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A Guide to Body Language in Interpersonal Communication

A Guide to Body Language in Interpersonal Communication

When you communicate, you use more than just your voice; in fact, a big part of the information you convey is through non-verbal communication – Body language. We’ve all heard of body language and have a basic understanding of what it is, but how can you interpret and use body language in your everyday conversations with other people? This article will act as a guide to help you in understanding body language and how we can use it in our daily life:

What is Body Language Communication?

Your body can reveal a lot about your true feelings, intentions and mood during a conversation. Whether you are aware of it or not, your mannerisms, behaviour, gestures and facial expressions can mirror exactly what you are feeling. Verbal and nonverbal cues, such as nods and facial expressions, are universal and can convey a wealth of information without even uttering a word. Learning to read body language, including negative body language like shaking their head, can help you accurately interpret the true feelings and intentions of others during a conversation.

How Do We Communicate Through Body Language?

There are many ways we communicate through body language. Understanding nonverbal cues is crucial for effective communication. By actively listening and paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal messages, you’re more likely to engage with others and convey your message effectively. Positive body language, like good posture and open gestures, can increase trust and convey understanding without words. Conversely, negative cues such as avoiding eye contact can hinder communication. Being aware of nonverbal communication can help you convey emotions and avoid misunderstandings, making it an essential skill for both personal and professional interactions.

Eye contact

How do you look at someone? How do you hold eye contact? How often do you blink? These non-verbal behaviours can reveal many emotions such as anger, sadness, excitement, boredom, fear and stress. Maintaining direct eye contact also tells the other person that you are still paying attention.

Body Movement and Gestures

You can tell a lot about someone from how they stand, sit, slouch, move their hands or feet. Body movement, gestures and posture can communicate so many different things during a conversation. For instance, when people use excessive hand gestures while arguing, it can reveal the level of their hostility, anger or nervousness. Similarly, crossed arms can indicate defensiveness or disagreement, adding another layer to their nonverbal communication. If someone has their arms crossed but they’re smiling, you need to determine if it is simply a comfortable position for them. One gesture equals one word in a sentence and a cluster of gestures gives us the whole sentence.

Facial Expressions

Normally, this nonverbal signal is spontaneous and natural; arching your eyebrows, widening your eyes or pursing your lips can tell a lot about how you feel. Many people can not control their facial expressions when they experience emotions such as shock, excitement or fear. Facial expressions are also one of the few forms of communication that is the same across most different cultures and are, therefore, universally understood.

Touch and Space

Physical contact can say a lot about your intentions and feelings. For example, a weak handshake can reveal to others that you lack confidence, whereas a tight grip of someone’s upper arm may reveal hostility or danger. In the same way, your proximity to someone may also tell many things during a conversation. If you are comfortable with someone, you might sit closely next to them, but you might feel naturally inclined to increase the social distance between you when you feel threatened.

Tone of Voice

How you speak is also important if you want to send the right message to others. When giving condolences, it would be inappropriate to talk loud and cheerfully, for example. Your tone and inflection must match the content of your message. Your tone of voice might also differ according to the social setting you are in, e.g. a funeral vs. the workplace. When speaking to colleagues, you might want to show professionalism, while you want to show empathy when talking to family members at a funeral. Knowing when to adjust your tone can require a lot of emotional intelligence.

The Importance of Body Language Interpersonal Skills and Nonverbal Communication

In some instances, what you say and communicate through your body language can be two different things. If your body language and words do not match, it can cause the listener to suspect that you are deceitful. However, if you have a good understanding of non-verbal communication, you can ensure that your spoken words match your actions, and consequently, you can build trust and strong connections with others.

Mastering your non-verbal communication skills requires full focus and understanding of the rapid back-and-forth flow of interpersonal communication. Understanding body language can help you develop a higher level of emotional awareness and become a more effective communicator. It is essential to remain present during a conversation, interpret non-verbal cues from others, and stay aware of your own actions during any social interaction.

View our executive and leadership presence workshop to enrich your understanding of body language in interpersonal communication. Master the art of non-verbal cues to build trust and connections effectively.

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