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There are many chemical forces at work in us when we think, feel, and communicate. Let’s examine a few of them right now in the context of body language.
In his book 'Peoplewatching', Desmond Morris reminds us that “every time we are roused into action a number of basic changes take place in our bodies; the body starts to gear itself up ready for the increased demands that are likely to be put upon it.” There are a few interesting things to know about the nervous system that may help us understand our own and others’ physical reactions.
Body Language Mechanics
The Overall Body Position
There are four types of behaviour in social and working life: aggressive, manipulative, submissive and assertive. We see them everywhere in every culture.
This video examines the ways in which body language serves as a guide to those with whom we're communicating.
Energy has a lot to do with body language. We know how it feels when we're low-energy or bored, but we may not be fully conscious of how body language is an active choice in guiding an audience.
As humans, there are actions we're taught through socialisation that we learn very young. As we mature and acquire a greater sense of choice, we develop certain intentional performances, what Desmond Morris and other theorists call 'social greetings' or 'social displays'. They convey our degree of social interest and investment and this video looks at how they work.
Unconscious Body Language
We all recognise many of the unconscious body language behaviours known as 'Stress Indicators'. Desmond Morris catalogs some in his book 'Peoplewatching':odd facial expressions, yawns, avoiding eye contact, glazed expressions, grinding teeth, flushing, sweating. This video goes into the detail.
Whenever we meet someone at a table, are standing with others in an elevator, or walking side-by-side, we're subtly adjusting our sense of synchronisation and parity — how closely or how far apart we remain, whether our limbs are extending forward and/or backward in synch. Even whether we have folded arms or legs or are sitting up at the same angle...
Introduction to Wielding Power
John French and Bertram Raven spent many years researching how people in positions of official power use Body Language to enhance that power. This video also highlights how such people use it to encourage, reward and coerce.
Scientists have spent centuries researching how people in positions of official power, with titles, use body language to enhance that power — or perhaps misuse their body language and undermine themselves.
Coercive and Reward Power
Desmond Morris defines Coercive Power at work as “the ability of the manager to force/coerce/threaten others into doing what he [or she] wants”.
Experts remind us that we tend to give credibility to, and obey others if we believe they have expertise. Body language can portray expertise, especially in the form of confidence or assertiveness. This is called Expert Power.
Dominant Body Language
Desmond Morris and other researchers tell us that the person who is dominant in the conversation will often bring this about by using status displays. One example is that the dominant person may spend more time looking at the person who they wish to feel submissive whilst they are talking to them, than they do while they are listening to them.
Submissive Body Language
Desmond Morris says that passive submission, when extreme, can take the form of cringing, crouching, whimpering and attempting to protect the most vulnerable parts of the body. As animals, submission presents a picture of our instant defeat or surrender – the supplicant in so doing, thereby hoping to avoid the damaging physical ordeal of actual defeat.
Charisma, or what body language scholars call Referent Power exists in the eyes of the beholder, and we can see the effects of someone’s charisma in the body language of others around them. For example when an important, charismatic Managing Director enters a room, others may go silent...
How does body language help us build a bridge with someone in the first moments? Theorists provide helpful insights in the following video.
Public to Intimate
Body language theorists tell us that we can usually tell how close people are in relationship just by observing. As their bond strengthens, the layers of workplace body language become more intimate. The following video explores this theme.
Head and Face
This video describes a range of head and facial body movements that are very revealing.
We know a sincere smile when we see it, and we likely smile dozens of times a day — consciously and unconsciously. This video reveals many interesting facets about smiles.
“The eyes are the windows to the soul”. In fact, eye movements are so important to our species that humans have evolved the “white” area of the eyes to make our glances more conspicuous. No other primates have these.
Arms and Hands
The arms and hands can convey all kinds of messages and this video explores them.
Body Language that Bothers Us
Almost any body language can bother us if it’s performed at the wrong time or in the wrong place. It's especially important to know what Desmond Morris describes as the 'Insult Signals'.
Catching Deceptive Body Language
People lie all the time — in big and small ways — for malicious and innocent reasons. But since most don’t tell sustained, deliberate lies humans are often clumsy in executing them. It turns out there are ways to detect deceptive body language in others, and this video looks at them.
It turns out there is even special body language taking place in meetings, as this video reveals.
Sometimes things get heated at work. There may be stress, defensiveness or outright aggression. Whether it be meetings, job interviews, management reviews, or unplanned moments, we can all become more literate and tactical in decoding and de-escalating tense body language.
In this final video of the course we'll recap on all the main takeaways from Understanding Body Language.
- How non-verbal communication works
- How to transmit the right messages
- How to use body language (BL) effectively
- How to fake it until you make it
Understanding Body Language
Meet our expert instructors who are featured in these videos to take you on your personal learning journey. They have written and designed this course using their extensive experience to provide you with actionable learning takeaways.
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