Psychology of body language: General principles.



Body language is a major part of communication, it has been told that body language constitutes over 60% of what we are communicating. Learning to communicate well means that using and reading body language will come at a prerequisite, this includes learning what to do as well what not to do.

Knowing the basics of reading peoples non verbal cues can help shed light on what generally peoples psychology such as what are thinking and feeling, and being knowledgeable on the subject can vastly change your quality of communication for the better not only can it help you read people with greater precision it can help you convey your message with more impact giving you more credibility with whatever subject your are speaking about.

Within this post I'll be going over a few general things to keep an eye out for then later on I'll go into a few concepts of reading body communication.

The face
The face has roughly has 50 muscles in it, with these this give the face the ability to perform an array of expressions depending on the emotion the person has at a given time. It is very useful in interactions to be able to learn and read facial body language, obviously most people know this and this is common knowledge. At the same time it shouldn't solely depended on and should be treated as part of the whole picture as a lot of people usually can and will fake facial expressions if they feel the need to hide their thoughts and feelings.

Negative facial expressions:
Negative facial expressions are generally quite easy to spot as they have a common theme of the person having either tension around the eyebrows, nose and mouth or having what seems like a downwards pull on the face. This is usually caused by negative thoughts or emotions, to identify the cause of such emotion depends on each individual case.

Positive facial expressions
On the opposite end of the scale positive facial expressions have a more 'open' set of features about them. The head may be raised slightly higher up, eyebrow are also raised even the mouth from corner to corner may be raised and if the emotion is strong the mouth is maybe open showing a smile. Overall the face looks more relaxed showing little tension even having lift giving an openness about the person.

Arms and Torso
This  is an interesting one as usually in regards to body language this is rarely talked about in too much detail. When reading somebody's torso body language you want think of it as either being comfortable or being uncomfortable though it is not completely black and white but it is a good guideline. 




The torso is an important part of the body, it houses most of  the major organs which are protected by the ribs and the arms which come into play in the act of defence. Because of the delicate nature of these organs humans naturally are wired to protect the torso from danger and physical harm. Here's where it gets interesting, the same region of the brain is activated when the body experiences pain whether it is emotional or physical, the brain doesn't know the difference. So when somebody feels a negative emotion or feels discomfort, the brain interprets it as a mild attack to the body so in retaliation the arms cross over the torso to protect it hence the defensive body language, its a way of the body comforting itself. So when somebody isn't entirely comfortable with a certain situation they tend to either put an arm across their body, cross their arms or in other cases touch their neck, its a way of comforting themselves by protecting their sensitive body parts. You see this with kids who cover themselves with a blanket all the time until they grow out of it, the blanket is a source of comfort.

On the flip side people who keep their torso open are the ones considered to be more inviting, open and more comfortable with themselves as they feel don't feel threatened in any way. On the extreme end males sometimes forcefully open up their torsos to make themselves seem bigger and take up space if they feel the need to intimidate or ward others off while females open up their torsos to expose their breasts and show off their bodies, this is usually in the presence of a male they are attempting to attract.

To summarize, open torso equals comfortable or confident and closed body language equals uncomfortable or unconfident.

The Legs
Legs are also underrated when it comes to body language, they are so easily forgotten as people often just read the top half of the body and people aren't often conscious of what their legs are doing unless they are trained to read body language such as police officers, salesmen even researcher who study the science of psychology. For instance similar to reading torso body language, when someone stands with their legs wide open its a signal of self assurance and confidence as the crotch is on display, contrary to legs standing close together indicating lower confidence as the person is making less of an effort to take up space.  Again the closing of legs protects sensitive organs (genitals) in the presence of an uncomfortable situation.

When sitting down the same principles apply to open and closed legs, depending on the anxiety level the legs maybe open and relaxed or closed and tense. Other seated positions such as the figure four seating position where an ankle is resting on the other knee are usually used by males competing with other males and to be inviting to females due to the involvement of the crotch display. Females on the other hand may sit with one leg pressed over the other leaning away from a nearby male showing off muscle tone and shape of the thigh, hip and bum.

Usually when somebody is sitting their knees are pointed to their object of interest, even if that person doesn't know it. This goes for standing also. Lastly, any kind of off beat rapid movement of the leg like tapping (not to music) jittering or bouncing whilst sitting is usually a sign of anxiety or nerves and general unease.


Feet
Very similar to legs, usually forgotten and are good for giving away someone's object of interest via pointing. When they are angled outwards this is normally a sign of invitation whilst if they were parallel that would be a sign of a non-invitation. The same principles apply in terms of excessive movement similar to the legs is a sign of anxiety and unease, contrary to feet curling which are signs of extreme pleasure.

Overall body language
When reading body language it is best to take in the whole picture instead of looking at one individual body part and making a reading from there. Usually when people are experiencing a certain emotion or thought it leaks and the whole body gets involved (subtly). Lastly when reading several leaks or signs on somebody's body language you are reading what are called clusters, and they are more reliable than any one body part. Keep in mind to take in the overall picture not just an isolated clue.


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