Body language is part of human evolution. Throughout human history, nonverbal communication has always played a major role in interpersonal relationships.
The way we speak, walk, hold, sit and stand all communicate powerful messages to the outside world, whether we are aware of it or not. Our body language reflects both our conscious mindset and more subtle, our subconscious inner self.
Despite the fact that famous philosophers and scientists in history such as Darwin and Bacon are mentioned theoretical aspects of nonverbal communication, the scientific study of nonverbal communication is a relatively modern field.
According to UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian, 55% of the message we convey comes from our body language, 38% comes from tone of voice, and only 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say.
When it comes to reading body language, at Aletheia International, we approach this task very carefully, despite the fact that a person’s body constantly ‘talks’, not all the movements of the body can be interpreted. After all, what our body conveys with accuracy is our emotional intent.
Posture is simply, the way a person holds and positions their body.
Our posture is one the elements of body language that can convey a message about our internal mindset, our personality and our mood.
Our body posture is also a significant indicator of our self-esteem.
Although, not necessarily every aspects of our posture convey messages. For instance, one can be simply seating, standing or lying down.
Nevertheless, at Aletheia International we pay attention to the features of posture, e.g. if one is slouched, crossed arms or legs, open arms and upright neck, etc., within the context though.
What is your hidden language saying?
Gestures are a type of body language that involves communication through body movement.
In our daily life we use many types of gestures to express ourselves, often without even thinking – subconsciously.
All hand gestures are hand movements, but not all hand movements are gestures. The meaning of gestures can vary in different countries and cultures.
At Aletheia International we shift our focus from universal gestures that are commonly accepted among people, such as waving, pointing, using fingers to indicate counting, etc., to more specific gestures such as “illustrators”and “adaptors”.
Illustrators are largely involuntary and natural gestures that flow from us as we speak but vary in terms of intensity and frequency based on context. We use illustratorswhen we want to clarify or enhance our verbal message. Illustrators help the audience understand comparisons and contrasts, visualize the size, shape, movement, location, and number of objects. For example, to accompany the message that we are saying, we hold our hands apart to indicate the size of an object.
Adaptors are movements or touching gestures that are used to manage our feelings and control our responses, also simply to adapt our body to more comfortable state. For example, shifting in a chair our position while seated, shaking the legs, rubbing our nose, pulling at a shirt collar, adjusting a tie or glasses, and so forth. Although, not all adaptors can be taken as implication of person’s hidden emotions. Many adaptor movements, such as shifting position while seated, may be simply a way of resolving a specific physical situation, such as being uncomfortable, rather than revealing emotions and attitudes.
In our line of work, by taking in consideration person’s baseline behaviour along with the context, congruence and cluster of gestures, we observe certain self-adaptors that give away person’s internal state of mind.
Paralanguage: Voice Characteristics
Paralanguage is all about vocal aspects such astone, voice volume (loudness, softness), pitch (high, medium, low), intonation (melody, inflection), pacing (changing, rapid, slow speed), emotional vocalisations, accents, word fillers (uh-huh, eh, ahem etc.).
Paralanguage provides important context for the verbal content of speech, which is boils to basics of not 'what' has been said as to ‘how’.
As all of these above elements vary across cultures, at Aletheia International we take in consideration not only person’s vocal elements but also person’s cultural background, which adds more colour into a bigger picture of detecting emotions.