The Mind- Body language Connection

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On the homepage, Casey quotes the body-language expert Professor Albert Mehrabian’s famous figures on how impressions are made. That is: 7% verbal, 38% vocal (your volume, speed of speech, pitch- everything that makes up your tone of voice) and 55% non verbal (facial expression and body language).
Something which communicates 55% of meaning between you and others deserves lots of attention, don’t you think? Today I’m writing about the science behind why how you feel has such a deep effect on how you behave- and vice versa. Body language and emotions are inextricably linked. Let’s look at a few everyday examples…
When we see someone speak to us and use open palm hand gestures they are communicating openness, confidence and credibility. This is an evolutionary development because an open palm meant the person was carrying no weapons = they were not a threat. Experiments have shown that adopting open palm gestures like these makes it hard for the speaker to be untruthful- their impulse is to be more open, truthful and responsive to others. The mind follows the body.
Turn your hand over and the reverse is true; you will project authority and dominance. Watch actors, interviewers or politicians- when they need to project strength, a commanding persona or give an order they will use sharp palm-down gestures or point their finger. This goes for handshakes too- next time you see two people shake hands take a closer look- is it equal- palm to palm- or is one of the two people pressing their palm down on the other?
The smile, that small signal with stunning effects, is no exception. Smiling and laughter stimulate your body to release endorphins into your bloodstream which reduce stress, have a healing effect on your body and improve your general wellbeing. So you feel better when you smile and then you smile more. It’s a cycle of positive reinforcement. The healing and mood-boosting effects have been recognised by the medical community and wellness experts for generations. Have you ever heard of laughter Yoga?
If you are having trouble building a rapport or encouraging agreement with someone try nodding. Careful slow nodding means ‘I’m interested’, fast nodding non-verbally says ‘Get on with it!’. If you feel positive and in agreement you will naturally begin to nod slowly and experience more affirmative feelings as a result. Nodding, like smiling is infectious. If you nod your head at someone you get on with chances are they’ll start nodding too. Their nodding will create more positive feelings in them towards you. The cause and effect cycle is at work again!
21st century people travel more than ever before so it is important to be aware of cultural differences: take the ‘thumbs up’ gesture. In Western countries it signifies approval but… it means the number ‘one’ in Italy, ‘five’ in Japan and is very insulting in Greece! People have habits too- crossing arms doesn’t always mean ‘I’m feeling defensive’, it might mean ‘ I’m comfortable’ or ‘ I’m cold.’ People naturally interpret body language signals all day every day without realising.
What are you communicating today?
-Bianca

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