What is Body Language?
More In-depth

So what is body language, that strange secret language that has turned powerful presidents into the laughing stock of the world, and drives crooks to confessions? Let's take a more in-depth look!

A Few Misconceptions

But before we go into your question, 'What is Body Language?', we want to clear up a few misconceptions...

Body language and non-verbal communication are often used as synonyms, but this is not completely correct. Both exclude the spoken word of course... but where tone of voice is included as non-verbal signals, body language consists only of body movement and placement.

But that's not the biggest misconception...

7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice, 55% body language

It is often said that only 7% of what we communicate is the words that we speak... 55% would be communicated through our body language, and 38% through the tone of voice. But this is a misquote of the original research by Albert Mehrabian, who researched it in the 1970s...

While the percentages survived, they were not talking about how much we communicate. It was about what makes people like or dislike someone, and why.

Most of our communicating we do with words... body language does play a major part in our communications though. More like 60% spoken words vs. 40% body language.

What is Body Language?

Body language is all the body signals you give by voluntary or involuntary body movement or placement:

  • Head movements
  • Facial expressions through facial muscle movements of the...

    Coo-coo!

    • Eyebrows
    • Eyes
    • Nose
    • Lips
    • Tongue
    • Jaw

  • Overall body posture...

    • Shoulder movements
    • Arm placements
    • Hand and finger gestures
    • Leg and feet placement
    • Handling and placement of objects (eg. pens, papers, etc).

It does not include Tone of Voice (which is often seen as body language, and of course these signals do communicate without words):

  • Pitch of voice (high to low)
  • Loudness (everything from shouting to whispering)
  • Breathing (shaky voice etc.)

The fun thing with body language is that it speaks the loudest when the messages that are spoken, and the messages that are send through body movements and tone of voice, are not the same.

Guess what? Most people tend to believe to unspoken messages.


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