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6 common myths about non-verbal communication
6 common myths about non-verbal communication

Communication is much more than just the words we speak. It also consists of implicit messages expressed through non-verbal behavior - facial expressions, gestures, voice, posture, respect for personal space, looks and even smells. These signals can provide clues for a better understanding of a person, his motives and reasons for behavior.

At some point, people decided that non-verbal messages can be deciphered as unambiguously as any other language, and that every gesture or movement must have its own "translation". As a result, myths and theories were born that are quite far from the truth - they figured out the most common ones.

1) "Hands in the lock" on the chest means that the person has closed


Legend has it that if a person folded his arms over his chest, it means that he closes himself off from others, tries to isolate himself from an unwanted situation, feels uncomfortable or even shows hostility. This idea has been replicated in parapsychological literature for many years; it even got to the point that people are afraid to cross their arms in public: what if the others decide that something is wrong with them?

How is it really? Psychologists believe that people cross their arms over their chests for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we really do so to cope with negative emotions in relation to the interlocutor or because of disagreement with what we hear. And sometimes this happens simply due to a lack of interest in the topic under discussion. It happens that we unconsciously copy the gesture of the interlocutor, or we are trying to warm up, or we just sit in an uncomfortable chair without armrests and do not know where to put our hands. Often, crossed arms on the chest mean withdrawal. Perhaps we have heard a strong argument that needs to be pondered, and it is easier for us to concentrate in a closed position and with our gaze averted. Apparently, in this way we isolate ourselves from external stimuli and information, focusing on our thoughts.

In a word, there is no unambiguous interpretation for this gesture. It is impossible to translate body language in the same way as we translate foreign words: the context of the situation and the peculiarities of a person's character play too large a role.

2) One gesture or glance can say everything about a person


Have you watched Lie to Me? Scientifically a great show, except for one detail - the incredible level of ability of the main character. A few non-verbal signals, a couple of postures and facial movements - and now the criminal is almost caught.

Imagine this in real life: here you are communicating with acquaintances and suddenly you notice that one of them looks very sad. Is this related to the topic of conversation? Maybe he remembered a sad event? Or just thought for a second? You will not recognize the answer from one glance - to solve such a problem, polygraph examiners ask a person the same questions several times, then they observe to understand exactly what he is reacting to. In normal communication, this will not work. You need to either continue to observe further, collecting more information, or try to tactfully ask a question about his state of health and thoughts at the moment.

Only in one case is it possible to "unravel" a person by just one movement - if you have information about him and the context. You are well acquainted with him, you know the topic of his conversation with the interlocutor, the environment, the level of his fatigue, etc. Then one short movement or a glance to the side will become the last missing piece of the puzzle that will put everything in its place. But this rarely happens!

3) More than 90% of information is perceived non-verbally

They were then asked to tell what emotions they "read". Based on the answers, Meyerabian concluded that we perceive other people's feelings and moods by 55% thanks to facial expressions, gestures, postures and looks, 38% - thanks to the timbre of the voice, the tempo of speech, intonation, and only 7% - thanks to the words that we use. In other words, mostly non-verbal.

The "rule of 7% - 38% - 55%" became wildly popular, but passing from mouth to mouth, from scientists to writers, from one journalist to another, the research results were greatly rounded and presented out of context, as if a psychologist was talking about any information.

The modern point of view is that the percentage depends on various situational factors, and Meyerabian's research was conducted only in order to show the importance of non-verbal cues in communication, and not in order to obtain an exact formula.

In general, it would be great if we could receive more than 90% of information non-verbally, because then we would watch films in any languages ​​of the world without translation.

4) Liars smile insincerely


They say that a smile with wrinkles near the eyes is sincere, but without them it is fake. We are glad to inform you that this is not the case! When we experience a strong inner experience, the additional muscles that form these very wrinkles are strained. That's all! The usual smile is more correctly called not fake, but social.

A social smile can replace some of the components of speech. Agree, sometimes it is easier and faster to smile instead of the words “everything is fine”, “everything is fine” or “it’s interesting for me to listen to you”. There is no need to strain, coming up with a suitable wording, because the interlocutor will understand everything intuitively. Don't forget cultural and social norms as well. Among people, it is customary to greet a familiar person with a smile (and in some Western cultures, a stranger too). And this is not a fake, but an expression of a certain stability: everything is going according to plan, no better and no worse.

So do not rush to stigmatize the usual smile.

5) liars have a shifting gaze, or they don't make eye contact at all


The claim that liars avoid eye contact does not come out of nowhere. This behavior is associated with feelings of guilt or shame when we cheat on someone. After all, everyone knows from childhood that lying is bad. Moreover, lying is a difficult cognitive task. It is necessary to keep in mind what has already been said, what is not worth saying and what remains to be said. The liar, looking away, tries to concentrate on these details, but this is not a 100% sign of lying.

The key to unraveling the myth is in the simple phrase "Look me in the eyes and tell me the truth!" … You've probably heard something like this more than once. Small children and just inexperienced liars really try not to look up at the interlocutor when they tell a lie. But most adults - especially those who already have a "gold medal" for lying - will look at you with the purest, genuinely sincere eyes. And you will not even suspect that you are being fooled. Experienced liars look into the eyes not only in order to look convincing, but also in order to check whether they believed him.

On the other hand, a person may turn away due to nervous tension, sadness, or even disgust. His experiences may be completely unrelated to the lie. Frequent and short glances can be a manifestation of a depressed state under the pressure of the interlocutor, persistently trying to detect lies where there is none. Ask a coworker what he ate for breakfast two days ago or what he considers most important in his job. Surely it will make him look away and think.

6) Non-verbal communication is facial expressions, postures, gestures

Wait, what about touch? There is a whole section of non-verbal communication that studies touch between people. Hugs, handshakes, kisses, pats on the shoulder … All this can be done with varying strength, intensity and duration.Accordingly, each such touch will have a different interpretation.

Space and time can also be classified as non-verbal: for example, the distance between people during a conversation is associated with a person's personality, status and cultural characteristics. And the arrangement of people at the table can influence the course of the conversation and help to more effectively influence the interlocutors.

Over time, in communication, we are also intuitively familiar. It is not hard to guess what they will think of us if we come to the meeting much in advance or, on the contrary, are indecently late. Sometimes time and space influence the course of a conversation together. The best example of this is the "carriage fellow traveler" with whom, after a couple of hours of communication, we suddenly share the most intimate secrets, although this is an absolutely unfamiliar person.

Do not forget about the depth and frequency of breathing, paleness and redness of the face, the frequency of swallowing and changes in the diameter of the pupil. Most often, such manifestations of the autonomic nervous system are examined to determine a lie, for this a polygraph is used. However, such technical means are not always necessary. Particularly disturbing personalities against the background of excitement are literally covered with red spots in the neck area, which is clearly visible with the naked eye.

Russian researchers also consider smells as a manifestation of non-verbal behavior. We use perfume to please ourselves and others, to feel confident, to attract the opposite sex. Smells are a full-fledged means of self-presentation. You can find out a little more about the interlocutor by how often he uses perfume, does it always or only on special occasions, picks up a bright scent or something inconspicuous.

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