Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Body Language

Whether you’re speaking or not, you’re always communicating. Research consistently suggests that over 90% of a person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions are conveyed through non-verbal channels, including the voice and body language.

Through careful observation you can gain insights into a person’s state of mind, emotions and attitude. A person’s pitch, pace and tone of voice, movements, gestures, and expressions, as well as posture, dress, and spatial distance communicate even when no words are being spoken. By observing and responding to others’ non-verbal behaviours you can influence their thinking and persuade them to agree with your suggestions.

Because many people have learned how to put a mask on to hide their true feelings, if you sense that someone’s face is concealing what’s going on inside, observe the whole body. Legs, feet, arms, shoulders, hands and fingers give valuable indications of consistency and authenticity, or a lack thereof.

Through astute observation you can figure out what’s being communicated even when the verbal output is turned off. Questions to ask yourself when observing others include:

• Are the messages coming from the spoken words consistent with the messages coming from the non-verbal behaviours?

• Is the person being consistent in displaying non-verbal behaviours?


Technical Stuff: Individuals cannot control normal eye dilation. When you are looking at something that pleases or arouses you, you your eyes measurably dilate; when you see something that you don’t like or that threatens you, your eyes constrict.

Regardless of what a presenter is saying, if he looks at his audience as he speaks, his listeners will perceive him favourably and view him as confident, credible, qualified, and honest.

If someone speaking doesn’t want to be interrupted, she will glance away and continue talking. If she wants someone else to speak, she will pause and make direct eye contact with that person.

If, while you’re speaking, someone is checking his BlackBerry, texting on his iPhone or looking at his watch, he may be indicating that it’s time for a break or that you’re boring him.

Tip: Words are accentuated and punctuated by movements, gestures, and facial expressions. When there is a lack of congruency between the verbal and nonverbal message, people believe what their eyes and ears tell you, not what the speaker is saying.

Warning: While certain gestures and expressions – such as a genuine smile in which the eyes as well as the mouth are engaged, or a clenched fist slamming down on a table top – convey specific messages, interpret them carefully in the context of the situation that is occurring at the time. Because observing non-verbal behaviour is open to interpretation, practice your observation skills and when appropriate ask the people involved to verify your observations and interpretations.

Anecdote: I recently ran a session for a global corporation on the Body Language of Leaders. During my presentation I noticed that while most of the women in the room were smiling and nodding as I spoke, several of the men had serious expressions on their faces, which I initially interpreted as unconvinced or doubtful. In order to gain rapport with these individuals (see Body Language For Dummies and Persuasion & Influence For Dummies on how to establish rapport) I reflected back their expressions as I directed my comments to them. What I observed was that the men relaxed and engaged with me as I mirrored back what I observed them doing.

Remember: No single non-verbal sign is a reliable indicator of mood, attitude, or intention. To support a particular conclusion, observe and interpret several consistent signals.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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Several weeks ago at a Sunday lunch with friends and family I embarrassed my son. I embarrass him on a regular basis, as doing so is part of a mother’s job. This particular day I went a step too far and Max demonstrated a degree of self-control that made me sit up and notice. While he didn’t say a word, his body tightened and he wrapped his arms around his torso as if keeping his emotion in check. His jaw locked and his lips puckered in disapproval. Add to that, his eyes became steely as he glared at me, suggesting that I might want to stop what I was doing. And I did.

Your body’s speaking and people are noticing. How you’re holding your body, focusing your gaze and what your feet and fingers are doing tells a tale of your inner state.

Below is a snap shot of gestures and the emotions they’re conveying. Before I go any further, remember that no one gesture tells the entire story. In order to interpret what the body’s saying, you must reflect on the whole picture of the person.

Fiddling fingers, bouncing feet and sideways glances reveal feelings of doubtfulness, rejection or suspicion. A combination of picking at fingernails, pinching the fleshy part of the hand, rubbing or caressing a personal object (ring, cufflinks, watch, for example) or chewing on an object, such as a pencil or pen translates into insecurity.

To spot enthusiasm, look for smiles in which both the lips and eyes are engaged. People who are enthusiastic move with a bounce in their step. Their posture is erect, their hands are open and they frequently extend their arms in the direction of their interest.

Negative emotions such as secrecy or nervousness tend to manifest themselves through minimal or no eye contact, throat clearing and covering the mouth while speaking. Boredom reveals itself through drumming fingers, swing feet, picking at clothes and jingling keys and coins.

People demonstrating superiority and authority come across as both relaxed and expansive in their gestures. They steeple their fingers, are comfortable putting their feet up or on their desk. You often see them leaning back with their fingers laced behind their head with their chin lifted upward.

When you notice someone with their hands on their hips or sitting forward at the edge of a chair, you’re right in thinking that they’re ready to go. As you may be by now.

For more about how body language reveals attitudes, emotions and feelings, buy a copy of Body Language For Dummies. You might want to wait to the end of January 2012, when the 2nd edition hits the stands with more photographs and expanded content. Until then, pick up an app to get you started.

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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

Tip: Learning how and when to break rapport, without giving offence, is an essential rapport skill.

 Surprisingly, you don’t need rapport all the time. You also don’t need to worry about building rapport when you already have it with someone. For the most part, you need to learn how to get rapport when you don’t have it or the ensuing poor communication will cause trouble. When you get good at practising rapport skills, you’ll probably find that your natural ability to be in rapport with yourself and others greatly increases.

When could using rapport be a waste of time

There are times when breaking rapport is crucial. Some people get so good at creating rapport with others that conversation flows too fluently and they forget how to bring it to a close. So they end up listening to story after story, or hearing more detailed information than they ever needed to know. Either they are afraid to offend by disengaging or they don’t know how to finish an interaction gracefully. Time gets wasted. Appointments or meetings over-run. Work doesn’t get done. Irritation and boredom step in. Then people risk having to break off quite abruptly, which causes bad feelings.

The ability to break rapport by using simple skills of mismatching can be a lifesaver. You can elegantly give people nonverbal signals that it’s time to move on, finish the appointment and bring things to a close, without ever saying any words to that effect.

Avoid buyer’s remorse

Until you’ve practised matching and developed expertise at building rapport, you may not fully appreciate just how powerful this is. However, the subtleties will be familiar to those who are involved with sales. In a good sales interaction, there will be high levels of rapport, ideally with the sales person facilitating a good match between the buyer’s needs and his product. But it is most important to break this rapport at the crucial moment!

Because the buyer may feel such rapport with the sales person, it is vital to break this rapport before signing the contract. Why? There’s a danger that the buyer might sign without having fully thought the whole process through. They may feel that they got carried away by the good feelings generated by the sales person. Afterwards, when the buyer has time to think about it, they may suffer buyer’s remorse. By simply breaking rapport and giving the buyer some space to make their own decision, you can achieve more mutually satisfactory sales.

Elegant mismatching to break rapport

The ability to break rapport can be as useful as knowing how to create it. Particularly if you are the type of person that everyone enjoys talking to, learning to mismatch can save you time and help you handle people elegantly.

Tip: If people like to bring you their problems and leave their monkeys on your desk, you need to learn how to use mismatching.

 Bringing a conversation to a natural close, disengaging from a hot topic, finishing an interaction, ending a meeting and saying goodbye can all be done very gracefully by mismatching.

It is simple. All you have to do is reverse all the nonverbal behaviours that led to achieving rapport. The more subtly you do this, the more unobtrusive and elegant it will seem. Sensitive people will pick up the first few signals. With oblivious people, you may need to run through the whole list.

Seven ways to mismatch

1. Break eye contact

Look away more often, while maintaining the conversation. Stop nodding your head in agreement.

2. Turn slowly away from the person

Start with one foot, then gradually turn the leg, and then your whole body towards the door you want to exit from. Step back subtly to increase the distance between you and the other person. Alternatively, if you are seated, lean back and turn your gaze to the papers on your desk or glance at something that will give an unconscious message that there’s something you need to be getting on with.

3. Stop matching

Stop matching both movements and conversation flow. Answer more abruptly, without giving the other person conversation cues (uh huh, yes, oh really) and don’t ask any further questions that require them to respond.

4. Close the papers

Close your folder or computer – whatever you may have been working on together – and put things away in your briefcase. Clear the table. Throw away debris. Put out a visual signal that the meeting has come to an end.

5. Suggest looking at diaries

Begin to look at possible dates for the next meeting.

6. Stand up or move

Stand up, if you are seated, or move your chair back in a definitive manner. Physically move your body and take a small step towards the door, if you are standing.

7. Apologise

Apologise for having to end the meeting and give an excuse about another pressing commitment. Show them the door!

When you use these mismatching behaviours, most people will pick up the clues quickly and realise it’s time to close. That gives them the signal to wind up. This avoids those awkward situations where one person is still talking animatedly and the other abruptly finishes the conversation. No one loses face and there’s no risk of delivering the unconscious message that you are not interested in what they are saying. It also saves time and avoids long, unnecessary conversations that lead to irritation and boredom.


Mismatch to break rapport

If the sceptical part of your mind can’t believe that matching really works, try this out as an experiment with someone who you know will forgive you. When you experience the power of mismatching, you’ll appreciate the subtle power of matching more.

  1. Sit down and ask a friend or colleague to tell you about their favourite holiday. As they start talking, at first match them with physiology, gestures, breathing and ‘uh huhs’, to get them going. Create a good, warm, friendly atmosphere.
  2. Then cross your legs and pick up your foot to look at the bottom of your shoe. Regardless of what’s there, become totally fascinated with your shoe, maintaining full eye contact with your shoe and fiddling with it non-stop. If the person questions you about what you are doing, just keep saying ‘I’m listening, do carry on’. An alternative to fiddling with your shoe would be to examine your fingernails – care must be taken to focus eye contact completely on your hands – again, fiddling with them helps. A typical office scenario version would be to have them keep talking while you turn all your attention to your computer and start reading your emails.
  3. What usually happens is that the person finds it increasingly difficult to continue to tell their story. You appear so uninterested that they think you are being extremely rude and may feel quite upset.

If you wish to preserve and repair this relationship, you may wish to apologise; tell them about the experiment, and give them your full attention to finish the story.

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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With a flick of the hair, a tilt of the head and a pout of the lips you could have the one you want falling at your feet before you know it. Sending the right message with your body language is crucial to attracting the perfect partner.

It’s a fact that availability counts for more than beauty in the dating game. A person on the hunt will tend to pursue a woman who may not be the most attractive in the room, as long as she’s giving off signals indicating that she’s ready and willing.  So, if you want to hook up communicate your interest early in the evening.

Use our top tips to getting someone’s attention, and keeping it:

Play with Your Hair – Playing with your hair is an attention grabber. Whether you’re tossing your head, flicking your tresses, or running your fingers through your locks, this action sends signals that you’re interested and available. An added benefit of playing with your hair is that when your raise your hand to your hair, you expose your soft underarm, a tender, vulnerable and sexually responsive part of the body that’s hard to resist.

The Head Tilt – A head tilted to the side is an appealing gesture because it indicates submissiveness, causing a surge of compassion from the person you’ve set your sights on. Tilting your head makes you look vulnerable, a condition most people on the prowl find irresistible. By tilting your head you reveal your neck, exposing the soft skin on a defenceless part of your body. This in turn makes you look helpless and sexy, a seductive state that works like a magnet.

Pout those lips –Embrace your inner Angelina Jolie and put on the pout.  Full lips are highly erotic.  By increasing the size of your lips you can turn thoughts into kisses!

Crossing Your Legs – The leg twine is consistently ranked the most appealing sitting position a woman can take. Pressing one leg against the other makes the leg muscles look fit and toned, a look that is both pleasing and tempting. Crossing and uncrossing your legs is an enticing gesture and indicates your willingness and desire to be caressed.

 Women tend to focus on their hair, clothing, and make-up when preparing to go. Applying the right body language to attract a potential partner matters more than cosmetics or clothes. By putting these tips to the test you’ll be well on your way to finding yourself a perfect partner.

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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

Clear, focused, and powerful language – whether verbal or physical – conveys knowledge, confidence, and authority. Vague, disjointed, and sloppy language – both the spoken word as well as the physical movements – denotes ambiguity and a lack of direction.

Your body language and your spoken language reflect your thoughts and beliefs. Both create an impression of who you are and influence how you are perceived. Your language serves as signals, communicating your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Decide on the impression you want to create and choose your language accordingly.

To convey a clear message, make sure your spoken language and your body language match. Powerful language delivered from a limp torso sends mixed messages. And when there is a mismatch between the words themselves and the way they’re delivered, people believe what they see more than what they hear.

Follow these simple rules to ensure that you effectively communicate who you are and what you want to say:

  •        Know your audience. For people unfamiliar with a particular subject, the overuse of jargon, technical terms or buzz words can result in misunderstanding and boredom. Make sure the language you use is appropriate for your audience’s level of understanding.
  •        Suit the words to the situation. You wouldn’t go strolling in to a top executive meeting with a wave and a ‘Hi there, how ya doin’?’ anymore than you would march in to a family gathering with a formal handshake and ‘how do you do.’ Read the situation and equip yourself with a vocabulary to suit all occasions.
  •        Start with a clear idea of what you want to say. Use only the words that are essential to your meaning. Clarity and simplicity emanate confidence. Sloppy language indicates sloppy thinking. Be precise in your choice of language or your meaning will be lost, and so will the listener.

REMEMBER: To create a positive impact speak in positive terms. Negative language breeds negativity.

TIP: Avoid words and expressions like: ‘but’, ‘try’, ‘kind of’, ‘sort of’, ‘actually’, ‘basically’, or ‘to be honest’. They are negative, weak, and ineffectual.

TECHNICAL STUFF: Research shows a link between status, power, position and vocabulary. The greater facility you have with words and phrases, the higher up the corporate / social ladder you can go.

CAUTION: Conflicting signals result in confusion. Ensure that your spoken language is congruent with your body language.

FINALLY: Knowing how you want to be perceived, you can equip yourself with a wardrobe of spoken and physical ways of communicating. When your spoken language is congruent with your body language you have the tools to create a powerful impression.

  1.        Don’t blind them with science – unless they’re scientists
  2.        Suit the action to the word, and the word to the action. Suit both to the occasion
  3.        Sack the superfluous – keep it concise

 For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

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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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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

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