Body Language Part I: Language Correction Spot
CROSSED ARMS: THE VERDICT & COMMON LANGUAGE ERRORS
Thank you to all the commenters who posted their ideas & gave such a valuable insight into pan-continental body language interpretation! Language errors are corrected in bold.
“I fold my arms when listening to a long conversation...I also fold my arms to get comfy, or when I feel cold, and lastly, if I get cross with someone!”
- Hyoshil, UK
As a conversation progresses between two people, one person may start to dominate the exchange. After a while, the listener may begin to ‘switch off’, or lose interest, even against their best intentions to stay focused. A natural body response to this situation is for the listener to fold his or her arms in an attempt to ‘close down’ the long-winded speaker.
“There is no doubt about what it means: a person with folded arms shows that she feels a bit uncomfortable, a bit sceptical”
“..to become distant”
- Felicitas, Germany
“It’s very funny when you see someone trying to look interested in a conversation with all the right signs in the face, but the feet and arms are sending out other messages to the interlocutor!”
- Adriana, Brazil
No facial expressions can be interpreted in isolation from the signals given out by someone’s body language, and vice versa. For instance, someone may be nodding, leaning towards you, and doing everything they can to appear interested, but if their feet are pointing towards the nearest exit, you can be fairly sure that they can’t wait to get away!
“There’s no doubt that folded arms usually means ‘closed’…after long-term observation in business…in negotiating, customers often fold their arms before they say ‘no’.”
- Seaman, China
Salesmen are particularly attuned to the non-verbal signals that people give off. These signals would appear to be the same in China as in Britain: if the body language says ‘no’, it’s a fair bet that the customer’s mind is thinking the same thing!
“I fold my arms when I feel a bit awkward and have no idea where to place them. Folding my arms does make me feel more secure and less subconscious”.
- Silva, Taiwan
This is an interesting one. When we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation, perhaps when we’re standing alone and feel physically or psychologically exposed, a natural reaction is to want to protect ourselves in some way, hence we cross our arms.
But why do we cross our arms against our chest? Well, the most vulnerable part of the human body (apart from the head) is the torso, as it contains all of your vital organs: your heart, your lungs, your liver and so on. When you cross your arms, this is the area of the body you are subconsciously seeking to protect.
You could say that this reaction dates from the days when we, as early hunter-gatherer humans, were in constant danger of real physical harm, and needed to protect ourselves from stronger, more aggressive beings. If you observe carefully, the strongest party in an encounter will not usually cross his or her arms, as they feel less need to protect themselves.
What about when dominant people, such as the Prime Minister or the Head of State cross their arms? Some body language specialists would say that we also cross our arms to protect ourselves from ideas or suggestions that we don't like.
A POLITICIAN'S BODY LANGUAGE
Clearly, we can all train ourselves to give off strong, positive or aggressive body language, so any signals need to be taken in conjunction with the situation, what’s just been said, what the person is saying, and last but not least, the person’s facial expression.
More Body Language coming up soon!
Here is the most common error made in the posts:
• To cross YOUR arms
This phrasal verb needs a possessive pronoun before the object:
I crossed my arms
He crossed his arms
Lots of native English speakers spell this word incorrectly, too! To help you remember the spelling, I’d say that this word is, um, awkward to spell. It has 2 ‘w’s, one before the ‘k’ and one after it. It is also awkward and a little bit ugly to look at, with 3 spiky consonants in a row.
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