Physical Communication: Body Language

Manila Bulletin, November 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Physical Communication: Body Language


Verbal Communication (VC) is usually a two-way, exchanging process involving the imparting, interchanging and sharing of thoughts, opinions, information or ‘meaning’ by speech, writing, or signs. It normally involves the exchange of thoughts, idea, beliefs, feelings, attitudes and opinions towards a mutually accepted goal, objective or outcome along an anticipated, progressive, pathwayor direction.In contrast, Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) involves the sending and receiving of wordless or non-verbally, spoken communication.Body Language (BL) is a commonly accepted form of non-verbal communication. It involves the use of stylized physical gestures, postures and physiologic signs or signals which act as attitudinal cues and clues to others, i.e. to conversational receivers, viewers, listeners and to on-lookers.It is widely accepted that people regularly unconsciously as well as intentionally, send and receive non-verbal signals or signs during verbal exchanges.Being able to “read” a person’s reaction to a comment or a question by his or her physical, body language response is argued to be a valuable communication, diagnostic and evaluation skill.Moreover, in order to gain a person’s confidence, the ability to “mirror” that person’s body language is said to be advantageous as it will put that individual at ease as it indicates to them that they are accepted, understood and appreciated.DANGERSAt the same time, it needs to be realized that there are dangers, e.g. the reading or interpretation of someone’s body language can be misinterpreted as further discussed below and the physically-related “signals” one receives may not in fact have any real communicative relevance.While being mindful of the dangers, it is equally well-accepted in personal communication research and study today that people often give away their attitude, veracity and accuracy in relation to an issue in debate or dispute by their body language, that is, by the physical signs and signals they intentionally or unintentionally exhibit.On the positive side, joy and approval or agreement can often be better demonstrated and conveyed by one’s body language rather than by a myriad of words of verbal agreement.Common examples are facial expressionsof approval and happiness such as a smile or the physical gestures of the nod of one’s head, an enthusiastic clap, an upturned thumb or even raised arms.Likewise, from a negative aspect, one’s body language can predominate in a communication exchange when one is in disagreement. …

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