What are the basics of body language?

by John Roldan

Body language is driven largely by the subconscious mind. The majority of our movements are automatic.

The thinking behind our reactive gesturing is independent and parallel to what may be occupying our conscious, high functioning neocortex.

When there is disharmony between the body and the verbal content, we need to ask ourselves, ‘why?’

The foundation of our body language is evolutionary. It propelled our social interactions to facilitate more effective hunting, farming, courtship, and all things that communicated promotion and the absence of threats.

The Basics of Body Language

People tend to communicate — nonverbally — their automatic thinking and how they feel about situational factors with their body language.

Being mindful of a person’s body language helps raise our awareness and empathy.

These are 3 questions to ask ourselves when assessing a person’s body language:

1. What are their gestures suggesting?

In order to make sense of a person’s body language, we must see their gestures collectively.

2. Do the gestures match the verbal statements?

Being alert to incongruencies between the verbal and nonverbal message is key. Typically, our nonverbals act like support to our verbal statements. If they don’t, we need to ask ourselves ‘why?’.

3. Do the gestures fit the situation?

All behavior is subject to the context in which it is observed. The situational factors motivate our nonverbal statements like grammar to a verbal sentence.

Find a guide to reading body language and start learning the basics.

7 Universal Facial Expressions Everyone Makes

There are 42 muscles in our face that can make thousands of combinations. Many ofthese expressions are authentic and very difficult to fake.

The expression of the following emotions are made automatically all over the world. These expressions are embedded in our DNA’s ancestral memory. We all make these facial expressions with the same muscle configurations.

  1. Happiness
  2. Sadness
  3. Surprise
  4. Fear
  5. Anger
  6. Contempt
  7. Disgust

Pay concerted attention to your own automatic reactions. Also, be mindful of how you use your body when you respond to people.

Reacting and responding behaviors are, sometimes, driven by conflicting motivations.

After some time, you will notice and automatically assess the hidden meanings behind nonverbal behavior in others.

Eventually, you may come to rely on nonverbal cues to help you suss out the true feelings of anybody.

Getting good at reading body language starts with you. ​

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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