Body language is the most fluent, lyrical, revealing, and significant form of communication . As an off-shoot of the psychology of human behavior, it is intriguing, exciting, fascinating, and fun—and yet ultimately frustrating . As a communication skill your body language accounts for over 50 percent of the perceived impact of all your face-to-face messages and so you underestimate its power and influence at your peril . By creating and defining your own body language, and therefore your own image, you will avoid allowing others to perceive you in a way that will have more to do with assumption and misunderstanding than real skills and abilities . However, body language is also a much misunderstood subject and a lot of the current advice on the subject is drivel . By using terms like body language "tells" and analyzing gestures in a simplistic, comic-book style along the lines of "scratching your nose means you're lying," many psychologists, TV magicians, and experts have done a lot to mislead the public, therefore damaging what should be primarily an instinctive, sometimes random, but nevertheless revealing process
Do you believe that crossing your arms means you're defensive? Or that someone stroking their hair must be flirting with you? Then you've been reading the wrong books, because the fact is that body language is not a precise science Tempting though it is to claim otherwise, any one gesture can be interpreted in several different ways, just as words can have several meanings . Crossing your arms could mean you feel anxious or angry—or simply that the room's too cold. Arm folding can be performed to signal displeasure or cut-off but it is also what's called a discovered action, something we do just because it feels comfortable Nose touching could show you're covering your mouth to conceal a lie, but it could just as easily mean you've got an itchy nose . Some gestures are inborn, meaning you do them out of instinct and have very little control over them .
To understand words we have to place them into the context of a sentence, and it's just the same with body language gestures, except the sentence is formed by all your other movements and signals . This is why I wrote this book. When I'm training or speaking at conferences one of the most frequently asked questions is what one gesture or another means, as though my studies and experience have endowed me with an almost mystical ability to read people's minds by a single movement or roll of the eyes . Easy and tempting though it would be to go along with this misconception, I have to admit that it's just not that simple . So here are the facts: I Your own body language signals release thousands of subtle and subconscious signals about you as you speak . I Your signals can be responsible for success or failure at any stage of your career, social life, or sex life. I You are probably unaware of most of your signals . I Your body language messages are seen by others as a more honest and reliable expression of your thoughts and feelings than your words. When your words are at odds with your gestures it's your gestures that will be seen as the truth I By learning about your own signals and then working to improve them you will enhance your effect and image I By studying others' body language signals and increasing your visual perceptions you will find it easier to understand the emotions and thoughts behind their words I Look for "clues" or what are called cues, not "tells . " This means taking each movement and gesture and then evaluating it in the context of other movements, not isolating them in a "one size fits all" way . I By reading other people you will enhance your understanding of them, getting 100 percent more value out of all your face-to-face communications.
I The good news is that we're all experts on body language. You read it all the time, and you have since you were fifteen minutes old . By spending some time studying or even rediscovering this very basic of human skills you'll be tapping into what was always intended to be an essential part of our social evolution
I spend a vast part of my career making body language more accessible and even fun, and I love applying it to politicians, royals, celebrities, and—of course—Big Brother housemates All these characters place huge emphasis on selling the "right" image to the public and it's educational—and fun—to probe and analyze to discover what might really be going on behind the scenes
However, making a subject accessible shouldn't mean it gets diluted into a few misleading "facts" and "truisms" that risk damaging, rather than enhancing, a supereffective communication process
By seeing body language in a one-dimensional way we risk placing it in the same category as pseudo-scientific and ultimately unsubstantiated theories such as astrology Unlike astrology, though, I can prove to you that body language works . How? Look at any other animal . Humans are the only animals to communicate through the medium of words The rest of the animal kingdom manages very well on what are primarily nonverbal signals I recently spent several hours watching apes communicating with one another; I saw how the efficiency of their communication linked directly to their survival. Watching a female ape bonding with an abandoned baby ape via submission signals, stage-by-stage touch, and some periods of complete back-off reminded me just how much we lost when we learned to talk Words might have made human communication easier but they have also made it much harder for us to understand one another, especially where emotions are concerned . And yet many of the ape gestures still have their counterparts in your "human ape" communications .
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