Non Verbal Language





Non verbal language is an interesting term when you stop to think about it. Some might say that non verbal language is an oxymoron, but I think most of us will think of things like postures, gestures, tone of voice, or facial expressions when we see the words non verbal language, without giving any more thought to it, or perhaps you will think of one of the programs you have seen which report that the use of that program will bring a better job interview, or relationship, or dating experience, or poker game, or terrorist interview.

Non verbal language is definitly part of what I monitor in a counseling session, and I watch my important personal relationships for non verbal signals of well being or tension also.

That last statement means that I am a parent and I am watching my children's non verbal language closely when I ask them if they have finished their homework.

Not sure about your kids, but my kids work awfully hard to find language that neither lies or says, no, Dad, I have not finished it and I am ready for my consequence.

Sometimes there is no verbal answer to the homework question, and I am left to repeat it ever more loudly until the children startle to awareness and ask if I was talking to them.

My wife also has a way of indicating pleasure and displeasure using non verbal language, and I have heard it said that no man is married until he understands what his wife is not saying.

But enough with the familial idiosyncranies of non verbal language.

As a professional, I am looking for expressions and movements and changes in voice that indicate changes in internal states, because I want my clients to recognize the physiological changes that come with a change in thoughts, that a memory of a childhood event can bring a sudden flood of sadness or anger into the present moment, and the physiology of that emotion can impel or propel a behavior with life long consequences.

Those changes can happen in as little time as 1/18th second, which is about twice as fast as I can blink my eyes.

So I am looking for cues which flash across the faces of my clients very quickly, and I need to be able to put that flash of non verbal language into the context of the conversation and relationship and perhaps even a counseling theory.

But that is not the only way to interpret non verbal language.

What Can Ekman, Gottman, and Fisher Say to Us About Non Verbal Language?

Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has been studying our human mating dance for about 30 years, and Paul Ekman,Ph.D. has been studying facial expressions for just as long, and John Gottman,Ph.D. has been observing couples in his "love lab' for just about as long, and each of them has a great deal of information to shed on the non verbal language conversation.

Gottman can predict in a very short period of time whether or not a relationship will last for much longer based on the number of times he sees expressions of contempt, stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness, and Professor Fisher could accompany us on an excursion to a local coffee shop, and within moments begin to describe for us where the singles there are in the mating dance, and Professor Ekman has shown us that some expressions, like contempt, for example, are hardwired, and are not culturally mitigated.

So what is the best source of information about your non verbal language experience?

I think it is your feelings. Some non verbal language happens so quickly that I may consciously miss it, so I am left with my feelings, and when I note an incongruent feeling, perhaps I can quickly review what has happened between myself and the others around me to get a clue about the transactions between us.

Then I can ask a question, if I choose to, or I can store that information away and watch for it again.

Or I can read the excellent books out there which help me interpret non verbal language.



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