Your Body Talks... Do You Know What It's Saying?
Gut feeling, intuition, hunches. Whatever we call it, we all have feelings about people we meet.
Part of the information we're taking in that leads to such conclusions is body language. Whether we realise it or not, we both read and speak it.
The old 7/38/55 rule from Dr Albert Mehrabian is often quoted.
In his studies of the 1960s, this UCLA professor deduced that in face-to-face communications, 7% of the message is conveyed through words, 38% through voice and 55% through the body.
In the 1970s, Australian researcher and author Allan Pease concluded that body accounted for up to a whopping 80%!
Even though some more recent research suggests that these percentages may be more equally distributed, the fact remains that our bodies most definitely talk.
In fact, at times, they downright scream.
Although it's tempting to witness one action, gesture or reaction and use that one thing to conclusively interpret someone's meaning, it is misleading to do so.
Non-verbal communication is best read when using what I call, the 4 Key Cs:
Context: Here's a news flash -- sometimes people cross their arms just because they’re cold.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that there closed to what you’re saying. Work versus social environment also affects how we interact with others.
Before you assess the body language, consider the context.
Culture: Most countries represent a mix of ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures.
Many of us celebrate that diversity.
We are also exposed to it, due to work or private life, as we travel to other countries.
A caution: gestures that are commonplace to us mean different things to others.
For example, the A-OK sign in Japan is a symbol for coin money and in parts of Germany is an obscene gesture.
Although eye contact is valued in mainstream North American culture, it is to be avoided in other cultures.
Different cultures, different meanings.
Clusters: As a rule of thumb, using clusters of three actions or gestures, versus just one, to suggest a certain meaning increases your chances of correctly interpreting the meaning.
Reading non-verbal communications correctly requires us to refrain from stereotyping or drawing conclusions until we have enough evidence.
And even at that, body language is just an indicator, simply one piece in the puzzle of understanding and reading each other correctly.
Calibration: We all have certain physical actions and idiosyncrasies.
Calibrating body signals against a certain individual allows for this fact.
Perhaps someone is blinking all the time, not because they are speaking a mistruth or don’t believe what you’re saying maybe they just have chronically itchy eyes.
Gestures depend on the person.
4 Cs of reading body language
Next time, before you draw conclusions from someone’s actions, consider the 4 Cs of reading body language.
When you do, chances are your gut feeling, intuition or hunch will be a more accurate one.
Copyright Marion Grobb Finkelstein (Canada). All rights reserved.
A communication and marketing specialist, Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps individuals and organisations excel in communications. Using keynotes, workshops and seminars, Marion enables individuals and organisations to better connect with clients, colleagues and those in their personal lives.
Subjects include, "Presenting and Public Speaking for Chickens", "Ohmahgawd, the Media's Here!", and "Communicate to Connect". Often teaming up with her sister Joan Grobb Augustino, a personality expert, Marion offers animated and engaging presentations.
With over two decades of experience in the communications field, Marion Grobb Finkelstein offers tried and true, practical solutions to communication challenges.
Having served as a Director of Communications for airports across Canada, for two national museums, and currently, for a military-related agency, Marion combines academic experience with hands-on know-how.
She speaks from personal experience and welcomes your communication questions and comments.
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