Having a deaf-mute brother gives me a personal appreciation for the value of body language in communication.
I recall him handing me a card at a young age with all the hand signs for the ASL (American Sign Language) alphabet. He didn’t have to speak… the look in his eyes and on his face said it all – please learn how to talk to me.
I use this card to teach my participants these ASL-ABCs in one of my Leadership Modules – Learning New Skills. While the activity is not about body language, it does provide evidence that our body actions are powerful language.
The ability to interpret body language is a skill that will enhance anyone’s career. Over the next four articles, I’ll share my understanding of some non-verbal cues that may be helpful in the workplace.
The position of the head speaks volumes, making it the perfect place to start. While it takes practice to accurately interpret head positions, basic positions and movements are not extremely difficult to identify.
Movement and Position:
Nodding: Nodding typically indicates agreement. The speed of the nod, however, indicates different things. A slow nod can be a sign of interest or a polite, fake signal. Look to the eyes for confirmation. A fast nod signals impatience with the speaker.
Head up: This position indicates that the person is listening without bias.
Head down: This position indicates disinterest or rejection of what is said. When done during an activity, it signals weakness or tiredness.
Tilted to the side: This means a person is thoughtful or vulnerable. It can signal trust.
Head high: Holding the head high signals confidence or feelings of superiority.
Chin-up: The chin-up indicates defiance or confidence.
Head forward: Facing someone directly indicates interest. It is a positive signal.
Tilted down: Tilting the head down signals disapproval.
Shaking: A shaking head indicates disagreement. The faster the shaking, the stronger the disagreement.
Many of our gestures are unconscious movements or mannerisms. Being aware of what our gestures mean will make us more aware of what we are communicating.
Words from the Wise:
Terry Galloway: Deafness has left me acutely aware of both the duplicity that language is capable of and the many expressions the body cannot hide.