Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book: Body Language by Allen Pease




'Body Language' by Allan Pease is all about reading 'other's thoughts by their actions', but I found it equally instructive from the self-observational aspect, as we are in constant conversation with ourselves through our body language (i.e. body language and mindset is a two-way street).

This isn't a great book by any means and the drawings are straight out of the 1970s. However, it's a quick read and does serve as a useful reminder of the great power of non-verbal signalling behaviours, both intentional and unintentional. It is only picking up on these cues that we can start thinking of ways to improve the situation e.g. in noticing barriers such as crossed arms or legs, can I reduce them, or if I sense unease, can I assist in alleviating it in some way?

Below are some graphics of some of the typical gestures from the book. Common signs include barrier forming with arms and legs. Types of intentions being signalled or reflected by different postures typically include competition, courtship behaviour, and mimicking to gain acceptance or build rapport. The author reminds us that some signals are in-born (e.g. smiling), where as others are cultural (e.g. thumbs up).

A useful tip when sitting across somebody on a table, is to pass something along over to them, breaking the invisible barrier.

Further thoughts I had:

* Sometimes body language is simply a function of the environment e.g. if someone is cold they may cross their arms. Or it may simply be a habit. It's easy to get signals mixed up.  However, body language causality can run both ways, so if someone has crossed their arms and legs this could put them in a defensive position.
* Note how behaviour ties to language: 'closed', 'cross', 'lowered' vs 'open', 'tall' (i.e. even the words describing the positions are not value neutral). I think this labelling and perception is an important but overlooked aspect of body language.



The above graphic on personal space distances is dependent on culture and geography. When two people with different ideas of personal space meet, one can end up being unconsciously pushed around a room as they continually back away to get comfortable.



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