Dr. Deb's Mental Health Vitamin: Body language

Dr. Deb Wade

By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services

“I can’t hear what you’re saying because your nonverbals are screaming at me!”  

Of course, it is a well-known fact that in personal as well as professional relationships, the key to success is the ability to communicate.

BUT, it’s not only the words that we use when communicating; in fact, our body language and nonverbal cues actually speak the loudest. When you become very intentional in being aware of your communication style, you will realize that you constantly are giving and receiving wordless signals.

Nonverbal communication includes: the gestures you make, your posture, your volume, your tone of voice, your facial expressions and your eye contact – and all are significant ways you send strong messages! In fact, even when you’re silent you are still communicating nonverbally!

Communication can be confusing when what is being said verbally actually conflicts with what’s being “said” via your body language. This will create mixed signals and your listener will not really know your intent – but chances are, your listener will “listen” more to your nonverbals than to your spoken words.

Let’s take a peek at nonverbal communication and the “signals” we send:

  • Facial Expressions – Your face is actually telling a lot when you are talking. Facial expressions are mostly universal; happiness, sadness, anger, hurt, surprise, excitement, disgust – all are most likely easily interpreted when one is speaking.
  • Body Movements and Posture – The way you move and carry yourself actually communicates a wealth of information. Think of conversations you’ve had with someone recently. How that person stands, walks, holds his/her head, the person’s posture, stance and subtle movements, such as leaning in or standing rigidly – they all give you information beyond the spoken word.
  • Voice – Of course, we know this … HOW you say something is much more significant than WHAT you’re saying! Think of what you are revealing with your voice and timbre – sarcasm, anger, affection, confidence, frustration – way beyond the spoken word, your voice reveals so much about what you’re REALLY conveying.
  • Eye Contact – Have you thought about this? How you look at someone can communicate many things, such as interest, affection, hostility or attraction. The way one gives eye contact often reveals how that person feels about the one they are talking with as well as how he/she feels about the topic they’re discussing.
  • Gestures – Are you one who speaks with your hands? It’s often been said, “Tie my hands behind me and I wouldn’t be able to talk!” Gestures used when the speaker is animated reveal plenty: anger, tenderness, directness, excitement. What are your gestures saying?
  • Touch and Spatial Distance – Have you ever felt a bit uncomfortable because someone is “in your space” while talking? In addition, have you felt uncomfortable because the speaker touches your arm or shoulder while talking? Both touch and spatial distance reveal lots more than words alone are saying.
  • Posture – Have you ever talked with someone who has his/her arms folded across the body? Obviously, the sense you get is that this person is defensive and/or is not in agreement with your words. On the other hand, when the body is open and arms are loosely positioned, you get the message that this person is open to your comments and is kindly taking in the communication that you’re conveying. Posture counts volumes!
  • Accenting – Whether you are accenting certain words in your verbal message OR you are engaging in accented actions (such as pounding on a desk or stomping across the room) all certainly convey the importance of your message! For example:
    • I like you! (meaning that I like you though others may not)
    • I like you! (meaning that “like” is not “love”)
    • I like you! (meaning that “you” are alone in being liked by me, not anyone else)

The reality is that our body language provides a wealth of information when communicating with others. It provides significant signals that enhance the spoken word. And when the verbal message is incongruent with the body language being conveyed, the listener will depend on the body language to tell the real truth! Yes, our bodies speak volumes!

Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

6 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

2 events,

5 events,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/