Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

Archive for May 2011

In order to interpret body language accurately you have to notice it first. If you think this sounds pretty obvious, you’re right. And yet some people just don’t pay enough attention to how someone else is behaving. Then they’re surprised when the person tells them he’s unhappy, he’s angry, or he’s packing up and leaving home. ‘But you never told me’, is the response. ‘If you’d paid attention, you’d have realised’, comes the reply.

Noticing how people behave is the first step towards understanding. After that you can begin to interpret what their behaviour means. Be careful at this point. The experience observer knows that it takes more than one gesture to convey a message.

Think of body language in the same way as you do the spoken word. If you want to communicate a concept you have to speak several words, or even a few sentences, to express what you mean. Body language works the same way. One gesture doesn’t tell the whole story. It takes several actions, working together, to signal a person’s feelings, thoughts and attitudes.

When people are wrapped up in themselves, they often don’t notice how someone else is behaving. Big mistake. By failing to spot the signs, you edit out valuable information. The way a person behaves can complement, supplement, and even supersede what he’s saying.

By observing people’s body language, you’re on the inside track to knowing what’s going on between them. Whether you’re observing participants in a business meeting, a family negotiation, or watching a couple in a restaurant, by being aware of how the people position and move their bodies, you may end up understanding more about their relationship then they do.

Here’s a list of the telltale, mainly facial, expressions for different emotions:

  • Happiness: Lower eyelids are slightly raised, crinkling around the outer edges of the eyes, eyes sometimes narrow; the corners of the lips move up and out and lips may part to expose upper teeth; cheeks are raised with an apple-like bulge; C-like wrinkles pull up from corners or raised lips to the sides of the nose. Body is open and forward moving.
  • Surprise: The eyebrows zoom upwards in a curve, wrinkles spread across the forehead; eyes open wide showing their whites; jaw drops; mouth slackens. Head hunches into raised shoulders.
  • Sadness: Inner ends of the eyebrows rise; eyes appear moist; mouth drops at the corners and the face appears limp; lips may quiver. Shoulders hunch forward; body is slack.
  • Fear: Similar to surprise with subtle differences. Raised eyebrows are pulled together [not as much curve in the brow as in surprise]. Forehead furrows in centre [when surprised, furrow carries across the brow]. Whites of the eyes show; lips are pulled back; mouth is slightly opened. Shoulders are hunched, with a backward movement to the body.
  • Anger: Eyebrows are pulled down and inward; vertical crease between the brows; eyes narrow and take on a hard, staring look. Lips close tightly, and turn down at the corners; nostrils may flare. Hands are clenched, body is forward moving.

Tip: Be subtle when watching other people. If they feel they’re being scrutinised, they may become antagonistic toward you.

Note: In order to read body language signals accurately you have to consider the combination of gestures, whether they match what the person’s sayin, and the context in which you’re seeing them.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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Handling tricky situations at work can certainly be testing – whether it be that you are leaving, pregnant or being bullied, here are our tips to having that difficult conversation with your boss.

 Before any discussion, make an appointment, be prepared, and remain objective.  Jumping in with no warning puts your boss on the back foot and on the defensive.  Being emotional creates upset and is unprofessional.  Say that you’d like to meet to discuss an issue of importance and ask when would be convenient for them to speak.

 Know what you’re going to say.  Give yourself no more than 3 main points that you want to cover – anymore and your message will become muddied.

 Keep your emotions out of the conversation.  Stay objective.  If you struggle with that, pretend you’re speaking on behalf of someone other than yourself.  Don’t swear or use vulgar language.  Speak respectfully and show you appreciate how your decision might impact the business and your boss’s position.  Offer to help however best you can.

 Come in with a soft entry.  If you’re uncomfortable with what you have to say, share that with the person you’re speaking with.  Keep your message straightforward and simple.  Don’t beat around the bush.  Always have these conversations face to face.  It shows you respect your boss’ position.

 No matter how tempted you may be, don’t confide in co-workers or colleagues before the conversation, as information may leak.  If you must discuss the issue with someone, speak to a neutral outside source.  Do NOT get into a complaint session with your co-workers before your conversation. 

 Think through your situation and how your boss might respond.  Be prepared, direct and polite.  At the end of all conversations, smile, shake hands, and thank your boss.

 Remember:  your reputation relies on how you manage these conversations.  Burn no bridges.  Be careful and considerate.  Be positive and generous.  Be a class act.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

The American anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell was a pioneer in the study of non-verbal behaviour. He labelled this form of communication ‘kinesics’ as it relates to movement of individual body parts, or the body as a whole. Building on Birdwhistell’s work, Professor Paul Ekman and his colleague Wallace V Friesen classified kinesics into five categories: emblems, illustrations, affective displays, regulators and adaptors.

Kinesics convey specific meanings that are open to cultural interpretation. The movements can be misinterpreted when communicating across cultures as most of them are carried out with little, if any, awareness. In today’s global environment, awareness of the meanings of different kinesic movements is important in order to avoid sending the wrong message.

  • Emblems

Emblems are non-verbal signals with a verbal equivalent. Emblems are easily identified because they are frequently used in specific contexts. The person receiving the gesture immediately understands what it means.


The raised arm and tightly closed fist. Generally the fist is used as an expression of solidarity or defiance. In 1990 Nelson Mandela walked free of prison holding this position.

The Sign of the Cuckold. Your index and little fingers are extended pointing forward with your palm facing down, making ‘horns’. Your thumb crosses over your two middle fingers. You’re telling an Italian that his partner’s been unfaithful. In Texas, this gesture is the sign for the fans of the University of Texas Longhorns football team.

Because of different interpretations of the same gesture between cultures, the correct reading is dependent on the context in which the signal occurs.

  • Illustrators

Illustrators create a visual image and support the spoken message. They tend to be subconscious movements occurring more regularly than emblematic kinesic movements.

Example: Holding your hands apart to indicate size

The usage of and amount of illustrators used differ to culture to culture. In general, Latinos use illustrators more than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, who make more use of illustrators than many Asian cultures. In some Asian cultures, extensive use of illustrators is often interpreted as a lack of intelligence. In Latin cultures, the absence of illustrators indicates a lack of interest.

  • Affective displays

Affective displays tend to be movements, usually facial gestures, displaying specific emotions. They’re less conscious than illustrators and occur less frequently.

Example: Expressions of love, frustration, or anger.

A lack of affective displays doesn’t indicate a lack of emotions. Cultural considerations determine what is considered t0 be acceptable behaviour. A person from Japan expressive anger shows significantly fewer affective display movements than his Italian counterpart.

  • Regulators

Regulators – body movements that control, adjust, and sustain the flow of a conversation – are frequently relied on to feedback how much of the message the listener has understood.

Example: Head nodding and eye movements

Because of cultural differences in the use of regulators, the way in which people respond to the flow of information can be confusing. A misinterpreted regulatory signal in international politics and business can lead to serious problems.

  • Adaptors

Adaptors include changes in posture and other movements made with little awareness. These body adjustments are to perform a specific function, or to make the person more comfortable. Because they occur with such a low level of awareness, they’re considered to be the keys to understanding what someone really thinks. Adaptors principally comprise body-focussed movements, such as rubbing, touching, scratching, and so on.

Example: Shifting body and/or feet position when seated.

The significance given to adaptors may be overstated as well as oversimplified. Many adaptor movements, such as shifting position while seated, may be simply a way of resolving a specific physical situation, such as being uncomfortable, rather than revealing emotions and attitudes.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

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