Body Language Explained

You want body language explained? Learn how to ask questions. The right kind of questions to another about your observations or concerns in regards to their emotional state can be a wonderful gift to another human being. An aggressive question could be perceived as nosy though, so pay attention to your own non-verbals as you talk. In fact, if I really want to know what another individual might be feeling, I can model their physical posture to get a sense of it.

When I first wanted to have body language explained, I was a kid trying to find an easy, softer way to succeed at the mating game.

I thought that if I could tell what potential mates were feeling about me by reading their non verbal cues, I would know who to be very nice to, which would make me a more likely candidate.

I did not think so much about manipulating body language to gain power over, in part because folks who are trying to act differently than they really feel are what we in the counseling business call incongruent, and incongruencies can leave the receiver of the incongruent message unable to explain that body language, which is disconcerting.

That is one of the reasons watching TV and movies can be so disconcerting. If the actor is not really feeling the emotion he or she is portraying, the acting leaves me feeling upset, and I usually do not recommend the product.

The first exposure I had to an attempt to explain body language was the work of Julius Fast, who wrote the book "BODY LANGUAGE".

Below is a link to another of Fast's works. I also had a professor in college, Dr. Ted Sands, who had written a book about his experiences in the Army subsequent to the end of WWII. His work posited the theory that the origins of the Cold War could be traced to the inability of U.S. and Russian negotiators to understand the cultural non-verbal signals involved in effective communication, which rendered the communication ineffective, leading to aggressive responses and posturing.

So this idea of explaining body language can have some far reaching consequences.

In my counseling practice, I pay attention to subtle shifts in expression, intonation, and posture.

Often those 'truth responses' will indicate a counseling area that will require more attention. For example, if an individual reports that they feel happy while looking very sad, as a counselor, I want to ask them about that incongruence.

Usually those truth responses are short lived though, so you want to pay attention to them, and I think that the experts who tell you to follow their system to have a complete body language explanation are exaggerating.

While I may think that I know what another is feeling, or experiencing, I cannot be sure since I am not in their head.

By the same token though, there has been research done by both Paul Ekman,Ph.D. and Helen Fisher,Ph.D. both of whom have been in their fields for 30 years.

Professor Ekman has studied facial expressions and Dr. Fisher has done anthropological studies of the human mating dance including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)of in-love brains and just-out-of-love brains.

Professor Ekman has written about how we human beings respond to a look of contempt across cultures similarly, and how other expressions are culturally mitigated.

There are even text books now, and lots of research on human communication, including some explanation of body language.

But here are links to Professor's Fisher and Ekman's books which will give you a start at the fascinating process of body language.

Professor Fisher can walk into a coffee shop or saloon and within moments begin to describe for you the discrete behaviors that men and women engage in as they move through the courtship rituals we humans have engaged in for eons.

While it is nice to know about Professor Fisher's work, when I am looking for courtship behaviors in a conversation, I am not really listening am I?

But if you are looking for someone to court, then you should try her personality test at

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