Research indicates that people who understand and accurately interpret body language reach greater levels of success in all areas of their lives, especially in relation to romance. As matchmakers here at Seventy Thirty, we are keenly aware that non-verbal language allows us to nurture healthy relationships, identify and subsequently address problems and strengthen business alliances and friendships. The ability to read body language is therefore imperative in relationships and tragic circumstances can occur when it is overlooked. This is when we hear stories such as, “my partner is leaving, I had no idea he was unhappy” and “I never suspected for a minute my wife was having an affair”. Such situations may have been prevented or addressed early on, potentially preserving these precious relationships.
We all have all know the importance of deciphering body language, and many of us are proficient at reading the non-verbal cues of others. However, advances in neural-imaging technology have taken the knowledge base in this area to a whole new level by revealing the biological and evolutionary basis for body language. Consequently, researchers have new insights into this field which we will explore over a series of three blogs with a view to reaping the benefits of these discoveries.
It can be quite daunting to consider how much we give away non-verbally. Each of us transmits thousands of signals. Even one snapshot of an individual will reveal facial expressions, gestures, kinetics and posture in addition to grooming, style of dress and body adornment, all of which can be analysed and interpreted. This is before we even get around to tone, timbre and clarity of speech. Great benefits for our relationships can therefore be found not only in reading cues in others, but in being aware of the impact of our own body language.
The most honest mode of communication
Developments in the field of non-verbal communication suggest that the most honest form of communication is our body language. The reason for this is that it is generated from the ‘limbic brain’ which is primitive and reacts automatically to events. As the limbic brain is the product of years of evolutionary development, it cannot easily be repressed and the resulting manifestations of behaviour are likely to be a true representation of our intentions and feelings.
Compare this with the ‘neocortex brain’ which is a newer part of the brain that thinks and reasons. Here we have the ability to manage what we verbalise, to construct responses, and of course to deceive! The quickest route to understanding someone is therefore to observe behaviour as the limbic brain will give us away to some extent, however much we try to manage how we are coming across.
Where to begin
The starting point for reading body language is seemingly elementary – we have to notice it. Novarro & Karlins (2008) stress the importance of this by quoting Sherlock Holmes who said to partner Dr Watson, “you see but you do not observe”. Every observation of an individual and of interaction between people is rich with cues. However, as these cues can often be subtle we need to be pick up on small details – Sherlock again, “to a great mind, nothing is little”. This will give us the information we need to understand and create great connections when we’re dating and subsequently wonderful relationships with our romantic partners.
Having explored the origins and rationale for taking a biological stance to understanding body language, the next blog will focus on specific behaviours, their origins and what they reveal about intentions and emotions.
De Gelder, B. (2006). Towards the neurobiology of emotional body language. Nature Reviews Neuroscience (7). Pp. 242-249.
Navarro, J. & Karlins, M. (2008). What every body is saying. Harper-Collins, New York.