We can tell something about a person when we notice his or her body posture, the
way people hold themselves gives important information. For instance a lot of people
feeling down, will give that information by the way they hold their shoulders.
Not only do we see it in their body posture, shoulders sagging and head down, but also in the
way they have very little eyecontact. They say to the world in fact that
they are not interested in their environment nor the people in it.
Compare that to someone who walks straight and looks at the world and
immediately you will have another impression of how this person is feeling.
Our body posture often reflects quite well how we feel. Try walking
upright and looking around next time when you are feeling a bit low and you
will notice that such a simple thing already influences your mood
Interest en respect
Another feeling we can communicate with our body posture is one of interest
and respect for someone else. Turning your body to someone when they are
talking to you indicates that you are interested in hearing what they have
to say. It is an act of friendliness and respect and often rewards itself
when you get it back from the other person. A small effort in this way can
make the difference between being accepted by others or not.
Closed or open
A body posture can be closed or open. Someone who does not feel too
comfortable when they are with someone else will often assume a closed
position. He or she will possibly have crossed arms or legs or will hold an
object such as a bag in front. The bag as well as the crossed arms and legs
provide a bit of a barrier and protection for feeling vulnerable. Trust has
a lot to do with it and it is often natural to begin the contact with
someone you do not know with a bit of a closed body position until you have
established some level of trust and comfort that goes with that. Or in
other words have established a level of intimacy. Intimacy can be anything
from feeling good in the company of a person to being intimate physically.
There are all sorts of levels of intimacy, also described as feelings of
closeness. More about this when you read on. And remember, trust gets
established by our body language interactions as well as what we say.
Kinesica and NLP
For a while now the importance of body language has been recognized.
Nowadays there will not be a training for sales people and management in
which the study of body language is absent. In 1970 Julius Fast wrote his
famous book body language. In there he writes about the study of the
language of the body and called it: kinesica. More recent developed
theories on human functioning have given life to Neuro Linguistic
Programming. NLP uses body language as its main source of information to
tell more about the way we operate as people, by ourselves or when we are
together. For instance, we adjust our body position all the time to our
environment when we are in company or in a public place. It has been
researched that we have a higher success rate of getting our message across
to another when we take on a similar position as him/her. Unconsciously we
copy the others’ movements like crossing and uncrossing legs, turning our
bodies this way or that. In NLP this process is called modeling.
We are often not conscious of the kind of body language signals we send
out, yet unconsciously we are able to interpret the body language of
others. We rely on our intuitive feelings with this process of
interpreting. Movement also belongs in body language. All movements, in our
face, with our head, our legs, our feet and all body parts, our gestures,
combine to make our body language congruent.
Gestures, combinations of a series of smaller body movements, can be
learned. Take for instance the gesture when we want to say ok: our thumb
and index finger make a circle and our other fingers stretch upwards, while
our facial expression compliments what we are signing with this signal. It
is often funny how young children learn these signals and do not always get
them right. It can also be funny, as well as cause difficulties, when a
gesture means one thing in one culture and another thing in another
culture. So pay attention when and where you use them. These kind of
gestures have of course nothing to do with the learned sign language of
deaf people, even though that language is made up out of series of
gestures. Some of the principals of body language do not apply in the same
way for deaf people when they are sign-talking.
text: Frank van Marwijk.
translation: Josje v.d. Steen
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