There are no nonverbal communication tricks. Business deals do not occur because of the way a person posed themselves during the negotiation. Women do not marry men because they have good posture.
Men are not afraid of other men because of their manly walk. This article is not going to give you a series of cheap tricks. This article will help you identify and manage your nonverbal communication by giving you real world examples and advice.
The aim is to help ensure your body expresses the same sentiments that your words do.
Table of Contents
- A Classic Example Of Unintentional Nonverbal Communication
- The Body Language Paradox
- Reading Body Language Is Not The Same As Controlling Your Own
- Consider Your Body Language When Under The Influence of Emotions
- Take Video Footage Of Yourself To See What Your Non Verbal Communication Is Saying
- The Chinese Shuffle Dance
- What Does Personal Space Boundaries Have To Do With Your Nonverbal Communication?
- Conclusion: Self Observation And Self Criticism Is The Key
A Classic Example Of Unintentional Nonverbal Communication
Have you ever heard of RBF (Resting Bitch Face)? Some people have the type of face that looks angry or moody almost all the time. Others will often tell them to cheer up when they are not upset. Such a person is giving out a very negative and noticeable nonverbal message, and the sad fact is that they are doing it by accident.
The fact is that many people do a very similar thing with their nonverbal communication, and they do it all the time without realizing. There are times when your body or your face tells others a story that may or may not represent the way you really feel.
The Body Language Paradox
This article will help you understand different types of nonverbal communication so that you may adjust your nonverbal communication so that it matches your verbal communication. However, sometimes your nonverbal communication is telling the truth when your words are lying, and that is where an odd paradox takes place. If you intend to lie with your words, then you have to learn to control and manage your nonverbal communication so that your body lies when your words lie. However, there are times when your body makes you look like you are lying when you are not. This is the type of nonverbal communication that you should try to understand and control.
Reading Body Language Is Not The Same As Controlling Your Own
There is plenty in this article (some of which has been mentioned already) that goes against what many believe to be “Conventional wisdom” and “Common knowledge.” If you take the time to observe, and if you take the time to apply logic to the arguments made in this article, then you will understand and start to see how they are correct.
Here is another argument that non-objective and slow thinking people are unable to grasp. “Reading body language is not the same as controlling your own.” For example, according to the conventional wisdom of Forbes, if a person has a weak handshake, then that person has a severe lack of authority, confidence, and will.
However, you cannot apply the same “Conventional wisdom” when you are reading body language. A person may have plenty of authority, will and confidence, but that person may have a weak handshake because:
- That person may be ill or have problems with his or her hands
- He or she is trying to protect his or her hands for a trade (such as writing)
- That person may have bruised or damaged hands
- Such a person may wish to present a less threatening image
Fighters typically have a weak handshake up to four weeks after a fight because their hands are tender, but you could hardly call such a person confident or weak willed. Projecting nonverbal communication and reading nonverbal communication are two very different things.
With regards to your own body language, if you are a confident person with oodles of authority, then consider giving a firmer (not too firm) handshake to be sure your body communications your authority and confidence. Too firm will make you seem overly aggressive or even insecure. Some people will purposefully offer a weak handshake so that they appear less intimidating to somebody else. You probably do a similar thing without thinking about it when you shake hands with a very young person.
Consider Your Body Language When Under The Influence of Emotions
Former US President Bill Clinton claimed he used to video record himself in different scenarios so that he could watch his body language. This was back in the days when essay writers used typewriters and camcorders were the size of toaster ovens. Clinton was certainly the king of non-verbal communication in his time, so consider having yourself recorded so that you may study your own body language.
One of the things that Clinton says he noticed about his younger self was that he used to draw his chin in quite a bit. Typically, a person draws in their chin if they are unconfident, feeling threatened or feeling vulnerable. Look at how Bill Clinton’s chin is drawn in and his head is slightly down in the image below. It is almost as if he is protecting his chin from an invisible enemy.
You will be hard pressed to find a picture of Bill Clinton as a full-grown man without his big old chin sticking out. It suggests to the world that he is confident and that he doesn’t feel vulnerable. Quite a few political leaders tend to adopt this technique.
In fact, the only time you see him with his chin drawn in is during the time when he was caught cheating on his wife. Maybe he kept drawing in his chin so that he appeared vulnerable, or maybe he was resorting to old childhood habits because he felt vulnerable.
Take Video Footage Of Yourself To See What Your Non Verbal Communication Is Saying
Reading non-verbal communication is very different from altering and managing your own. However, for the sake of giving examples, let’s examine the picture below and figure out what each person’s nonverbal communication is “suggesting.” The word “Suggesting” is used because reading non-verbal communication only hints at what a person feels or thinks, it doesn’t prove anything.
The man on the left has his hands on his hips, which suggests he is projecting his authority and that he may even be angry. British police will typically put their hands up when they are angry or are projecting their authority, whereas American police put their hands on their hips. Some psychologists believe that American cops adopt this pose because it allows their hands to remain near their gun.
The man in the yellow has his hands on his hips which suggests he may be angry or projecting his authority. The man who is interviewing the guy in yellow appears to be threatened by the man in yellow. That is what the interviewer’s nonverbal communication is suggesting. Obviously, we are only reading his body language and we may be wrong. For example, the interviewer may have taken that position because he intends to pull off a roundhouse kick in a few seconds.
The interviewer is stood almost as far back as he can in order to protect himself from any threat. His arm is almost fully stretched out with the microphone. He also has his body turned to the side, which men tend to do in order to protect their groin. He has his hand in his pocket to almost try and prove casual and relaxed, but even a novice observer can see he isn’t relaxed, (the reporter isn’t fooling anybody with his hand “casually” stuffed into his pocket). Finally, the reporter’s chin is drawn back to protect himself from an uppercut. Compare that reporter above to the reporter below, and you can see a world of difference.
The male reporter is stood close to the man he is interviewing, he is facing him, and he has his chin pushed so far out that you could hang your washing off it. This reporter doesn’t appear threatened. The reporter may be deathly afraid of the man he is interviewing, but his body language and non-verbal communication doesn’t show it.
The Chinese Shuffle Dance
If you are ever lucky enough to attend a conference event between a western company and a Chinese company, you will see what I call the “Chinese shuffle dance.” Most Chinese people who live in China have very small personal-space boundaries. In other words, they stand very close when they talk.
Westerners tend to need more personal space when they talk. What happens when you put these two groups together is that Chinese people keep moving closer as they talk, and westerners keep backing off.
Record video footage of the conference and speed it up, and you see a bunch of different groups who appear to be dancing around the room. You may even see Chinese people backing westerners up into a corner.
What Does Personal Space Boundaries Have To Do With Your Nonverbal Communication?
Your personal-space boundaries and your reaction to your personal-space boundaries offer a big non-verbal communication. Get close with a stranger, and some will feel uncomfortable. Stand too far away, and the other person may feel rejected. You also need to consider the fact that other people’s actions will directly affect your non-verbal communication. For example, if another person moves close, you may back off. If another person moves closer, your body language may become guarded. Nonverbal communication is just as much about reaction as it is about action.
Conclusion: Self Observation And Self Criticism Is The Key
The self-image you have right now is not the self-image you are projecting. Self-analysis, self-observation and self-criticism is the key, and taking videos and photos of yourself is a good place to start. You can start with the most basic elements if you wish, such as if you slouch or hunch over. Take the time to fix each issue and move on to the next. A little trial and error testing will help too, where you test and observe to see how your changes in non-verbal communication affect your interpersonal interactions.