November 7, 2010
Pascal lenk, 24
Eduard Rosenthal strasse
Body Language – technically known as kinesics (pronounced ‘kineesicks’) – is a significant aspect of modern communications and relationships.
Body Language is therefore very relevant to management and leadership, and to all aspects of work and business where communications can be seen and physically observed among people.
Body language is also very relevant to relationships outside of work, for example in dating and mating, and in families and parenting.
Communication includes listening. In terms of observable body language, non-verbal (non-spoken) signals are being exchanged whether these signals are accompanied by spoken words or not.
Body language goes both ways:
- Your own body language reveals your feelings and meanings to others.
- Other people’s body language reveals their feelings and meanings to you.
The sending and receiving of body language signals happens on conscious and unconscious levels.
Our eyes are a very significant aspect of the non-verbal signals we send to others.
To a lesser or greater extent we all ‘read’ people’s eyes without knowing how or why, and this ability seems to be inborn.
Eyes – and especially our highly developed awareness of what we see in other people’s eyes – are incredible.
For example we know if we have eye contact with someone at an almost unbelievable distance. Far too far away to be able to see the detail of a person’s eyes – 30-40 metres away or more sometimes – we know when there is eye contact. This is an absolutely awesome capability when you think about it.
Incredibly also, we can see whether another person’s eyes are focused on us or not, and we can detect easily the differences between a ‘glazed over’ blank stare, a piercing look, a moistening eye long before tears come, and an awkward or secret glance.
We probably cannot describe these and many other eye signals, but we recognise them when we see them and we know what they mean.
When we additionally consider the eyelids, and the flexibility of the eyes to widen and close, and for the pupils to enlarge or contract, it becomes easier to understand how the eyes have developed such potency in human communications.
A note about eyes looking right and left..
(Left and right are for the person giving the signals and making the movements)
Eyes tend to look right when the brain is imagining or creating, and left when the brain is recalling or remembering. This relates to right and left sides of the brain – in this context broadly the parts of the brain handling creativity/feelings (right) and facts/memory (left). This is analysed in greater detail below, chiefly based on NPL theory developed in the 1960s. Under certain circumstances ‘creating’ can mean fabrication or lying, especially (but not always – beware), when the person is supposed to be recalling facts. Looking right when stating facts does not necessarily mean lying – it could for example mean that the person does not know the answer, and is talking hypothetically or speculating or guessing.
|signal||part of body||possible
|Left and right are for the person giving the signals and making the movements.|
|looking right (generally)||eyes||creating, fabricating, guessing, lying, storytelling||Creating here is basically making things up and saying them. Depending on context this can indicate lying, but in other circumstances, for example, storytelling to a child, this would be perfectly normal. Looking right and down indicates accessing feelings, which again can be a perfectly genuine response or not, depending on the context, and to an extent the person.|
|looking left (generally)||eyes||recalling, remembering, retrieving ‘facts’||Recalling and and then stating ‘facts’ from memory in appropriate context often equates to telling the truth. Whether the ‘facts’ (memories) are correct is another matter. Left downward looking indicates silent self-conversation or self-talk, typically in trying to arrive at a view or decision.|
|looking right and up||eyes||visual imagining, fabrication, lying||Related to imagination and creative (right-side) parts of the brain, this upwards right eye-movement can be a warning sign of fabrication if a person is supposed to be recalling and stating facts.|
|looking right sideways||eyes||imagining sounds||Sideways eye movements are believed to indicate imagining (right) or recalling (left) sounds, which can include for example a person imagining or fabricating what another person has said or could say.|
|looking right and down||eyes||accessing feelings||This is a creative signal but not a fabrication – it can signal that the person is self-questioning their feelings about something. Context particularly- and other signals – are important for interpreting more specific meaning about this signal.|
|looking left and up||eyes||recalling images truthfulness||Related to accessing memory in the brain, rather than creating or imagining. A reassuring sign if signalled when the person is recalling and stating facts.|
|looking left sideways||eyes||recalling or remembering sounds||Looking sideways suggests sounds; looking left suggests recalling or remembering – not fabricating or imagining. This therefore could indicate recalling what has been said by another person.|
|looking left down||eyes||self-talking, rationalizing||Thinking things through by self-talk – concerning an outward view, rather than the inward feelings view indicated by downward right looking.|
|direct eye contact (when speaking)||eyes||honesty – or faked honesty||Direct eye contact is generally regarded as a sign of truthfulness, however practised liars know this and will fake the signal.|
|direct eye contact (when listening)||eyes||attentiveness, interest, attraction||Eyes which stay focused on the speakers eyes, tend to indicate focused interested attention too, which is normally a sign of attraction to the person and/or the subject.|
|widening eyes||eyes||interest, appeal, invitation||Widening the eyes generally signals interest in something or someone, and often invites positive response. Widened eyes with raised eyebrows can otherwise be due to shock, but aside from this, widening eyes represents an opening and welcoming expression. In women especially widened eyes tend to increase attractiveness, which is believed by some body language experts to relate to the eye/face proportions of babies, and the associated signals of attraction and prompting urges to protect and offer love and care, etc.|
|rubbing eye or eyes||eyes||disbelief, upset, or tiredness||Rubbing eyes or one eye can indicate disbelief, as if checking the vision, or upset, in which the action relates to crying, or tiredness, which can be due boredom, not necessarily a need for sleep. If the signal is accompanied by a long pronounced blink, this tends to support the tiredness interpretation.|
|eye shrug||eyes||frustration||An upward roll of the eyes signals frustration or exasperation, as if looking to the heavens for help.|
|pupils dilated (enlarged)||eyes||attraction, desire||The pupil is the black centre of the eye which opens or closes to let in more or less light. Darkness causes pupils to dilate. So too, for some reason does seeing something appealing or attractive. The cause of the attraction depends on the situation. In the case of sexual attraction the effect can be mutual – dilated pupils tend to be more appealing sexually that contracted ones, perhaps because of an instinctive association with darkness, night-time, bedtime, etc., although the origins of this effect are unproven. Resist the temptation to imagine that everyone you see with dilated pupils is sexually attracted to you.|
|blinking frequently||eyes||excitement, pressure||Normal human blink rate is considered to be between six and twenty times a minute, depending on the expert. Significantly more than this is a sign of excitement or pressure. Blink rate can increase to up to a hundred times a minute. Blink rate is not a reliable sign of lying.|
|blinking infrequently||eyes||various||Infrequent blink rate can mean different things and so offers no single clue unless combined with other signals. An infrequent blink rate is probably due to boredom if the eyes are not focused, or can be the opposite – concentration – if accompanied with a strongly focused gaze. Infrequent blink rate can also be accompanied by signals of hostility or negativity, and is therefore not the most revealing of body language signals.|
|eyebrow raising (eyebrow ‘flash’)||eyes||greeting, recognition, acknowledgement||Quickly raising and lowering the eyebrows is called an ‘eyebrow flash’. It is a common signal of greeting and acknowledgement, and is perhaps genetically influenced since it is prevalent in monkeys (body language study does not sit entirely happily alongside creationism). Fear and surprise are also signalled by the eyebrow flash, in which case the eyebrows normally remain raised for longer, until the initial shock subsides.|
|winking||eyes||friendly acknowledgement, complicity (e.g., sharing a secret or joke)||Much fuss was made in May 2007 when George W Bush winked at the Queen. The fuss was made because a wink is quite an intimate signal, directed exclusively from one person to another, and is associated with male flirting. It is strange that a non-contact wink can carry more personal implications than a physical handshake, and in many situations more than a kiss on the cheek. A wink is given additional spice if accompanied by a click of the tongue. Not many people can carry it off. Additionally – and this was partly the sense in which Bush used it – a wink can signal a shared joke or secret|
Paralanguage refers to the non-verbal elements of communication used to modify meaning and convey emotion. Paralanguage may be expressed consciously or unconsciously, and it includes the pitch, volume, and, in some cases, intonation of speech. Sometimes the definition is restricted to vocally-produced sounds. The study of paralanguage is known as paralinguistics.
The term ‘paralanguage’ is sometimes used as a cover term for body language, which is not necessarily tied to speech, and paralinguistic phenomena in speech. The latter are phenomena that can be observed in speech (Saussure’s parole) but that do not belong to the arbitrary conventional code of language (Saussure’s langue).
The paralinguistic properties of speech play an important role in human speech communication. There are no utterances or speech signals that lack paralinguistic properties, since speech requires the presence of a voice that can be modulated. This voice must have some properties, and all the properties of a voice as such are paralinguistic. However, the distinction linguistic vs. paralinguistic applies not only to speech but to writing and sign language as well, and it is not bound to any sensory modality. Even vocal language has some paralinguistic as well as linguistic properties that can be seen and even felt, e.g. by the Tadoma method.