The most commonly used medium for communication is language: words, phrases, sentences – verbal communication. But what about the gestures we use? Don’t they count for something?
A vast number of studies have established that people make use of hand and body gestures in order to reinforce what they are saying – for stress and emphasis on the idea they wish to get across. However, this body language may also betray the speaker himself, for instance, when he attempts to bend the truth or to hide certain emotions he doesn’t want to be seen.
As verbal communication varies from culture to culture, nonverbal cues may also vary. It is important to take note, therefore, that certain gestures in one culture may mean nothing to another, and still may mean the opposite to yet another culture.
Here are a few basics to reading common nonverbal cues:
Straddling a Chair
In ancient times, men used shields to protect themselves from swords and spears from their enemies, and today, the modern man uses whatever he has at his disposal to resemble this defense when under verbal or physical attack.
The back of a chair provides a shield to cover and protect his body. Most people who straddle chairs are usually dominant in conversation and will try to manipulate and dominate others in the group.
Picking on Clothing
When a person finds himself disagreeing with the opinion of his companion but somehow feels constrained in voicing out his own beliefs, the gestures that follow are known as displacement gestures – those that result from withheld opinion. Picking imaginary lint or fluff from clothing is an example of such. The person usually looks away from the people he is in conversation with while doing this irrelevant gesture.
When a person manifests this gesture while agreeing with his companion, it usually means that he does not like what his companion just said, even though he may be verbally agreeing with everything.
Both Hands Behind the Head
This gesture is typical of people who feel superior, dominant, or confident about something. It may also be used by the “know-it-all” individual, and many may find it irritating.
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Allan Pease. Body language: how to read others’ thoughts by their gestures