It has happened to me sometimes to find more useful the ability to decode nonverbal communication while talking with persons that where using another language.
I’m not trying to rebulid the nonverbal alphabet but to group nonverbal communication and highlight only those gestures that are common. Those elements of communication that people use mostly and whose understanding is essential.
If this is not the first article that you read about nonverbal communication you probably already know that : verbal communication occupies about 7% of all information submitted. The rest are divided as follows: 38% paraverbal communication (voice volume, inflection) and 55% nonverbal communication (body posture, facial mimics, gestures, attitudes).
Also it is known that women have a greater ability to decode nonverbal messages than men, so this is an article more for men. 🙂
Verbal communication is supported by the neocortex and nonverbal communication and paraverbal communication is supported by the limbic brain.
Verbal communication is the one that can or can not lie while para-verbal and nonverbal communication don’t lie because they know the truth and is expressed as if it’s the only possible option. Therefore I give you three situations that you can follow and see if you are lied:
If the answer is yes but the person that is talking with you raise his shoulders it means that the answer is I DON’T KNOW.
If the answer is yes but the head moves left and right means that the answer is NO.
“I’ll say this only once” – this statement announces a lie.
Para-verbal communication can be deciphered by paying more attention to the following voice features:
- tone of voice, increasing tones express a dose of safety while decreasing inflections show insecurity.
- pauses between words and phrases both transmit clues about the speaker’s intentions and attitudes.
- speech speed may be slow (250 syllables / min), normal (300 syllables / min) or fast (500 syllables / min). A fast paced speech show that the speaker is unsure and disorganized. He knows what he wants to say but he’s talking fast because he wants to get rid of the words because he does not feel comfortable when speaking. While an average pace expresses safety, the speaker knows that what has to say is just as important to everyone as it is for him. Neither a slow pace is not desirable because it gives the impression of low intelligence.
- voice volume show speakers authority, its power of persuasion and the ability to be listened to.
- other sounds (onomatopoeia, moan, scream, grunt, sigh, laugh) are designed to complement the verbal message where moods are too strong or words are lacking for the moment.
Paraverbal communication role is to reinforce, contradict, distort or replace the verbal message. Para-communication hides the nature of the relationship between sender and receiver.
A subcomponent of verbal language is Metalanguagemeaning “words behind words”. This enables us to manipulate without others to perceive while remaining well-mannered. The most common 10 metawords:
- “On my honor, Honestly“ shows that the speaker will not be honest.
- “Ok?“ and “Yes?” placed at the end of sentence forces the listener to agree with what was said.
- “Only“ is used to minimize the significance of what is to be said.
- “Just“ is used to alleviate the guilt of a person or to deflect culpability for certain undesirable consequences.
- “I am trying” in free translation means they have doubts about their ability to do that something and it is used by people that usually don’t get things done.
- “Yes but“ tries to avoid intimidation by simulating an agreement.
- “But” signals that the person was not honest up to that point and contradicts the words that precede it.
- “Believe me” announces a lie that will be as bigger as convincing it sounds.
- “Sure,” wants to let it know that everyone agrees with him.
- “I wish I could hope for“ – is a wise way to provide no opinion.
To interpret gestures we must consider in which context we analyze the person. Gestures have different meanings in different situations. If a person is scratching his eyelid it could mean that it’s hiding something, but also it could mean that it can have an eye irritation. Also a number of different repeated gestures but with the same definition, can be a clear message of nonverbal communication.
- FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
- HAND TO THE HEAD
- HAND ON BODY
- FOOT POSITION
Facial expressions are the most easier to read.
For two reasons:
- it’s where you look when you talk to someone.
- during a dialogue your hand should not touch your face. Any gesture with your hand touching your face signifies something.
If you look at the person talking will notice that when he starts talking he will begin communicating with facial expressions and then the words will come reinforcing what we already knew.
There’s no need to explain you how a smile looks, a frown, contempt, anger, joy, you see them without paying too much attention. I can give you instead a number of secrets about facial expressions:
- fake smile creates wrinkles only at the corner of the mouth, a true smile creates wrinkles also at the corner of the eye.
- asymmetry in facial expression highlights that a lie has been told.
- eyes, nose and throat are connected. When someone expresses an intense state eyes are wet, it gets a moisty nose and swallow saliva. If one of the three elements is missing then the person simulates emotion.
- enlarged pupils show strong emotion, interest, excitement, feeling good; not too dark if it’s true in which case the pupils get larger to allow the eyes to see.
- prolonged closure of the eyes in a discussion means that this person removes you from his visual memory.
- arrhythmic winking hides a lie.
- mouth slightly open (typically for women) show interest in the person she’s talking to.
- renewing lipstick on lips (typically for women) – show interest.
- interruption of visual contact only with eyes means concentration to remember, while total return of the head means he’s hiding something.
- watching over glasses does not mean espionage or a critical gesture, it’s a gesture of convenience.
The look is extremely important in a discussion, perhaps the most important, and some very experienced people can read in the eyes of those they discuss to everything they don’t say. They don’t need to read the position of the hands, body, paraverbal language etc..
Therefore I’m going to show you two tricks regarding the (eyes) look, to see what and how the other thinks depending on eye position.
First. There are 4 types of looking at someone:
- Official look = in the triangle between the eyes and forehead.
- The entourage look = between the eyes and lips.
- Intimate look = between the eyes and breasts to the thighs.
- The assessment look ( to the side) = critical or of interest according to facial expression.
Second. You can see what the other person is doing depending on the position of eyes as follows:
- Eyes are in the upper left = he remembers something visual (or at least he tries).
- Eyes are median left = he remembers something heared.
- Eyes are down to the left = deep inside of him there is a dialogue.
- Eyes are in the upper right = visual he is imagining something.
- Eyes are in the median right = he imagines hearing something.
- Eyes are down to the right = he lives a range of emotions and feelings.
I have done a short list with reference to head position according to which you can read the general condition of the other:
- head pushed in front = threat
- head bent back = submission
- head is high = courage
- head tilted right = goodwill
- head tilted to the left = skepticism
- head bent down = uncertainty
- head straight = neutral
HAND ON THE HEAD
The following interpretations are the most important and are essential to fully understand the message.
Next I will make a list of the most common hand to the head gestures and their significance:
- covering your mouth while speaking shows that what has been said is a lie.
- If you cover your mouth while someone talks it means that what you hear you think it’s a lie. The explanation is identical.
- eye massage with your middle finger means exactly what the hand gesture means (showing the middle finger) . This gesture is made unconsciously to not offend the speaker.
- hand to the forehead and head bowed in front signify shame, embarrassment, hiding from the world.
- hand streatching the earlobe or finger shoved inside collar or neck hand massage shows uncertainty of what was said, lying or hiding something from the discussion.
- glasses or pen placed in mouth denote a state of uncertainty.
- head held in the palm denote boredom.
- fist to face shows appreciation for the listener.
- chin rubbing or thumb under the cheek highlights that listener has contradictory opinions.
- ear pushed forward means that the listener has something to say. He does not want to listen and want to start talking.
HAND ON BODY
Hands can be in different positions but I’ll explain just the most important and commonly 10 positions:
- hands folded shows negativity, skepticism, blocking the message he receives, the other person is perceived as a stranger, defensive position (person defends his heart).
- if you put your hands on your hip they widen body, you seem bigger, more threatening and convincing or influential, if accompanied with a jacket throwed on your back looks like threat or attack position.
- hands behind your back or in front, one holding the other by the forearm denote insecurity, mistrust, fear.
- hands behind your back, one holding the other by the wrist usually comes with chin up and chest facing forward symbolizing an authoritative person, courageous (your chest is out in front without a safeguard, you feel safe and secure like a chief, dominant).
- asymmetrical shaking hands show that the person is approachable, hands with slow movements show safety, securance (those that have slower moves know that what they have to say is important that’s why they have no rush, they have all the time in the world).
- hand placed on the other person’s shoulder followed by the words “I understand” is how you manage to draw him on your side.
- steeple up hands shows dominance, leadership and steeple down allegiance, obedience (your fingers show where you position yourself in the discussion).
- thumb in your pocket or outside the pocket denote domination, safety, strength, sexual aggression (your genital highlighted).
- cleaning nonexistent lint from clothing shows disapproval and inability to come up with personal arguments.
- playing with cylindrical objects such as cigarettes, a finger, a cocktail glass or any other signifies courtship (more common in women)
Feet position is as important as hands position , feet position can easily show if the speaker‘s words are true.
- when you support your body on one foot, the other one is directed to the person you unconsciously considered the most important at that time.
- feet and hands crossed while sitting down means that the person in question is retreated from discussion, legs and arms crossed while standing could mean that the subjects don’t know each other.
- if you talk to a person but your legs are oriented in a different direction means that you want to end the discussion and move in the direction shown by your feet.
- when you get one leg over the other, it means that the person in the direction shown by the above knee is more important / interesting for you.
- for the third person to be fully accepted in a discussion the first two speaking (facing each other) will have to “ open” their legs so that the three of them will form a triangle between their legs. If there’s a group of 4 persons they must form a square and so on.
Nonverbal communication is more extensive then what you have read in this article. I tried to help with the most common gestures and their meanings.
We perceive messages divided as follows:
- 87% visual
- 9% hearing
- 4% other senses
If 55% of the message sent between two people comes from nonverbal communication and 87% of the message comes from the visual chanel imagine how much is lost if we use only hearing and voice communication.
Understand everything that others fail to see.