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Body language is a form of mental and physical ability of human non-verbal communication, consisting of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously. (Body language, in this sense, should be distinguished from sign language.)
James Borg states that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves; however, Albert Mehrabian, the researcher whose 1960s work is the source of these statistics, has stated that this is a misunderstanding of the findings (see Misinterpretation of Mehrabian's rule).
Body language is significant to communication and relationships. It is relevant to management and leadership in business and also in places where it can be observed by many people. It can also be relevant to some outside of the workplace. It is commonly helpful in dating, mating, in family settings, and parenting. Although body language is non-verbal or non-spoken, it can reveal a lot about your feelings and meaning to others and also how other others reveal their feelings toward you. Body language signals happen on a conscious and unconscious level.
Understanding body language 
The technique of "reading" people is used frequently. For example, the idea of mirroring body language to put people at ease is commonly used during interview situations. Body language can show feelings to other people, which works in return for other people. People who show their body language to you can reveal their feelings and meanings. Mirroring the body language of someone else indicates that they are understood. It is important to note that some markers of emotion (e.g. smiling/laughing when happy, frowning/crying when sad) are largely universal,[page needed] however in the 1990s Paul Ekman expanded his list of basic emotions, including a range of positive and negative emotions, not all of which are encoded in facial muscles. The newly included emotions are:
- Pride in achievement
- Sensory pleasure
Body language signals may have a goal other than communication. People would keep both these two in mind. Observers limit the weight they place on non-verbal cues. Signalers clarify their signals to indicate the biological origin of their actions. Verbal communication also requires body language to show that the person you are talking with that you are listening. These signals can consist of; eye contact and nodding your head to show you understand. More examples would include yawning (sleepiness), showing lack of interest (sexual interest/survival interest), attempts to change the topic (fight or flight drivers). Rudolf Laban and Warren Lamb add much to this about dancers. Mime artists such as Booff Show utilize these techniques to communicate entire shows without a single word.
Physical expression 
Physical expressions like waving, pointing, touching and slouching are all forms of nonverbal communication. The study of body movement and expression is known as kinesics. Humans move their bodies when communicating because, as research has shown, it helps "ease the mental effort when communication is difficult." Physical expressions reveal many things about the person using them. For example, gestures can emphasize a point or relay a message, posture can reveal boredom or great interest, and touch can convey encouragement or caution.
- One of the most basic and powerful body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest. This could indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. However, it can also indicate that the person's arms are cold, which would be clarified by rubbing the arms or huddling. When the overall situation is amicable, it can mean that a person is thinking deeply about what is being discussed, but in a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition. This is especially so if the person is leaning away from the speaker. A harsh or blank facial expression often indicates outright hostility.
- Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn't trust the speaker enough to "take their eyes off" the speaker. Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety disorders are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort. Eye contact can also be a secondary and misleading gesture because cultural norms about it vary widely. If a person is looking at you, but is making the arms-across-chest signal, the eye contact could be indicative that something is bothering the person, and that he wants to talk about it. Or if while making direct eye contact, a person is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it could indicate that the attention is elsewhere. Also, there are three standard areas that a person will look which represent different states of being. If the person looks from one eye to the other, then to the forehead, it is a sign that they are taking an authoritative position. If they move from one eye to the other, then to the nose, that signals that they are engaging in what they consider to be a "level conversation" with neither party holding superiority. The last case is from one eye to the other and then down to the lips. This is a strong indication of romantic feelings.
- Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. When a person is not being convinced by what someone is saying, the attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.
- Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused. A head tilt may also indicate a sore neck, trust or a feeling of safety (part of the neck becomes uncovered, hence vulnerable; It's virtually impossible to tilt our head in front of someone we don't trust or are scared of) or Amblyopia, and unfocused eyes may indicate ocular problems in the listener.
- Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact, such as standing and listening properly.
- Deceit or the act of withholding information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation. Excessive blinking is a well-known indicator of someone who is lying. Recently[when?], evidence has surfaced that the absence of blinking can also represent lying as a more reliable factor than excessive blinking.
Some people use and understand body language differently, or not at all. Interpreting their gestures and facial expressions (or lack thereof) in the context of normal body language usually leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations (especially if body language is given priority over spoken language). It should also be stated that people from different cultures can interpret body language in different ways.
Prevalence of non-verbal communication in humans 
Some researchers[who?] put the level of nonverbal communication as high as 80 percent of all communication when others[who?] state the figures could be at or around 50-65 percent. Different studies have found differing amounts, with some studies showing that facial communication is believed 4.3 times more often than verbal meaning, and another finding that verbal communication in a flat tone is 4 times more likely to be understood than a pure facial expression. Albert Mehrabian found "that the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation is less than 35% and that over 65% of communication is done non-verbally".
The interpertation of body language should not be based on a single gesture. Pease (2004) suggests evaluation should be on three distinct rules: 1) Read gestures in clusters; 2) look for congruence; and 3) read gestures in context.
Introduced by Edward T. Hall in 1966, proxemics is the study of measurable distances between people as they interact with one another. The distance between people in a social situation often discloses information about the type of relationship between the people involved. Proximity may also reveal the type of social setting taking place.
- Intimate distance ranges from touching to about 18 inches (46 cm) apart, and is reserved for lovers, children, as well as close family members and friends, and also pet animals.
- Personal distance begins about an arm's length away; starting around 18 inches (46 cm) from the person and ending about 4 feet (122 cm) away. This space is used in conversations with friends, to chat with associates, and in group discussions.
- Social distance ranges from 4 to 8 feet (1.2 m - 2.4 m) away from the person and is reserved for strangers, newly formed groups, and new acquaintances.
- Public distance includes anything more than 8 feet (2.4 m) away, and is used for speeches, lectures, and theater. Public distance is essentially that range reserved for larger audiences.
Proximity range varies with culture.
Unintentional gestures 
Beginning in the 1960s, there has been huge interest in studying human behavioral clues that could be useful for developing an interactive and adaptive human-machine system. Unintentional human gestures such as making an eye rub, a chin rest, a lip touch, a nose itch, a head scratch, an ear scratch, crossing arms, and a finger lock have been found conveying some useful information in specific contexts[which?]. Some researchers[who?] have tried to extract such gestures in a specific context for educational applications. In poker games, such gestures are referred to as "tells" and are useful to players for detecting deception clues or behavioral patterns in opponents.
There is also a huge interest in learning to avoid any unintentional gesture that might leave a negative impression on the onlookers. A large number of people are starting to attend special sessions on controlled body behaviour and take advice from expert sociologists. Learning good body language, such as living styles of foreign people, is important during interaction in any sort of global community.
Eyes, although not first thought of when talking about body language, can revel a lot about how someone feels or how they are thinking about a certain topic. Our eyes are highly aware of what we ‘see’ in other people’s eyes. For example you can recognize that you have made eye contact with someone that is 100 or 130 feet away with out actually being able to see the detail of a person’s eye. We usually understand a glazed over look or a blank stare, moistened eye that indicated tears would come or a secret glance.
Here are some of the signals the eye gives away:
Looking right (generally): Usually indicates the person is creating, fabricating, lying or story telling. In some cases this may mean that the person is making up something, but other cases (like telling a story to a child) it can be perfectly normal to be creating something. Looking down and right indicates feelings that can be genuine or not depending on the context of what the person is doing.
Looking left (generally): Usually indicates the person is recalling facts, remembering. This includes recalling and stating facts from memory, usually the truth. But ‘facts’ can be incorrect, which is another matter all together.
Direct eye contact: When speaking to someone this can be an indication of honesty by that person, although trained liars have practiced this skill and can copy it well. When you are listening to someone and have eye contact that generally means you have interest, attentiveness and some kind of attraction to the person.
Widening eyes: This indicates appeal, interest and invitation. Usually interest in someone or something you are looking at, and a positive response. The exception is when widening eyes are paired with raised eyebrows, which can be a shock response. Women tend to widen their eyes to try and increase their attractiveness.
Rubbing eyes: Can be associated with disbelief about something (as in checking your vision) or something that is related to crying or tiredness. Usually if paired with long blinks then it means the person is tired or bored.
Eye shrug/roll: When an eye has an upward roll, it usually means it is a sign of frustration or annoyance.
Pupils dilated: The black center of a person’s eye gets larger to let in light and smaller to let in less light. When it is dark that is one of the reasons pupils are dilated. Another reason pupils dilate is when someone sees something that is appealing to them or attractive.
Blinking: When blinking is frequent it is a sign of excitement or pressure, but it is not a reliable way to tell if someone is lying. When the blink rate is infrequent it usually means boredom if the eyes are not focused or it can mean concentration if they eyes are focused.
Arms can indicate many things to a person, when they are across you body it can be a defensive barrier and when they are by your side it can mean you feel open and secure. Arms signals are reliable indicators of your mood, more so when combined with other body language symbols.
Here are some signals:
Crossed arms: Crossed arms usually are associated with protective barrier. This could be due to a number of things like concern, boredom or feeling threatened. If the person is cold they will also cross their arms sometimes, which can give off mixed signals.
Gripping own upper arms: This can be seen as insecurity in some males and females. It is a way of self hugging, and attempt to reassure one self. Another from of self hugging is when you take your one arm across body clasping other arm by side, which is typical in females only.
Arms held behind body with hands clasped: This is a signal of authority or confidence. It is seen in authoritative figures like police men, and armed forces officers.
Many of the arm signals have to do with nervousness and are done to create a barrier between oneself and the outside world here are some typical barrier signals: handbag held in front of body, papers in front of your chest, adjusting cuff, watchstrap, tie, etc., using an arm across the body, arms/hands covering genital region, holding a drink in front of body with both hands seated, holding drink on one side with hand from other side, touching or scratching shoulder using arm across body
Legs and Feet 
Legs and feet body language is known for being more authentic than the other signals due to the fact it is harder to fake or do consciously. This makes it a good indicator of people’s feelings. When looking at leg and feet signals we must remember that women and men sit differently, men tend have a more open leg position while women do not, so therefore when a women sits with open legs it has a different meaning then when a men does. Leg signals are supported by the corresponding arm signals they go along with them.
Here are some signals:
Leg Direction, sitting-general: When a person is seated they usually have their leg direction pointed in the direction of their point of interest. When they are uninterested in a conversation or a person their legs will point away from them. When legs are crossed the upper knee dictates what the they are interested in or disinterested in.
Uncrossed legs, sitting-general: When legs are uncrossed that generally means they have an open attitude no matter if it is male or female.
Crossed legs, sitting-general: This usually means they are cautious or disinterested in what is going on, there is a degree of uncertainty. They may feel threaten or insecure.
Parallel legs: Legs together generally mean properness when it is concerning a female, this is a very unusual stance in males. This can be due to the female’s upbringing.
Open legs, sitting: This is mainly a male posture; this can be associated with arrogance, sexual posturing or combative feelings. This is not usually seen in women, especially when in skirts. This is considered to be combative because it makes the person look bigger than they really are. Confidence signals are increased when arms are open and wide.
Ankle lock: This is considered to be a negative signal and may mean defensiveness in both men and women.
Standing ‘at attention’: this means someone is standing upright with their shoulders back and arms by side. This is a military position and considered to be a signal of respect and subservience when in the presence of someone in authority.
Legs intertwined, sitting: This is usually a female stance. Depending on what is going on this can mean insecurity or sexual posing. This would be considered sexual posing because the tight crossed leg would tend to emphasize the muscle and tone of the leg. This should be assessed while also interpreting other body signals.
Legs crossed, standing: This is different than when legs are crossed when sitting. This may mean insecurity or/submission or engagement. When legs and arms are crossed it usually means less confident and insecure when just the legs are crossed but arms are open it can mean a committed agreement to stand and engage with the other person.
Shoe-play: Usually seen in females, this can mean relaxation, flirting and sexual feelings. In more case then one playing with a shoe and slipping it on and off can have sexual overtones.
See also 
- Gesture recognition
- List of gestures
- Origin of language
- Origin of speech
- Posture (psychology)
- Paul Ekman
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- ^ Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-08476-5
- Engleberg,Isa N. Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. My Communication Kit Series, 2006. page 140-141
- Pease, Allan (October 21, 2004). The Definitive guide to Body Language. Chapter 1: Orion Media. ISBN 0752861182.
- Ekman, P; E R Sorenson and W V Friesen. "Pan-Cultural Elements in Facial Displays of Emotion". Science 164 (4 Apr 1969).
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- James, Judi (2008). The Body Language Bible. Random House.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Body language|
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