“Fie, fie upon her!
There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip,
Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out
At every joint and motive of her body.”
– William Shakespeare
When a person tries to communicate, consciously or unconsciously his body gives out signals. For example when you shake hands with someone, when you look someone in the eye while talking, when you slouch low in your chair in a lecture, when you walk briskly and so on. Experts have studied these signals over a period of time and the circumstances under which these signals occur. They have come up with what is commonly referred to as “body language”.
The study of body language involves interpreting signals other than words that are used when a person communicates one on one. This would include body movements and posture, gestures, eye contact, touch, space and voice. Any one signal taken individually cannot be used to arrive at a definite conclusion. Several coherent signals, or absence of them, can help effectively study non verbal communication of others. Normally the body speaks with signals before the person communicates with actual words.
According to most sources and experts, 50-80% of one-to-one human communication is non verbal. Interpreting body language is not an exact science. In fact, reading broad signals of other humans comes naturally to most of us, though unconsciously. Here are some of the common examples of people using body language in daily life
- Mother guessing whether the crying baby needs food or water or nappy change or sleep
- Teacher trying to gauge if some student is struggling to understand the lesson
- Fruit vendor up selling or cross selling, depending on interest shown by the buyer
- Policeman interrogating a convict, trying to spot if he is telling the truth
- Politicians negotiating passing of a bill in the parliament
- Lawyer guessing which jury members will take his side
These examples show that body language is not only used in fancy boardrooms while negotiating deals or by educated salesmen to sell high end products but also by the common man in his everyday life. Understanding body language and using it consciously can help us communicate more clearly and effectively and also improve our understanding of people around us.
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