Framework for Understanding

As we approach the end of the twentieth century, we are witnessing the emergence of a new kind of social scientist-the non-verbalist. Just as the birdwatcher delights in watching birds and their behaviour, so the non-verbalist delights in watching the non-verbal cues and signals of human beings. He watches them at social functions, at beaches, on television, at the office or anywhere that people interact. He is a student of behaviour who wants to learn about the actions of his fellow humans so...

Faking Body Language

A commonly asked question is, 'Is it possible to fake your own body language ' The general answer to this question is 'no' because of the lack of congruence that is likely to occur in the use of the main gestures, the body's microsignals and the spoken words. For example, open palms are associated with honesty but when the faker holds his palms out and smiles at you as he tells a lie, his microgestures give him away. His pupils may contract, one eyebrow may lift or the comer of his mouth may...

Chin Stroking

The next time you have the opportunity to present an idea to a group of people, watch them carefully as you give your idea and you will notice something fascinating. Most, if not all the members of your audience will bring one hand up to their faces and begin to use evaluation gestures. As you come to the conclusion of your presentation and ask for the group to give opinions or suggestions about the idea, the evaluation gestures will cease. One hand will move to the chin and begin a...

Other Factors Affecting Interpretation

A man who has a 'dead fish' hand shake is likely to be accused of having a weak character and the chapter on hand shake techniques will explore the reason for this popular theory. But if a man has arthritis in his hands, it is likely that he will use a 'dead fish' hand shake to avoid the pain of a strong one. Similarly, artists, musicians, surgeons and those in vocations whose work is delicate and involves use of their hands generally prefer not to shake hands, but, if they are forced to do so,...

The Ankle Lock Gesture

Crossing or folding the arms or legs suggests that a negative or defensive attitude exists, and this is also the case with the ankle lock gesture. The male version of the ankle lock is often combined with clenched fists resting on the knees or with the hands tightly gripping the arms of the chair (Figure 87). The female version varies slightly the knees are held together, the feet may be to one side and the hands rest side by side or one on top of the other resting on the upper legs (Figure...

Courtship Gestures and Signals

I have a friend named Graham who has developed an art that most males would love to acquire. Whenever he attends a social function he can quickly 'psych out' the available women, make his choice and, in almost record-breaking time (sometimes as little as ten minutes), he may be seen heading towards the exit with the woman, escorting her to his car and drilling back to his apartment. I have even seen him return to the party within an hour and repeat this amazing process two or three times in the...

Interpreting And Misinterpreting

The ability to accurately interpret hand-to-face gestures in a given set of circumstances takes considerable time and observation to acquire. We can confidently assume that, when a person uses one of the hand-to-face gestures just mentioned, a negative thought has entered his mind. The question is, what is the negative It could be doubt, deceit, uncertainty, exaggeration, apprehension or outright lying. The real skill of interpretation is the ability to pick which of the negatives mentioned is...

Clusters Circumstances and Gestures in Daily Encounters

Drawing Body Language And Expression

Figure 165 A good example of an openness cluster. The palms are fully exposed in the submissive position and the fingers are spread wide to give more impact to the gesture. The head is in the neutral position and the arms and legs are apart. This man is communicating a submissive, non-threatening attitude. Figure 166 This is a classic deceit cluster. As he rubs his eye he looks away towards the floor and both eyebrows are raised to the disbelief position. His head is turned away and down,...

Steepling Hands

I stated at the beginning of this book that gestures come in clusters, like words in a sentence, and that they must be interpreted in the context in which they are observed. 'Steepling', as Birdwhistell called it, can be an exception to these rules, as it is often used in isolation of other gestures. In fact, people who are confident, superior types or who use minimal or restricted body gestures often use this gesture, and, by doing so, they signal their confident attitude. My observation and...

Gesture Clusters

One of the most serious mistakes a novice in body language can make is to interpret a solitary gesture in isolation of other gestures or other circumstances. For example, scratching the head can mean a number of things -dandruff, fleas, sweating, uncertainty, forgetfulness or lying, depending on the other gestures that occur at the same time, so we must always look at gesture clusters for a correct reading. Like any other language, body language consists of words, sentences and punctuation....

The American Figure 4 Leg Lock Position

This leg cross indicates that an argumentative or competitive attitude exists. It is the sitting position used by many American males who have a competitive nature. This being the case, it is difficult to interpret the attitude of an American during a conversation, but it is quite obvious when this gesture is used by a British citizen. I recently addressed a series of meetings in New Zealand where the audience comprised about 100 managers and 500 sales people. A highly controversial issue was...

Cigarette Smokers

Head Motion Body Languages

Like pipe smoking, cigarette smoking is a displacement of inner tension and allows time to stall, but the cigarette smoker generally reaches his decision faster than the pipe smoker. The pipe smoker is, in effect, a cigarette smoker who needs more time to stall in making decisions than his cigarettes allow. The cigarette ritual involves tapping, twisting, flicking, waving and other mini-gestures indicating that the person is experiencing more tension than may be normal. One particular signal...

Standard Arm Cross Gesture

Both arms are folded together across the chest as an attempt to 'hide' from an unfavourable situation. There are many arm-folding positions, but this book will discuss the three most common ones. The standard arm-cross gesture Figure 70 is a universal gesture signifying the same defensive or negative attitude almost everywhere. It is commonly seen when a person is among strangers in public meetings, queues, cafeterias, elevators or anywhere that people feel uncertain or insecure. During a...

Both Hands Behind Head

This gesture is typical of such professionals as accountants, lawyers, sales managers, bank managers or people who are feeling confident, dominant, or superior about something. If we could read the person's mind, he would be saying something like, 'I have all the answers' or, 'Maybe one day you'll be as smart as I am', or even 'Everything's under control'. It is also a gesture used by the 'know-it-all' individual and many people find it irritating when someone does it to them. Lawyers...

The Collar Pull

Desmond Morris noted that research into the gestures of those who tell lies revealed that the telling of a lie caused a tingling sensation in the delicate facial and neck tissues and a rub or scratch was required to satisfy it. This seems to be a reasonable explanation of why some people use the collar pull gesture when they tell a lie and suspect that they have been caught out. It is almost as if the lie causes a slight trickle of sweat to form on the neck when the deceiver feels that you...

Picking Imaginary Lint

When a person disapproves of the opinions or attitudes of others but feels constrained in giving his point of view, the non-verbal gestures that occur are known as displacement gestures, that is, they result from a withheld opinion. Picking imaginary pieces of lint from the clothing is one such gesture. The lintpicker usually looks away from the other people towards the floor while performing this minor, irrelevant action. This is one of the most common signals of disapproval and when the...

Standing Leg Cross Gestures

The next time you attend a meeting or function, you will notice small groups of people all standing with their arms and legs crossed Figure 83 . Observation will also reveal that they are standing at a greater distance from each other than the customary one, and that, if they are wearing coats or jackets, they are usually buttoned. If you were to question these people, you would find that one or all of them are strangers to the others in the group. This is how must people stand when they are...

Round Table Informal

King Arthur used the Round Table as an attempt to give each of his knights an equal amount of authority and status. A round table creates an atmosphere of relaxed informality and is ideal for promoting discussion among people who are of equal status as each person can claim the same amount of table territory. Removing the table and sitting in a circle also promotes the same result. Unfortunately, King Arthur was unaware that if the status of one person is higher than the others in the group it...

Eye Block Gesture

Some of the most irritating people with whom we deal are those who use the eye -block gesture as they speak. This gesture occurs unconsciously and is an attempt by the person to block you from his sight because he has become bored or uninterested in you or feels that he is superior to you. Compared to the normal rate of six to eight blinks per minute during conversation, the eyelids close and remain closed for a second or longer as the person momentarily wipes you from his mind. The ultimate...