Julius Fast describes that “body language can include any non-reflexive or reflexive movement of a part, or all of the body, used by a person to communicate an emotional message to the outside world.” When a person communicates, his whole being speaks. Whatever language is used, verbal or nonverbal, the person who is communicating (an encoder) follows a system of signals, symbols, or codes shared by the other person (a decoder).
There are difficulties involved, however, in any system of communication. First, the person may not know what to communicate. He feels something deep inside, but somehow he cannot conceptualize it definitely. Neither can he find the exact words to describe his feeling. Naturally he cannot verbalize it.
Spontaneously a person makes gestures, facial expressions, or any body movement. The challenge is decoding the non-verbal communication.
The American Sign Language (ASL) and the Indian Sign Language (ISL) are truly codes in the same sense that spoken languages are codes. They form the real body language in the strictest sense of a language. To a signer and a viewer who have come to a tacit agreement, both know what each other means. The viewer does not have to guess, and the signer can be confident that he has really communicated through either one or both of them are deaf and mute.
But the listener (or reader) is left guessing about what the message really is from a person expressing himself unconsciously through his body. Unlike the sign language, the whole body of the sender speaks. Though there are no coded materials for various body movements and expressions, one can still perceive what the sender means even without hearing his voice.
When the mind reacts to a stimulus, be it his own thoughts and feelings or the outside environment, the body reveals such reaction. It is needful that the listener/ reader tune in to all sorts of ways the other person expresses himself. A person must be sensitive to his own inner self – to his desires, attitudes, ideas, and emotions. Self-awareness followed by introspection leads one to discover the “hidden agenda.” He gains insight into his own motive and behavior, and how they are communicated. Such insight can be validated by an honest friend through his objective observations and feedbacks. Additional help is given by reading books on nonverbal language and shooting people in action through a video recorder.
A person who is sensitive to his own self can easily empathize and understand others. What he has to do is simply put himself in someone’s shoes, and see the latter’s world and feel what the other feels. He “reads” between lines of what the other person is saying. Much of what is communicated comes by emotional expression through his tone and volume of voice, rate of speech, breathing, eye movement, facial contortions, gestures, postures, and other body movements. Emotions are also revealed in the skin and muscles of the body. Such revelation is far more authentic and honest than what is expressed verbally.
Of course, the person is not aware that he is being betrayed by his own body. The emotional state of mind is expressed unconsciously. The communication system operates itself automatically. Signals are given. Only a keen, sensitive observer whose sense of perception is tuned in to all of these wavelengths can pick up the message.