Body Language

Reading Body Language

Even when they don’t express their thoughts verbally, most people constantly throw off clues to what they’re thinking and feeling. Non-verbal messages communicated through the sender's body movements, facial expressions, vocal tone and volume, and other clues are collectively known as body language.

Body language isn’t always as clear as spoken language, but how it's interpreted can play a big role in how someone relates to and interacts with others. It's a silent orchestra: Microexpressions (brief displays of emotion that an individual tries to conceal), hand gestures, and posture register in the human brain almost immediately—even when someone is not consciously aware of them. These moments of recognition, however brief, can have long-lasting repercussions for how an individual interprets others’ motivation, mood, and openness, as well as how their own inner self is perceived. Unfortunately, certain mental health disorders—particularly neurodevelopmental disorders like autism—may make it more challenging to notice and respond to the messages conveyed by body language.

Reading People

Body language is a vital form of communication, but most of the time, one's own displays of body language—as well as their reading of others’—happen without conscious awareness. When someone is waiting for a blind date to arrive, for instance, they may nervously tap their foot without realizing that they're doing it. Similarly, when he or she shows up, the waiting party may not consciously perceive that their date appears closed-off, but their unconscious mind may pick up on crossed arms or an averted gaze. Luckily, with knowledge and a little practice, it is possible to exert some measure of control over one's own body language, and to become more skilled at reading that of others.

CONNECTED TOPICS

First Impressions, Unconscious

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