By Afnan Al-Allak , specialist and lecturer in Human Development – running courses and lectures in Body Language, NLP, Self-Management, Multiple Intelligences Theory.
I personally believe that body language is something we, as human beings, should be learning before any verbal language in order to reflect its primary importance in our communication. Nina is a magazine designed to harness the power of authentic communication, I therefore thought it appropriate to write my first article for Nina on the importance of body language.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognise and understand non-verbal signals. After talk ceases the ‘language’ that continues to express without the need for description, is what can change a negative decision to a positive one or an enemy to an ally.
Body language makes up for 55% of communication and quite simply we do not give it its due. Instead we focus on words, which actually play quite a minor role – adding only 7% to overall communicational ‘messages’. In his definitive 1971 study, Albert Mehrabian defines the missing 38% as intonation – i.e. the tone of our voices.
Let’s do a little experiment. Start by taking a specific sentence and deconstructing it from what you are trying to say (or what you think it is trying to say). It is important that the sentence is short and unaffected by tone and intonation and without using any body movement even the small gestures in the expressing, you then try it out. Try saying ‘I love you’ for example in a mechanical voice and see how it is received by (and impacts) others. If you do it correctly even it is hard, you will quickly realize the influence and need for body language in communication.
Up until around 50 years ago scientists hadn’t engaged with the idea of body language or non-spoken language (as it is also referred). However in the early sixties they began to realize its importance and indeed the wide-ranging implications of -and influence on- important aspects of our lives. For example, body language shows the particularities of human expression that relate directly to feelings and emotions. This creates depth or emotion which is mirrored – creating empathy and understanding.
When feeling happy, in love, sad, confident, weak, angry, hurt, or any other human emotion, our unconscious mind experiences involuntary changes that appear as physical reactions. However big, small, notable or subtle, these changes can be recognized by the trained eye or captured by a surveillance camera.
It is much harder to manipulate body language. This is because non-verbal language is associated with the unconscious mind which cannot be controlled. This means that it emerges as more honest than verbal language. Although some people try to manipulate their body language they do so with difficulty and signals of the inauthentic can be read by experts reading body language. Indeed an award winning American TV series Lie to Me was based on exactly this concept – with a psychologist using body language to solve crimes.
I pity the ignorance of politicians who are not aware of their body language but hold in their hands the fate of their people!
One of my body language lectures
Several days ago in one of my lectures on the subject, a senior Iraqi official was criticized because of the poor use of his body language in conference with the US President Barak Obama. He seemed scared, ashamed, and subjected. This of course creates lack of confidence in the very people he represents.
So to close –a reminder to every politician, employee, father, mother, husband, wife, engineer, doctor etc. –in fact any person working for the benefit of themselves and others… Always seek routes to making what you want to say as clear as possible. To do this effectively, learn body language, it will help you express yourself as you want to be viewed.