When it comes to communication, body language is equally as important as the words we say, if not more so. We all pick up on the body language of others without even consciously thinking about it, and they pick up on our body language, as well. UCLA research has shown that only 7% of communication is based on the actual words that are spoken. As for the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language. Both of these non-verbal forms of communication are important, but today we are focusing primarily on the latter.
Research has found that the upper echelons of top performers in various fields are full of people who are high in emotional intelligence. These people know the power of unspoken signals in communication, and they monitor body language accordingly. Let’s use what the research tells us to watch for these cues in ourselves and others:
- Crossed arms and legs signal resistance to what you are saying. Crossed arms and legs are physical barriers that suggest the other person is not open to what you’re saying. Even if they appear to be engaged in the conversation, body language tells another story. A recent research study sampling 2,000 negotiations showed that not a single one ended in an agreement when one of the parties had their legs crossed while negotiating. Psychologically, crossed legs or arms signal that a person is unconsciously blocked off from what is in front of them
- Real smiles crinkle the eyes. Despite what the lips indicate, genuine smiles reach the eyes, crinkling the skin to create crow’s feet around them. The next time you want to know if someone’s smile is genuine, look for crinkles at the corners of their eyes. If they are absent, that smile is likely lacking in authenticity.
- Mirroring body language is a good thing. Have you ever been in the presence of someone and noticed that every time you cross or uncross your legs, they did the same? Or perhaps they lean their head the same way as yours as you are talking? That’s actually a good sign. Mirroring body language is something we do unconsciously when we feel a bond with the other person. It’s a sign that the conversation is going well and that the other party is receptive to your message.
- Raised eyebrows signal discomfort. There are three main emotions that make your eyebrows go up: surprise, worry, and fear. Try raising your eyebrows when you’re having a relaxed casual conversation with a friend. It’s hard to do, isn’t it? If somebody who is talking to you raises their eyebrows and the topic isn’t one that would logically cause surprise, worry, or fear, there is something else going on.
- A clenched jaw signals stress. A clenched jaw, a tightened neck, or a furrowed brow are all signs of stress. Regardless of what the person is saying, these are signs of considerable discomfort. The conversation might be delving into something they’re anxious about, or their mind might be elsewhere and they’re focusing on the thing that’s stressing them out. The key is to watch for a mismatch between what the person says and what their tense body language is telling you.
Bringing It All Together
The bottom line is that you can learn a lot from body language, and that’s especially true when words and body language don’t match. Keep this in mind as you engage in important conversations with significant others, friends, family and business associates.
Until next time, peace.