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Beyond Words Understanding and Interpreting Body Language

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1 Beyond Words . . . Understanding and Interpreting Body Language

2 Introduction Humans pride themselves on their seemingly unique ability to verbalize feelings and ideas. While the mouth tells one story, gestures and posture may tell a different story.

3 Taking Gestures Out of Context (attaching significance to a single gesture)
Gestures should be observed in clusters to provide a more accurate picture of person being observed Each gesture is like a sentence The sum total of postures and gestures relate a non-verbal story

4 “Gut Feelings” & Congruence
When intuition tells you that certain people are not being straightforward even though they sound logical & appropriate This “intuition” or gut feeling results from subconscious ability to read another person’s body language

5 Evolution and Refinement of Inherent Gestures
Behavioral scientists have found that some basic communication gestures are universal and believed to be inherent Examples are: smiling, shrugging, nodding Children tend to exaggerate these gestures making their body language easy to read (See Fig. 1)

6 When children are small and tell a lie, their hands fly over their mouth.
Fig. 1

7 A teenager might “refine” this inherent gesture by simply bringing tips of fingers to the mouth
This gesture is inherent and continues to be used throughout a lifetime in more refined and varied forms. Fig. 2

8 An adult may bring the little finger to edge of mouth.
Sometimes adults will refrain from using hands and bite lower lip, purse lips, or skew mouth from side to side. Fig 3

9 The Palm Historically, an open palm has signified honesty, truth, allegiance, and submission.

10 Two Basic Palm Positions:
Open palm in upward position- gesture signifies appeal or request to others Open palm facing outward or downward-a gesture that indicates desire to stop or hold something down; signal of restraint (Fig. 4 & Fig. 5)

11 An Appeal or Request to Others
Fig. 4

12 A Desire to Stop or Hold Something Down
Fig. 5

13 Palms-up Expresses Submission
Fig. 6

14 Palms-down Expresses Authority
Fig. 7

15 Closed Palm With Extended Finger
Fig. 8 Expresses Authority That Borders on Tyranny

16 Veterans of Palm Deception
Veterans of Palm Deception! Body language is an important consideration for certain individuals: Politicians – generally expose palms of hands as though appealing to public Remember—this is a position of submissiveness and demonstrates to voters that he/she is their public servant! This body language seems to reinforce the “trust me—I’m a humble individual and need your support” tactic.

17 Handshakes Three basic attitudes are transmitted through the handshake: Dominance Submission Equality

18 Dominance is shown by turning hand so that palm is facing down during the handshake.
Fig. 9

19 Submission is shown by turning hand so that palm is facing upwards during the handshake
Fig. 10

20 Equality is shown by turning palm so that it faces neither up nor downwards.
Fig. 11

21 Hybrid Handshakes

22 The “Glove” Handshake Fig. 12
-Demonstrated by initiator clasping both hands around the recipient’s hand. -It is intended to give impression of companionship and warmth. -Sometimes referred to as “politician’s handshake”. Fig. 12

23 Clasping the Arm Handshake
Fig. 13 -Variation of the glove handshake whereby initiator shakes person’s extended hand in conventional fashion while grasping receiver’s upper arm with free hand. -This too is intended to demonstrate sincerity and warmth but is often seen as a violation of personal space.

24 Knuckle Cruncher Handshake
-The hallmark of aggressive handshake whereby one or both participators firmly squeeze offered hand. -Sometimes referred to as the “Texas Vice”. -Thought to be due to socialization process which encourages boys to demonstrate their assertive, powerful, “manly” attributes. Fig. 14

25 “Dead Fish” Handshake Fig. 15 -The hallmark of passive handshakes.
-Carries negative connotations and generally considered to demonstrate weak, apathetic, or submissive individual. -Traditionally an acceptable handshake for women. Fig. 15

26 Fingertip Clasp -Occurs when one party stops short of grasping other participant’s palm and instead clasps his/her fingers. -Sometimes happens when one party “misses his/her mark due to lack of confidence or nervousness. -Other times, this technique is used when people want to maintain spatial distance and less intimacy. Fig. 16

27 Straight-Arm Extension Handshake
-Initiator of this handshake will offer a straight, extended arm in greeting. -Primary purpose is to maintain distance and formality. -Sometimes people from rural areas who are used to keeping their distance will use this handshake. Fig. 17

28 The Hands

29 Hand Clenching Fig. 18 This gesture can have several meanings:
-when clenched hands are held at chest level and against body, this if often indication of personal pleading (Fig. 18) -when clenched hands are at chin or chest but not next to body, this is signal of frustration or negativity. (Fig. 19)

30 Hand clenching not next to body is a signal of frustration or negativity.
Fig. 19

31 Hand Chop -An aggressive gesture that speakers sometimes use when they want to accent what is being said. -Although this is a forceful gesture, it does not have the violent connotation as does the chopping fist with extended finger. Fig. 20

32 Hand Steepling Fig. 21 -Used by individuals who feel confident. -When steepled hands are in raised position, the individual is usually speaking (offering ideas, comments, etc.). -When steepled hands are in lowered position, individual usually is listening. -Researchers have noted that women tend to use the lowered steeple position more than the raised position. Fig. 22

33 Hand-Holding Behind the Back
-When individual holds both hands behind back, this signals confidence. -Note that this position allows individual to expose trunk of his/her body and signals unconscious act of fearlessness. Fig. 23

34 Don’t confuse handholding behind back with wrist or arm holding!
-These gestures indicate an attempt at self-control (hence the phrase, “Get a grip on yourself”). -Generally speaking, the higher the hand grips the arm, the angrier the individual and the greater the attempt at self-control. Fig. 24 Fig. 25

35 Thumb Presentation Fig. 26
-Presentation of thumbs is a gesture, which signals superiority or dominance. -Often displayed from pockets and usually part of gesture cluster that signals an authoritative attitude.

36 Fingers & Hand To Face, Head, & Neck

37 Finger(s) to Mouth Fig. 27 -A signal that he/she is under pressure or feeling insecure.

38 Hand to Chin & Cheek Indifference/Boredom Gesture
Fig. 28 -Resting jaw and cheek against hand as though to support weight of head. -The more assistance from the hand, the greater degree of boredom.

39 Gesture of Interest Fig. 30
-If the hand is closed and resting on cheek with index finger extended towards temple (and not used as head support), this indicates interest. -Men tend to hold their head in a vertical position, whereas women tend to tilt their head when using this gesture.

40 Forming a Decision Gesture
-One hand moves to lower jaw and begins chin-stroking. Fig. 31

41 Deceit Gestures Hand to Mouth, Ear, or Eye Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil . . .

42 The Mouth Guard Gesture
Fig. 32 -When an individual’s hand covers mouth (partially or entirely). -A signal that he/she is exaggerating or lying. -If, however, someone covers his/her mouth while you are speaking, it indicates that listener doesn’t believe you!

43 The Nose Touch Gesture Fig. 33
-A modified version of mouth guard gesture. -May be physiological reason for this gesture: researchers determined that lying can cause sensitive nerve endings at base of nose to tingle and itch.

44 The Eye Rub Fig. 34 -A subconscious gesture that is used when a person is intentionally trying to deceive others. -Whereas a teenager will obviously look down at his/her feet when trying to deceive, an adult might rub the corner of his/her eye which allows a break in eye contact.

45 The Ear Rub -A subconscious gesture that indicated the individual is perplexed about what he/she is hearing. Fig. 35

46 Hand to Neck: Back Neck Rub
Fig. 36 Has a couple of meanings: -Sometimes people who are lying will rub back of neck while looking down and avoiding your gaze. -Other times this gesture is a signal of frustration or anger (“pain in the neck”).

47 Hands Behind Head -Clasped hands behind head is an indication that the individual is relaxed. -If individual is also leaning back and has chin lifted, this indicates feeling of superiority or smugness. Fig. 37

48 Language of the Arms

49 Folded Arms -A common posture whereby an individual will casually fold arms across the chest. -Posture may be in response to the cold. -More often, this posture signifies a defensive or insecure attitude. -If both hands are tucked under armpits, this generally signifies a response to the cold. Fig. 38

50 Folded Arms With Clenched Fists
Fig. 39 -The clenched fists indicate defensive and hostile feelings. -This posture might also be accompanied by clamped jaw and flushed face.

51 Arm Gripping This variation of arm folding usually indicates insecurity and fear Fig. 40

52 Single Arm Cross Fig. 41 -Subtle version of full arm cross.
-Generally signals insecurity.

53 Sophisticated Arm Cross Barriers
-Posture is often intermittent and takes place when one arm reaches across the chest to touch a watch, shirt, cuff, shirt button, or bracelet, etc. -Gesture provides a discreet, temporary barrier every time someone adjusts a watchband or straightens a shirtsleeve. Fig. 42

54 Language of the Legs and Feet

55 Crossing at the Knee Fig. 43
-A relaxed social leg crossing posture that is assumed by both men and women in Europe. -Generally in America, this posture is limited to females and thought to be essentially effeminate. Fig. 43

56 Ankle on Knee -Sometimes referred to as the “cowboy” pose and is a predominately male form of leg crossing in the Western world (particularly in US). -This posture is not acceptable in Middle East since any display of the sole of a shoe is an insult. Fig. 44

57 Leg Lock Position -A posture where legs are crossed at the knee and the free foot is tucked behind the ankle of the stationary leg or locked to front leg of the chair. -Generally women will assume this posture. -Many women will sit like this when cold. -Some women will assume this posture when they are nervous or defensive. -The foot acts like an anchor and provides a pseudo form of security. Fig. 45

58 Ankle to Ankle Leg Cross
-This is considered the most polite, demure form of leg crossing. -Used by people posing for formal pictures and sends a message of proper form and decorum. Fig. 46

59 Foot Tapping or Wagging
-Repetitive tapping or wagging of the foot is an indication of impatience, boredom, or nervousness. -The redundant foot movements are said to reflect a latent desire to run away. Fig. 47

60 Language of the Hair, Head, and Face

61 Hair Stroking and Head Tossing
-Absent-minded running of fingers through hair or swishes hair behind shoulders with a toss of the head is an unconscious gesture that occurs when an individual finds someone attractive. Fig. 48

62 Hair Twisting Fig. 49 -This is generally a sign of nervous distraction. -A variation of this is the twisting of a neck chain.

63 Head Tilt -A slight tilt of the head to one side indicates interest on that individual’s part. -Seems to be an inherent gesture and is not limited to the human species. -Women tend to use the head tilt gesture more than men do. -Oftentimes, when women use this posturing in the presence of a man, it is an indication that she finds him attractive. Fig. 50

64 Backward Head Tilt -This gesture generally indicates a perceived superiority and (sometimes) contempt for people he/she is interacting with. -This gesture probably gave rise to sayings like, “looking down his nose” (at someone), or “she has her nose in the air”. Fig. 51

65 Lifted Eyebrow Fig. 52 -When one eyebrow lifts while the other remains in the natural position, it signals skepticism.

66 Raised Eyebrows Fig. 53 This gesture can indicate a couple of things:
-rapid lift of both eyebrows and widening of the eyes is most often an unconscious display of greeting behavior. -can also represent a flirting gesture; different from greeting behavior in that the raised eyebrow position is sustained slightly longer (or gesture might be accompanied by a sideways glance).

67 Wide-Eyes -If this gesture is accompanied by blinking, it indicates innocence (if eyes still maintain eye contact). -Wide eyes are also an indication of surprise. Fig. 54

68 Nose Flare Fig. 55 -An indication of agitation or indignation (which might border on anger).

69 Skewed Mouth Fig. 56 -A distorted version of the smile that indicates sarcasm.

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