You confidently sit across a potential business partner or a prospective client. Lucky for you, you’re well versed in the art of nonverbal communication, quickly picking up on behavioral cues as to give you a transparent idea of the client’s likes and dislikes.
It is safe to say you have got your dinner guest figured out before the check reaches the table, all on account of your secret and most valued weapon- an awareness of nonverbal gestures and how they impart true emotion. Since you do not get a second chance to make a first impression, everything, from tonality to the way he or she takes their tea is a compelling conveyance of true character. 7 seconds of a subtle smile, unwavering eye contact, a ‘dead fish’ handshake, or a seductive stare is all it takes to make a statement.
Although seemingly trivial, each gesture creates a certain impression of what a person is like- all without the utterance of a single word. The pioneering theoretical work and experiments of UCLA Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Albert Mehrabian, have helped identify the nonverbal communication of likes and dislikes, power relations, discomforts and insecurities, and persuasion, through the fostering of two conclusions:
1- Words, tone of voice, and nonverbal behavior are the three determining factors in any act of face-to-face communication. Mehrabian’s studies on an individual’s likability have shown that words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking, derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like–dislike).
2- Non-verbal elements are a vital means of communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they are incongruent. In particular moments when words do not agree with the tone and nonverbal behavior, tonality and nonverbal cues take precedence and are more believed by other people.
Mirroring of Movement is an unconscious mimicking of body language that we do when we feel a bond with another person. It is also a time honored tactic of manipulation, which can create the impression that you agree with is being said. Useful during business deals, this tactic is a window into what the person is actually thinking about a proposition. Crossed arms and legs suggest a blocking of idea reception and a physical barrier that shows a lack of acceptance to what is being said, despite possible smiling and verbal agreement. Feet Tapping suggests nervousness and apprehension. Feet Pointing in someone’s particular direction insinuates feelings of affection toward that person.
Learning how to read body language is very much like learning how to understand a foreign language, that of the subconscious mind. From detecting lies to deciphering a fake smile from a real one, understanding nonverbal communication cues is key to unveiling true, raw emotion. While words can often be deceiving, our gestures, vocal tones, facial expressions, and posture are radical signals we emit into our surrounding environment that affect the way we are received by others. Through upholding an awareness of behavioral habits and nonverbal cues of both ourselves and others, we can better understand one another while getting our ideas across in an effectual manner.