Nonverbal Body Language

Nonverbal Body Language



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I always start my discussion of nonverbal body language in my domestic violence classes by asking the participants to tell me how they know a particular person they see or meet at a party is interested in getting to know them.

You should see the eyes light up and the memory caps go on, because everyone can remember an incident like that, and everyone can describe how they felt on the receiving end of a message like that, but when I ask my clients what exactly the sender did, no one has ever been able to describe the discrete behaviors that were part of the overall message.

There is usually mention of soft, shiny eyes, a soft smile, relaxed physiology, soft voice, ect. as the components of the nonverbal body language.

Helen Fisher,Ph.D. has gone a long way to help us understand the role of nonverbal body language in mating, and believe me, we can make some life altering decisions in a moment based on mating behavior. After all, I may be dating someone for a long time, but when I create the words, "I love you", my life changes forever.

And most guys I know will not be aware on a conscious level of a communication involving the following sequence of behaviors;

Here is a five part process that Dr. Fisher describes that frequently women communicate to men;

"So, how do hopeful singles transition from a "loom" or "crouch" to an actual pounce? For women, Dr. Fisher suggests trying the tried-and-true "five-part flirt." "You catch someone's eye, cock your head to the side, raise your eyebrows, look down, then away," she explains, adding that women are usually more socially adept than men and thus better at initiating courtship. But at some point, she conditions, a transfer must happen: In other words, the man has to pick up the ball and make his move."

But they will be aware of their feelings when those kinds of behaviors are directed at them.

So what are the nonverbal body language behaviors that men use in the mating dance that Dr. Fisher has studied?

Here is what Dr. Fisher says in an interview with Jody Dutton;

"Notice how that guy's stirring his drink with his entire arm?" Dr. Fisher points out. "He'd never bother to do that at home." The man then casually stretches his arms back in a gesture Dr. Fisher calls the "chest thrust" to appear as large and formidable as possible. "Pretty much all courtship postures fall into two categories: Attempts to look big and attempts to look little," she explains. Traditionally, men generally try to look big, or "loom," while women try to look small, or "crouch." The direction someone's feet are pointing can also convey interest: Smitten women turn pigeon-toed; men pivot outward. "Feet can be a real giveaway," says Dr. Fisher. "People are quite conscious of their body and hands, but forget to control their feet."

But what does all this have to do with counseling?

We send very subtle messages about our internal states nonverbally, and those messages that our body sends may contradict our words, leaving the receiver of our message confused about what message to attend to.

As a counselor, I look very carefully at my clients for those noverbal body language signals, and when I see them, I ask questions about them.

Even if my query does not lead to a conversation about an issue, the action of paying attention is beneficial for the client.

If you are really curious about nonverbal body language, I suggest you study the work of Paul Ekman,Ph.D. who has worked for decades to classify facial expressions into recognizable patterns.

Most of our nonverbal communication happens with very subtle changes in voice and expression, and Dr. Ekman's work is extremely illuminating in regard to expressions.





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