Body language

Conversation is one of the strongest mediums of communication but it certainly is not the only medium for doing so, but is only 10 percent of total communication on an average. Even the languages could well be spoken or non-spoken, verbal or through sign languages. Because we express ourselves   through different mediums other than spoken languages therefore there is need to understand those mediums deeply. Different mediums of Body language or expression through gestures play an important role in communication. However, sign language, gesture or body language is nothing new for us, as most of us are aware of different methods to express us by body languages. Here are few examples to explain- 

1- The way convey our respect or Pranam

2- Surya Namaskar and other different dance pose (Mudras)

3- Yoga Mudras 

4- Yoga Nritya Mudras

People who have read famous book written by Vatsyayana, The Kamsutra about different sexual postures, know that the book describes about body language in detail. In fact, the art of drama, dance especially the classical and theater is nothing but expression through body language. Body language is an integral part of expression and the whole world accepts it without any controversy. There is another fact that communication is not possible without gestures and these very gestures are known as body language. To understand even better about body language in more detail we shall have to go further into body language-

* Eye contact- Eye contact is probably the most important tool for communication purpose. To show the emotions, warmness, anger, love, hate and good or bad relations there is no better medium than a simple look into the eyes of the person standing in front of you.

* Facial Expression- As they say a simple smile can convert an enemy into a good friend and the good facial expressions make your relations better, but if your expressions are not, friendly these can turn your relations sour and friends can become foes. While conversing with friends, it’s necessary to keep your facial expressions in control as these communicate more than your words say. In fact, while we’re still searching the words, the communication is over, through the facial expressions.  

* Gestures- Most of us speak through our gestures during our conversation and most of us do not know about it. Every action of our body during our conversation has an important role to play, every action has its meaning and every movement of our body parts is important because it has a different meaning. Every action of our body part sends a different signal in between the conversing parties. Now this is important for you to know how your gestures convey whether boring or interesting. Your body gestures make or break your image so you must know how you use your body language.

* Postures- Our body parts have certain postures and if used sensibly, we can make our conversation much more meaningful which is the key to success. However, the use of such postures should be according to local rules of cultural and social norms as it may differ from place to place. The one you find attractive in one area might give absolutely different meaning in other areas. Therefore, use of postures should be according to local conditions and with utmost care.

* Proximity- We all agree that closeness is part of good relations but we must know an exact distance in a particular relation. Now you’re the best judge about how much is good enough or sufficient in a particular relation. Some relations need your touch while others would not tolerate them. Some relations would demand kisses but you cannot do the same in every case. A pat on the back could be great in a particular case but the same is not possible on everyone. Every action that our body does sends a different signal, but we have to keep in mind that who are we dealing with and act accordingly, because a wrong move can spoil the relations.

* Vocal- Vocabulary is part of the communication and the cadence, the balance of our speech is another important factor of our communication. We can communicate better if the rhythm of our speech is according to occasion. If the tone or cadence is according to occasion, it will bring special effects. For instance, you must have felt the difference while an actor delivering his dialogues during an act, the cadence (Aroh-Avroh) changes the whole effect of the scene. The speech should touch the person otherwise, it will be nothing more than a monologue. You must have heard, you can win the world by talking nicely loose it for your bad mouthing. Speaking is another aspect of winning or loosing the battle even if it has only 10% share of the total communication. Body Language.svg

The different aspects of Body language

When we talk about body language, gesture is the most significant of all the related aspects, therefore few important points were discussed but it’s a wide and interesting subject and to know it deeply would unfold newer meanings. Once we understand the practical value of the body language you would find it amazing and in the right direction to communicate in a far better way. But before we discuss it in detail, we must know the actual meaning of body language. According to experts, the body language is art of communication where you do not speak a word but you send your message to the desired party. Body language consists of your facial expressions, eye contact and other body gestures. In other words, body language is a combined expression in which of our entire body is involved. 

Let’s take the Dance-postures for example- we have divided them in 9 segments (Navras)  The  Nine Feelings or Tastes, called Shringaar (Amour), Haasya (Humor), Veer (Bravery) Bhaya (Fear), Karuna (Pity), Rowdra (Anger), Beebhats (Ugly), Adbhuth (Amazing), Shaant (Peaceful). These are perfect example of expression where no one speaks a word but the spectator understands every expression easily in detail. If we add the western postures in these nine feelings the expression will become even wider, there are certain expressions listed below-

1. Amusement

2. Contempt

3. Contentment

4. Embarrassment

5. Excitement

6. Guilt

7. Relief

8. Achievement

9. Pride

10. Satisfaction

11. Sensory Pleasure

12. ShameThe natural gift of expression

 The muscles of our face can show any desired expression without any extra effort. As soon as we think about a particular feeling, our face can show it provided we want to express it because in real life, most of us want to hide our feelings but in show business, we express them openly. People who are experts on hiding their feelings by turning into wooden faces are mostly considered dangerous because it’s hard to understand their feelings. You never know what they think and how would they react but actors develop this art for betterment of their performance. They learn it to display the different colors of their talent. We should understand that most people are born with open expressions with natural expressions but actors develop them to express even more clearly.     

Not only our facial muscles but also the movement of our eyes have their own expressions. In fact, the movement of our eyes depend on facial expressions or you can say that the eyes are the mirror of our inner feelings and the face. If you look at the eyes, you will find very little of it but if you’d look at the entire face at the same time and the expressions would be entirely different. It’s in fact a combined effect of the face including eyes. Facial expression is the best way to communicate with each other and let others know what you have in your mind.

 Jealousy and Flirtation

The other body gestures

Now, we come to the other body gestures which include movements of the hands, legs, waist, hips and shoulders. Some of these are unintentional while some of these are to confirm our expression. Different body movements have their own meanings which display the intention of a person in different references. All the gestures a person does during his communication are his inner feelings that show in form of body gestures that help him reduce his excitement, because a person can express only 10-15% by way of words but rest of it comes through gestures, as I said intentionally r unintentionally. We should understand the meaning of our body gestures because every action of our body sends a particular message. These gestures have good and bad messages therefore we shall have to control them properly, for instance-

A- If we show our thumb to someone without even letting him complete his sentence that would be like a negative gesture that shows disrespect for him and in turn irritating the person. By showing a thumb downward in a sideways shaking manner is meant for negation. 

B- If we’re talking to someone and he is standing with both arms tied in front of his chest and not looking in your direction is a clear indication that he is not interested in our discussion or he wants to end it without taking it further. On the contrary if the person is listening to you seriously without any movement that shows that he is giving you enough attention. There is another point here, if that person with his arms in front his chest is looking left and right during the conversation indicates that he is about to oppose you because he is not interested in your discussion/proposal. The point here is that the same body gesture can have different meaning with little different movements of particular body parts.

C- Eye contact has an important role to play during our conversation. If we look directly into the eyes of person in front of us that shows that we are taking a proper interest in the discussion but if weren’t looking in the eyes of man in front of us, it’s one of the clear indications that we’re not interested in his proposal. I must mention here that in some cultures a direct eye contact isn’t considered sober but we must talk with our eyes at a lower level, in that case the whole meaning is changed. Talking to someone with an eye contact is considered bad. For instance talking to elders and ladies in Indian society with a direct eye contact is not respectful or even discriminating. It is therefore, suggested to keep the cultural and local norms in mind. Another eye related gesture that indicates the intention of the onlooker is if he fixed his sight on the forehead of the opposite party, it indicates his authoritarian nature. Finally, if they keep their eye on lips or nose, it’s a clear indication of romantic relation between the two.

D- If someone is touching his ear or nose in between a conversation, it clearly indicates that the person has no trust or at least not fully believing the speaker and if the eyes too are looking from one side to other, it is a sure proof of mistrust. 

E- If the listener is looking somewhere else at the distant aim with his head bended in a side is another clear indication that he is not interested. 

F- You should know for sure that a person is lying if he touches his face frequently or keeps his eyes blinking more than normally required. Trying to evade an eye contact during talking to someone is normally a sign of a habitual liar. 

Distance is important to understand body language 

Western body language experts give importance to ‘space-the distance’ when discuss about this subject and that sounds reasonable. They have categorized the distances to specify the difference-

- Zero space, if there is no distance between the two bodies  

- Personal space, when the distance between the two people is within 1-4 feet  

- Social distance, when the distance 10-15 feet

- Social distance, when the distance is more than 15 feet

Here the space defines the physical distance. When the partners are close enough and there is no distance whatsoever that is Zero space, in this case the bodies of the two partners’ understand each other very well. The communication in between family members is best when the distance is about 4 feet in between the two people. When we talk about ‘space’ in reference to the body language, it’s all about a proper distance to judge the gestures. However, there is an important point that should be kept in mind that there are certain actions which take place while people talking to each other but these are neither important nor have any value as such. For example, certainly people cannot speak without rubbing their eyes in between two sentences while some others keep throwing their arms around or keep licking their lips or keep playing with their fingers or rubbing their palms, but these actions have no meaning as such. These actions are not intentional but they do them without knowing.

Animals also use the body language

Have you ever looked at animals or birds carefully, just have a look at them and see how they communicate with their own groups or with others. They have their own unique ways of expressing themselves by way of lifting their tails, their legs or paws, biting or licking each other. Every action is a way of expression. Regular bird and animal watchers, veterinary doctors, forest guards note every action or movement closely how these animals communicate with each other and these people can understand the meaning of their action. 

We can apply the same formulas on human body language. Seeing the different gestures repeatedly and knowing their meanings, we can always make our communication even more impressive. It’s not easy in the beginning though but constant training can help us decode the body gestures successfully. And that’s what body language all about, it helps in better communication or even going a step further, it says more than the words speak. Let us look at another example, just remember the touch of your mother, your little daughter or your wife and remember the feelings you had even if they did not speak a single word at that time, you’ll agree that the touch has more capacity than words. To learn the body language is not that easy but it certainly is not impossible and once we learn to understand it, everything looks easy. You should keep in mind that knowledge of body language comes in handy when you meet someone for the first time, because you can gauge a stranger instantly with your knowledge of body language. We should not forget that the art of body language could also help us know ourselves better by observing and following our own gestures. Improvement in our behavior through body language will help us increase our self-confidence.  

The body language

There is a word Kinesics, which is study of how our body movements and gestures work as method of communication without actually speaking. I tried Oxfords’ dictionary to go into deeper of the word and found, “The study of the way in which certain body movements and gestures serve as a form of non-verbal communication.” to be exact. But if we think a little out of the box – body language is a way to express your own views, without speaking, but more effectively. Both have almost the same meaning but a little difference. In the second version, one has the control over his own body gestures. Here the emphasis is on- Body language can show your expressions through slightest of movements of eyes, or change of facial expressions, your breathing pattern, heartbeat, blood-pressure or your other moods like shyness, fear, proudly feelings etc. 

If we expand it carefully then perhaps we can redefine it to give a larger picture – “Body language is expression of our feelings, views and mental status through body actions, facial movements, and physical status, atmosphere and eye movements, to communicate our message to someone standing in front of us.”  We must understand that there is no spoken medium added in this process. 


Natural or by training

One should make sure that he understands the signs of body language fully otherwise he will not be able to understand the meaning of a conversation properly. One knows it instantly. Now, there is a question at this point “Is it a natural talent or one has to learn finer points to be an expert on body language” the answer is ‘both’ but to know it one needs to look into himself. You will have to find the answer for yourself. Check it out how you behave while you communicate with others, while speaking and while not speaking but trying to convey your message. Check out your body movements whether or not they exist. Do you make any visible gestures, or send any signals through your body parts? If you make your own thorough study, you’ll find most of your answers. 

There are different opinions on body language, some people consider it genetic or by heredity but some others feel that it comes by experience or by learning through known or unknown sources. Some experts feel that our facial expressions are by birth but some others feel that we learn them. Both these thoughts could be right but in my views the facial expressions are by birth but we learn to express them to make them visible and convey our feelings. However, all these experts agree to one particular fact that some of these gestures belong to specific communities or societies, which is clearly visible if we compare them in our own culture and western culture. We must be extra cautious while sending body signals while in societies other than our own or not fully aware of culture of the place. 


Body language is very much part of today’s scientific education. We are able to understand it better with the help of brain mapping technology that can read every activity of human brain that controls body movements. However, all these modern scientific studies are only part of understanding about body language, but the actual observation comes from personal experiences, a continuous process that goes on.   

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