Solitary confinement is said to be the worst kind of punishment. The human need to communicate is as great as the need for food and shelter. This may be a poetic exaggeration, but it is rooted in the truth that it is, in fact, a great human need.
For this reason, our ways to communicate are diverse and not confined to language. We communicate through art, music and even through silence. Body language is a powerful communicator that complements the human word. To listen to the words a person enunciates, but to not read the indications their body is sending would be to receive only half the message.
Most of us are equipped to understand body language signs that other people send out. However, a deeper study of this subject can enable a person to tell much more than the average person can. The following are some signs and their implications.
- The meaning of a gesture differs from person to person.
- A common gesture is to cross your arms across the chest that may mean that the person has put up a barrier or is expressing opposition.
- As the meaning is based on the situation, in a comfortable situation, it could mean that the person is in deep thought.
- Do not interpret this meaning when the person is in a situation, where he is crossing his arms to keep himself warm from the cold.
- When two people are conversing, the person who is speaking may drop his arms, while the other person may raise an arm to indicate that he wants to say something.
- Personal space may be defined as a number of concentric circles around a person's body, where the closer areas are reserved for more trusted people.
- While this may differ among countries and cultures, usually, the space closest to you is reserved for close friends and family.
- Next, from 18 inches to four feet stand your acquaintances and people making informal conversation.
- The space between four to twelve feet is meant for formal transactions.
- Personal space is a very important indicator of how comfortable a person is with you. You can assess this on the basis of how much physical proximity a person allows you.
Angles and Posture
- Often, a direct face-to-face stance between two people is considered a confrontation (or sometimes intimacy), which is why most casual conversations take place with people sitting or standing at an angle to one another.
- A person leaning while conversing is usually showing interest.
- Open body positions are knees apart, legs stretched out, elbows away from body, hands not touching, legs uncrossed, etc., and indicate comfort and domination.
- Closed body positions, such as legs crossed at either knees or ankles, hands folded on the lap, arms crossed, etc., may mean inferiority.
- Eye contact when maintained, broken, or averted are all crucial indicators.
- The eyebrows and forehead indicate surprise, fear, and anger among other emotions.
- The mouth, and the way in which your lips are held (pursed or turned up in a smile) also add to the conversation.
To interpret a person's body language, you need to assess his facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and posture, in conjunction with his words. However, it is important to remember that different manifestations have multiple meanings.
If you really want to understand the extent of body mannerisms, watch a mime performer. See how desire and doubt chase each other across his face, and he tells a story without words.