indicate a range of emotions

Alternately, looking at someone and blinking very seldom can mean aggression or–quite to the contrary–rapt attention. Actors with great screen presence often hold steady gazes while blinking seldom and slowly. The differing implications are in the accompanying facial muscles. Looking at another person can indicate a range of emotions, including hostility, interest and attraction.

3. Gestures such as waving, pointing and using finger movements and signals are important ways to convey meaning. The force and/or flow of how we use our arms, hands and fingers suggest a great deal–from dancing to being emphatic, from attempting gestures of inclusion and peace to postures of hostility. Stroking another’s forehead gently conveys caring, while a clenched fist lends an entirely different message.

4. Paralinguistics refers to vocal communication accompanying actual spoken words. This includes tones of voice, volume, inflection, meter and pitch. When something is said in a somewhat strong tone of voice, listeners might interpret approval and enthusiasm. Something said even more forcibly, or very quietly, can easily imply harshness or even threat. The same words said in a hesitant tone of voice might indicate confusion, lack of confidence, disapproval or lack of interest. A lift at the end, as with a question, conveys an entirely different message.

5. Posture can convey a great deal of information. Depending on the setting, slouching can be interpreted a number of ways. In a meeting it can convey casual relaxation or lack of respect; in a courtroom it mostly likely will be seen as the latter. Leaning forward may indicate interest and enthusiasm, or aggression and intimidation. Stiff military walking may infer lack of sensitivity.

Body language and voice tone often carry more information leading to interpretation (or misinterpretation) than words do. Therefore, it makes obvious sense to understand, recognize and express these with as much clarity as possible.

In part, body language refers to the nonverbal signals we so often unconsciously use. They make up a huge percentage of our communication (or miscommunication), from facial expressions to body movements and positions, to what we don’t say or how we do say something. Not realizing what we’re conveying or what someone else is saying via body language and tone of voice is depriving ourselves of insight and understanding–and perhaps even greater enjoyment of life.

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