Human communication is not as obvious as many might think. This is because we do not only communicate with words, although we may think so. Actually, there are many other elements that are involved in a communicative process. Did you know that, according to some studies, human communication is said to consist of 93% body language and only 7% words?
Very often we seem to underestimate the importance of this, but the largest part of the impression that you give to other people depends on your body language.
So what is body language? It is a form of communication that does not use words but consists of body posture, eye movement, gestures and facial expressions. In a certain sense, we “speak” with our body this type of non verbal communication and the people around us subconsciously interpret it. This type of language, with some exceptions of course, could be considered the only example of the world’s universal language, i.e. a language that all people all over the world can speak and understand without having studied it.
Think for example of the simple gesture of waving at someone. While it is true that there are places in the world where this gesture might be offensive to someone or to some cultural or religious group in particular, broadly speaking it is a gesture meaning, to some extent, “hey, I ‘m here, I recognized you”, or maybe “hi, I was waiting for you, welcome”. People instinctively understand it and react accordingly, i.e. they “mirror” the gesture, waving back. Another typical common gesture is pointing at someone. The simple act of pointing at oneself and saying one’s name aloud is universally understood.
So what are the most common gestures and what is the way we unconsciously interpret them?
Some gestures are very easy: what would you think of someone yawning during a meeting, or a lesson ;-), or drumming his or her fingers? If you think that he or she may be bored, your guess is correct! Let’s have a look at some more…
– when people cross their arms, they are closing themselves to others. Of course, some people may cross their arms as a habit, or they may wish to “hide” their body – they may be too fat, or don’t like their body, for whatever reason;
– if someone puts his or her arms behind his or her neck or head, they are very relaxed and feeling at ease. Anoher posture with the same meaning is when a person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles;
– when somebody’s hands rest on the hips, this usually means that they may be waiting, impatient or evaluating something they are looking at;
– if you comb your hair back with your fingers, you may like the person in front of you or disagree with him/her. You can also express disagreement simply raising your eyebrows.
– a fast tapping or movement of the foot will very often mean that a person is nervous, impatient or scared
Can you think of some more gestures whose meaning you instinctively recognize?