Body Language II
In the second episode of this series, we will be looking at some examples of commonly observed body language.
EXAMPLE 1: HANDS ON HIPS
What does this mean to you?
a) Nothing – her arms are probably tired and her hips are a good place to rest them
b) She’s trying to make herself look ‘bigger’ and more aggressive in response to a threatening situation
c) She’s showing off the waistline on her new jacket
EXAMPLE 2: CHIN STROKING
This picture has a number of possible interpretations. To start with, let’s look at the interplay between the two people.
On the left, we clearly have someone attempting an explanation, or giving a suggestion, shown by the upward-facing palm, ‘offering’ something (an idea) to the listener, just as you would offer something by holding it out in the palm of your hand.
On the right, we have the listener, who appears to be contemplating something. There are several interesting aspects to his body language:
a) Chin stroking
Often, this signal is interpreted as ‘I’m thinking, but I’m not sure’, or as a sign that the listener is evaluating something. This gesture is often used by people when they need more time to come to a decision.
b) Crossed arm
How open is the listener to the speaker’s ideas? The crossed arm suggests that he’s either feeling a bit vulnerable, or that he isn’t particularly open to the speaker’s ideas. Would you agree?
c) Feet pointing
The speaker’s feet are clearly pointing towards the listener, showing that all their attention is directed towards that person. On the other hand, the listener’s feet are pointing away, suggesting that he may have other, more important things to attend to, or perhaps would like to find a way to escape from the conversation.
EXAMPLE 3: NECK RUBBING
Here we have the same speakers (after a swift change of clothes!), captured 30 seconds later in the conversation.
Clearly, whatever the speaker on the left has just said was not received well by the listener, who looks away and rubs his neck. Perhaps she has just reminded him of something he’d rather not think about, or something that he’d forgotten. In this case, the literal interpretation would be ‘You’re a pain in the neck for mentioning that’. Or else, the listener has a genuine ache in his shoulder which needs the doctor’s attention.
OVER TO YOU
Although countless studies have been conducted into the interpretation of body language, it’s still not a science, and as such is open to debate. What do you think about the above interpretations? Do you agree? Is it the same in your country?
EPISODE 3: The fig leaf
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