Body language: How to recognize the non verbal communication

Emoticons from Whatsapp, an example of body language used in digital communications

Maybe you have already heard about the term body language before. But even if you haven’t, I’m sure that you may have used and probably recognized body signals in other people when interacting with them. Body language is part of the communication process in which nonverbal signals are part of the message transmitted. It must not be confused with sign languages, which have their own codes, grammar and structure. Body language can have many interpretations depending on the situation and the message that the emitter wants to transmit and can also vary according to cultural aspects.

Body language is actually the popular name for a field of anthropology called kinesics, which studies the interpretation of body motion communication. These studies started during the 50s and popularized in the following decades.

In body language, quite often unconscious behaviours are expressed in terms of facial expressions, gestures, body position, eye movements and voice intonation for example. The combination of all these signals with the spoken words produce the whole message transmitted during a social interaction.

There are many types of body language. Facial expressions, for example, are often related to the expression of emotions (happiness, anger, disappointment, nostalgia, etc). A good example of how important this is for our communication is the use of emoticons in digital messages. Symbols like :-) and ;-) or :-(, are an easier way to show how we are feeling or what we meant in our messages.

Another important aspect in non-spoken communication is the body posture. A person can show interest or disapproval to what others do just by the way they look at them. The position of the body in relation to the other person can also represent if the person is open or not to the interlocutor. Someone really interested in a conversation, for example, will be generally facing the other person and looking attentively to his/her face.

Gestures represent a great part of the communication and it’s a born characteristic. Little babies before learning how to speak use their hands and fingers to point things and ask for something. In adults, the movements of arms and hands are generally particular characteristics of the individual, but can also be learned, for example when preparing for presentations. The frequency of use is also a cultural aspect, taking as an example the Italians who are well known for “speaking with their hands”.

Take advantage of the many aspects of non-verbal communications and improve your understanding of others and the way you interact with the world. You can learn a lot about unspoken messages when you pay attention to other people’s body language.