Non verbal body language is about 90% of our communication as human beings.
We communicate a lot of information about our inner feeling states which can amplify our verbal communication or even contradict our verbal communication, and there has been a lot written about how to read body language and to use it to establish whether an individual is telling the truth or not in an interrogation for example or in a relationship.
I think it is possible to recognize patterns of communications as Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has done in her anthropological studies of our human mating dance, or Paul Ekman,Ph.D., has done with facial expressions. I agree with Professor Ekman that it is difficult to say with any great accuracy that non verbal body language will reveal whether an individual is telling the truth or not.
However, I look for very subtle changes in body language in my counseling sessions, because those body responses can reveal thoughts and feelings associated with a memory, for example, which the my client has never spoken of before.
Revealing the secret could be very helpful in dealing with the feeling of shame for example, because shame can be appropriate or inappropriate and inappropriate shame, the kind that says to you that you are a "bad" person can really limit your life.
So non verbal body language can reveal tendencies I guess rather than truths.
Can non verbal body language be manipulated? Only if we the viewers allow ourselves to be manipulated. We have to watch the folks we are close to carefully and perhaps ask questions if the words we hear are not matching the non verbal body language.
For example, a demonstration I frequently use in my domestic violence classes involves my using the words "I Love You" yelled out in a loud, mean tone with a snarling expression.
I then ask which message they paid attention to, the words of the non verbal body language. Almost to a person, the response is that the snarling expression and aggressive tone of voice trumps the words "I Love You".
Oftentimes when someone we care about is hedging their response to a query from a loved one which can carry some emotionally charged freight (a man asks his girl friend why she spent so much time with her ex-husband when dropping off the kids for his weekend), we assume that the incongruence between verbal and non verbal response is the result of a lie.
The incongruence may simply be an attempt to avoid a conflict about this issue, but we make our inferences and act on them faster than we can remember that we have made a commitment to love, honor, and obey which does involve reminding ourselves of trust.
In fact, Professor Ekman says that we can process a look of contempt and change our physiology to that look in 1/25th second, which is about twice as fast as I can blink my eyes.
And in the situation above, the suspicious boyfriend may have been practicing his high arousal for the amount of time his girlfriend has been gone, and that suspicion may date to his childhood relationship with his mom.
If you have ever read a sales letter for an internet guru's latest offering, and come away with the sense of I must buy this now, then you are feeling the physiology which a master copy writer has hoped to induce.
TV commercials are also wonderful teaching tools for the manipulation of body language. There are different commercials for different markets and believe me, those commercials are constructed frame by frame to provide just the right juxtoposition to induce first excitement, then an inducement to buy.
Political campaigns and political commentators are another excellent example of how to use incendiary language and non verbal body language to induce an emotional response in the listener.
We as consumers need to calm down if we find ourselves suffering an emotional response to non verbal body language and ask clarifying questions.
In the boyfriend visitation example above, if I were the boyfriend, I might want to ask myself about how trusting I am. My lack of trust, perhaps from on ungrieved prior loss, needs to be dealt with before I can leap into suspicion and accusation.
Of course, if you are interested in learning more about non verbal body language, there are many excellent tools available, including e-books and chapters of e-books about the science of body language.
And there are a number of powerful brain fitness tools available that will help you develop your observational skills so that you can pick out those very subtle signals.
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