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April Talk

Date:  Tuesday 12 April 2022

Talk: Body Language: It’s Not What You Say……

Speaker: Alan Jones



Most people make up their mind about you in about 60 seconds and it can take a lot longer to change that decision. What is it about body language that speaks louder than words?     



For their April meeting members of the Brockenhurst and District Probus Club welcomed a very entertaining talk by Alan Jones a nurse, hypnotherapist and BBC journalist, on Body Language. These non-verbal signals make up a huge part of daily communication and it is through these that we form an opinion of a stranger within 60 seconds. We often known when body language makes us uncomfortable but do not know why.

When apes evolved from tree dwellers, to standing up and living on open plains, they folded their arms across their now-vulnerable chest as a means of protection.  We see this today when crossed arms might indicate that a person feels defensive, selfprotective, or closed-off. Similarly buttoning a  jacket or wrapping a cardigan around yourself is a protective gesture. However standing with hands placed on the hips can be an indication that a person is ready and in control, or it can also possibly be a sign of aggressiveness. Clasping the hands behind the back might indicate that a person is feeling bored, anxious, or even angry. Crossed legs can indicate that a person is feeling closed off or in need of privacy. 

Hand gestures can be some of the most direct and obvious body language signals. Waving, pointing, and using the fingers to indicate numerical amounts are very common and easy to interpret. However some gestures may be cultural.  Giving a thumbs-up or a peace sign in one country might have a completely different meaning in another. A clenched fist can indicate anger in some situations or solidarity in others.  The okay gesture, made by touching together the thumb and index finger in a circle can be used to mean okay or all right. In some parts of Europe, however, the same signal is used to imply you are nothing and in some South American countries the symbol is actually a vulgar gesture.

Handshaking is an important greeting. Extroverted people tend to have a firm handshake whereas shy or neurotic people may have a loose handshake. People with a dominant personality will shake someone’s hand while keeping their own palm facing down — hence they have the upper hand.

Facial expressions may reveal our true feelings about a particular situation. We may say  we are feeling fine whereas the look on our face may tell people otherwise. The expression on a person's face can even help determine if we trust or believe what the individual is saying. The most trustworthy facial expression involves a slight raise of the eyebrows and a slight smile. Combined with a dominant handshake this conveys both friendliness and confidence.

The eyes are frequently referred to as the windows to the soul. Direct eye contact indicates interest in a conversation, although prolonged eye contact can feel threatening. Breaking eye contact and frequently looking away might indicate that the person is distracted or uncomfortable. Rapid blinking can indicate distress. Highly dilated pupils can indicate interest, pleasure and attraction, a trait well known and exploited by gems dealers throughout history. 

Personal space, or our comfort zone, varies between individuals and cultures. City dwellers are more used to being in close proximity than country folk. People from Latin countries tend to feel more comfortable standing closer to one another as they interact while those from North America and Europe need more personal distance.

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