All of us are trained in the use of speech, to communicate what we mean in a way that other people will understand. And most of the time, others understand what we mean. In a telephone conversation, we communicate through speech alone. In a face-to-face meeting, part of the communication is carried in a non-verbal form, what is often called “body language” or “body movement”. In the next paragraphs, I am going to show what are the positive and negative of “body language” and why it is important to us.
Body language and non-verbal communication play a major role in determining how effective we are as presenters. The cues and messages that we send out while we are speaking during our presentations can either reassure our audience and therefore reinforce our spoken message, or detract from our credibility and in so doing dramatically reduce our effectiveness.
For example, imagine that that you are watching through a window as someone does a presentation to a group of people in a room. You can’t actually hear the presenter’s voice, but he or she seems to be speaking clearly, is making eye contact with various people in the room, is emphasizing points using appropriate hand gestures, appears to be in command of the material, and exudes enthusiasm. Without even hearing what they are actually saying, your impression will be one of competence, sincerity; even leadership on the part of this presenter, and you will have made these determinations on the basis of body language alone.
On the other hand, imagine that you are watching under similar circumstances while a second person does a presentation. This time, you notice that the person avoids direct eye contact with their audience, keeps their hands in their pockets or at their sides, shifts their weight uncomfortably, and generally appears unenthusiastic about their topic. On the basis of their body language, your impression will be one of a lack of boredom on the part of the presenter.
Positive body language is generally quite reliable as an indicator of a person’s feelings. It signals interest in the other person and in the conversation. Positive body language has lot of terms and generally accepted meanings. Here are some of the terms I found and their meaning:
? Relaxed posture – Comfortably seated, relaxed breathing, no visible stiffness or abrupt movements. These indicate no major barriers to communication.
? Good eye contact – Looking in the other person’s eyes, particularly when they are speaking, indicates interest in that person. Proper eye contact involves looking away occasionally to avoid staring.
? Nodding agreement – When nods are used to punctuate key things the other person has said, they signal agreement, interest and understanding. However, continual unconscious bobbing of the head usually indicates that the listener is tuning out.
? Taking notes – Shows interest and involvement, particularly if notes are on what the other person is saying.
? Gesturing warmly – Talking with hands, particularly with palms open, indicates involvement in the conversation and openness to the other person.
For all of these positive gestures, moderation is the rule. I still remember when we did a group work in class, which is got turn to interview. Each person in our group uses different body language in order to make clarity of what we are going to say.
When positive gestures are exaggerated, they can become more negative than positive. Negative body language is somewhat less reliable as an indicator of the person’s comfort with the current conversation than positive body language. Actions that are generally considered negative may just be a matter of comfort for this person, may indicate that the person is tired, or may result from other matters that are weighing on this person’s mind.
? Hand on face – A hand over one’s mouth is a closed gesture. Leaning on one’s elbow with the chin in the hand can communicate boredom.
? Arms behind head, leaning back – In a well-established relationship this can be a relaxed gesture. In a new relationship, it is often used to express a desire for control or power.
? Yawning – Boredom, confusion. The other person is talking too much or in too much technical detail.
? Negative facial expressions – These include shaking head, eyes narrowed, scowling, frowning.
Body language is more meaningful when several expressions take place at the same time. For example, the combination of leaning forward, nodding and smiling is a strong indication of agreement and openness. Most meaningful is a matched set of gestures, which also agrees with what the person is saying.
As a rule of thumb, individual body positions or movements are frequently meaningless. Some people’s faces form a smile or a frown more naturally than a neutral expression. Some people lean on their hand all the time; others never do it. Some people can’t sit in a chair for more than a few minutes without crossing their arms; others sit erect with their hands at their sides.
What is meaningful, however, is a transition from one body position to another. If a person spends the entire meeting leaning forward, that may be just comfort. But if the same person starts out leaning back and then gradually moves forward as the meeting progress, that’s non-verbal communication.
Why is body language so important? There are two principal reasons. The first reason is you have probably heard many times that people remember more of what they see than what they hear. Long after a meeting or interview, we are likely to have forgotten the exact words someone used, but we may retain a vivid image of the same person’s facial expression. Second reason is through life experience we have learned, perhaps unconsciously, that people often lie with words. But facial expressions and other body language tend to be more honest. For example, I saw this movie in my other class, which is called Gesture. I noticed and I learned that one of the characters in the movie uses body language, which is scratching the nose in order to lie or get away to a crime. When a person’s words and body language are consistent, we believe that person. When their words and body language say different things, we tend to believe the body language and doubt the words. For example, you say to a friend, “How was your interview boss?” Your friend says. “O.K.” Then her smile vanishes and her hand tightens around the notebook she is carrying. Did your friend really do O.K. in that interview? Probably not, but she does not want to talk about her true feelings right now. When a person’s facial expression differs from their words, your experience tells you to go with the visual cues, not the words.
Body language or body movement is very important in our lives. We use in every single day in order to make clarity of words that we cannot express in language or speech. We must be aware that every body language we make could have different meaning with others.