations and conflicts and antagonists in different situations.
We would be able to pass on our ideas with better confidence and with better effectiveness in any situation if we understand the significance of our own body language and at the same time we would emerge as a better listener also because we would be looking at not only the meaning which is conveyed through words but also the meaning which is conveyed through the nonverbal aspects of our communication.
So, in different work situations, we would find that an understanding of our body language is very important.
Contextualizing Body Language
Whereas it is important to understand body language, we find that contextualizing our body language is equally important.
The individual differences do exist. Our body language is not a duplicate of anyone else’s body language normally and at the same time, there are cultural differences also as we have referred to.
For example, in Japan listeners particularly women are taught to focus on a speaker’s neck in order to avoid eye contact.
In China as well as in the Middle East a one has to pay respect to the other person; the eye contact is normally avoided.
On the other hand, in the USA listeners are encouraged to have a direct eye contact and to gaze into the speaker’s eyes.
At the same time, we would find that there are certain cultural stereotypes which are based on gender differences.
In those cultures, when the gender equality is practically non-existent, we find that these stereotypes have a greater hold on people and in different situations a particularly in intercultural and interracial situations, these signals can often be misread.
It is therefore, particularly important for us to focus on the cultural differences, the gender stereotypes and the use of body language and the necessity of contextualizing our body language.
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