Nonverbal communication expresses more than just words. It is by far the most important element of communication. If you are aware of nonverbal patterns, you can adjust your own behaviour and notice your projected attitude towards others.
In addition, you can observe employees better and understand what they really think, feel, or mean. This knowledge helps you to motivate employees to transform and appropriately adjust this in Human Resource policies in your organisation.
Body language and voice
Body language is about posture, sign language, expression and eye movement. It expresses feelings, connections and relationships. Hands, eyes, feet, mouth and voice all express communication. It can be stated that nonverbal communication is body language combined with voice volume, pitch and speech rate.
Every body movement and sound has its own meaning. Research has shown (Frank Oomkes, Nonverbal communication) that there are, for example, more than 23 different ways to use your eyebrows!
It is important to pay attention to the combination of voice and movement in the interpretation of nonverbal communication, instead of reviewing every movement separately.
Non-verbal signals are culture related and each culture has its own nonverbal language accompanied by posture and inflections. Every culture has a certain consistency in nonverbal communication, however, so everyone is unwittingly using many of the same signals.
Familiar nonverbal signals
Positive signs: friendly facial expression, leaning towards the other person, eye contact, touching, nodding, sitting opposite to the other person, good posture while speaking, breathing slowly and having a relaxed attitude.
Negative signals: arms and legs crossed, leaning back, frowning, avoid eye contact, looking around, head shaking, making fewer changes in postures, shallow breathing and tense posture.
Please find below an interpretation of body language:
|Curved back:||submissive, meek|
|Forward pressed shoulders:||fear|
|Upper body forward:||increased interest, impatient|
|Head up:||confident, determined, ready to act|
|Legs closed:||proper, formal, scared|
|Legs crossed:||self-assured, wanting security|
|Come closer:||affection, attack, dominant behaviour|
|Arms crossed chest:||defensive, tight, uncomfortable, self-defense|
|Arms hanging limp:||passive, submissive|
|Hands on hips:||targeted, drive for stability, superior, rigid recalcitrant|
|Rubbing hands:||smug, enjoyment|
|Hand to nose:||fear, uncertainty|
|Hands in pocket:||shy, uninterested|
|Stroke, smooth hair:||focused to get attention, narcissism|
|Ironing clothes with hands:||indecisive, timid and thoughtful|
|Constantly put on and off glasses:||rejection out of defence|
|Vertical forehead wrinkles:||focused, determined, willing to act|
|Horizontal forehead wrinkles:||noticing something, surprised, comprehending, helpless, arrogant|
|Closed mouth:||quiet, determined|
|Open mouth:||passive, stunned, disappointed|
|Eyes focused in space:||thoughtful, dismissive, self-centred|
The different meanings of body expression need to be seen as a pocket glossary.
We need to take into consideration more factors (eg. context, place, timing, etc.) to make sure we interpret the correct body language.
Good luck in all your meetings!
More Useful Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Body Language
- How to Read Body Language to Reveal the Underlying Truth in Almost Any Situation
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