Self Improvement

Body Language - How To Read Others Thoughts By Their Gestures - Allan Pease

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This book introduces body language from the point of view of business executives. The authors specialize in the use of body language for business and politics. I found the illustrations and photos that accompany the text to be very funny and appropriate. This is not a very scholarly book, so if you're looking for a very serious and academic book about the study of body language, then this isn't the volume you're looking for, but if you'd just like an introduction to body language from a practical point of view, then this is a perfect book to read. In addition, it is very easy and entertaining to read, so I can recommend this to anyone.
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  • 1. BODY LANGUAGE How to read others’ thoughts by their gestures ALLAN PEASE is the managing director of a management consultancy company based in Sydney, Australia. He produces books, films, and cassettes that are used by numerous organisa- tions around the world to train personnel in communication skills. He did ten years’ study, interviewing and research before writing BODY LANGUAGE.
  • 2. Overcoming Common Problems BODY LANGUAGE How to read others’ thoughts by their gestures Allan Pease
  • 3. First published 1981 by Camel Publishing Company, Box 1612, North Sydney, 2060, Australia Copyright © Allan Pease 1981 First published March 1984 by Sheldon Press, SPCK Building, Marylebone Road, London NWl 4DU Tenth impression 1988 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Pease, Allan Body language. – (Overcoming common problems) 1. Nonverbal communication I. Title II. Series 001.56 P99.5 ISBN 0-85969-406-2 Printed in Great Britain at the University Printing House, Oxford
  • 4. Contents Contents Acknowledgements Introduction A Framework for Understanding Territories and Zones Palm Gestures Hand and Arm Gestures Hand-to-Face Gestures Arm Barriers Leg Barriers Other Popular Gestures and Actions Eye Signals Courtship Gestures and Signals Cigars, Cigarettes, Pipes and Glasses Territorial and Ownership Gestures Carbon Copies and Mirror Images Body Lowering and Status Pointers Desks, Tables and Seating Arrangements Power Plays Putting It All Together References
  • 5. Acknowledgements I wish to thank the following people who have directly and indirectly contributed to this book: Noel Bishop, Raoul Boielle, Ty Boyd, Sue Brannigan, Matthew Braund, Doug Constable, John Cooke, Sharon Cooper, Chris Corck, Brett Davies, Dr Andre Davril, George Deveraux, Rob Edmonds, Iven Frangi, Rex Gamble, Dave Goodwin, Jan Goodwin, Paul Gresham, Gerry Hatton, John Hepworth, Bob Heussler, Gay Huber, Professor Phillip Hunsaker, Dianne Joss, Jacqueline Kent, Ian McKillop, Delia Mills, Desmond Morris, Virginia Moss, Wayne Mugridge, John Nevin, Peter Opie, Diana O’Sullivan, Richard Otton, Ray Pease, David Plenderleith, David Rose, Richard Salisbury, Kim Sheumack, Jan Smith, Tom Stratton, Ron Tacchi, Steve Tokoly, Keith Weber, Alan White, Rob Winch and the Australian Jaycees.
  • 6. Introduction When I first heard about ‘body language’ at a seminar in 1971, I became so excited about it that I wanted to learn more. The speaker told us about some of the research done by Professor Ray Birdwhistell at the University of Louisville, which had shown that more human communication took place by the use of gestures, postures, position and distances than by any other method. At that time I had been a commission salesman for several years and had undergone many long, intensive courses on selling techniques, but none of these courses had ever mentioned anything about the non-verbal aspects or implications of face-to-face encounters. My own investigations showed that little useful information was available on body language and, although libraries and universities had records of the studies done on it, most of this information consisted of closely set manuscripts and theoretical assumptions compiled in an objective manner by people who had little or no practical experience in dealing with other human beings. This does not mean that their work was not important; simply that most of it was too technical to have any practical application or use by a layman like myself. In writing this book, I have summarised many of the studies by the leading behavioural scientists and have combined them with similar research done by people in other professions - sociology, anthropology, zoology, education, psychiatry, family counseling, professional negotiating and selling. The book also includes many ‘how to’ features developed from the countless reels of videotape and film made by myself and others throughout Australasia and overseas, plus some of the experiences and encounters that I have had with the thousands of people that I have interviewed, recruited, trained, managed and sold to over the past fifteen years. This book is by no means the last word on body language, nor does it contain any of the magic formulae promised by some of the books in the bookstores. Its purpose is to make the reader more aware of his own nonverbal cues and signals and to demonstrate how people communicate with each other using this medium. This book isolates and examines each component of body language and gesture, though few gestures are made in isolation from others; I have at the same time tried to avoid oversimplifying. Non-verbal communication is, however, a complex process involving people, words, tone of voice and body movements. There will always be those who throw up their hands in horror and claim that the study of body language is just another means by which scientific knowledge can be used to exploit or dominate others by reading their secrets or thoughts. This book seeks to give the reader greater insight into communication with his fellow humans, so that he may have a deeper understanding of other people and, therefore, of himself. Understanding how something works makes living with it easier, whereas lack of understanding and ignorance promote fear and superstition and make us more critical of others. A birdwatcher does not study birds so that he can shoot them down and keep them as trophies. In the same way, the acquisition of knowledge and skills in non-verbal communication serves to make every encounter with another person an exciting experience.
  • 7. This book was originally intended as a working manual for sales people, sales managers and executives and, in the ten years that it has taken to research and compile, it has been expanded in such a way that any person, regardless of his or her vocation or position in life, can use it to obtain a better understanding of life’s most complex event – a face-to-face encounter with another person. ALLAN PEASE
  • 8. One A Framework for Understanding As we approach the end of the twentieth century, we are witnessing the emergence of a new kind of social scientist-the non-verbalist. Just as the birdwatcher delights in watching birds and their behaviour, so the non-verbalist delights in watching the non-verbal cues and signals of human beings. He watches them at social functions, at beaches, on television, at the office or anywhere that people interact. He is a student of behaviour who wants to learn about the actions of his fellow humans so that he may ultimately learn more about himself and how he can improve his relationships with others. It seems almost incredible that, over the million or more years of man’s evolution, the non-verbal aspects of communication have been actively studied on any scale only since the 1960s and that the public has become aware of their existence only since Julius Fast published a book about body language in 1970. This was a summary of the work done by behavioural scientists on nonverbal communication up until that time, and even today, most people are still ignorant of the existence of body language, let alone its importance in their lives. Charlie Chaplin and many other silent movie actors were the pioneers of non-verbal communication skills; they were the only means of communication available on the screen. Each actor was classed as good or bad by the extent to which he could use gestures and other body signals to communicate effectively. When talking films became popular and less emphasis was placed on the non-verbal aspects of acting, many silent movie actors faded into obscurity and those with good verbal skills prevailed. As far as the technical study of body language goes, perhaps the most influential pre-twentieth-century work was Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals published in 1872. This spawned the modern studies of facial expres- sions and body language and many of Darwin’s ideas and observations have since been validated by modern researchers around the world. Since that time, researchers have noted and recorded almost one million nonverbal cues and signals. Albert Mehrabian found that the total impact of a message is about 7 per cent verbal (words only) and 38 per cent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection and other sounds) and 55 per cent non-verbal. Professor Birdwhistell made some similar estimates of the amount of non-verbal communication that takes place amongst humans. He estimated that the average person actually speaks words for a total of about ten or eleven minutes a day and that the average sentence takes only about 2.5 seconds. Like Mehrabian, he found that the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation is less than 35 per cent and that over 65 per cent of communication is done non-verbally. Most researchers generally agree that the verbal channel is used primarily for conveying information, while the non-verbal channel is used for negotiating interpersonal attitudes, and in some cases is used as a substitute for verbal messages. For example, a woman can give a man a ‘look to kill’; she will convey a very clear message to him without opening her mouth.
  • 9. Regardless of culture, words and movements occur together with such predictability that Birdwhistell says that a well-trained person should be able to tell what movement a man is making by listening to his voice. In like manner, Birdwhistell learned how to tell what language a person was speaking, simply by watching his gestures. Many people find difficulty in accepting that humans are still biologically animals. Homo sapiens is a species of primate, a hairless ape that has learned to walk on two limbs and has a clever, advanced brain. Like any other species, we are dominated by biological rules that control our actions, reactions, body language and gestures. The fascinating thing is that the human animal is rarely aware of his postures, movements and gestures that can tell one story while his voice may be telling another. PERCEPTIVENESS, INTUITION AND HUNCHES From a technical point of view, whenever we call someone ‘perceptive’ or ‘intuitive’, we are referring to his or her ability to read another person’s non-verbal cues and to compare these cues with verbal signals. In other words, when we say that we have a ‘hunch’ or ‘gut feeling’ that someone has told us a lie, we really mean that their body language and their spoken words do not agree. This is also what speakers call audience awareness, or relating to a group. For example, if the audience were sitting back in their seats with chins down and arms crossed on their chest, a ‘perceptive’ speaker would get a hunch or feeling that his delivery was not going across. He would become aware that he needed to take a different approach to gain audience involvement. Likewise, a speaker who was not ‘perceptive’ would blunder on regardless. Women are generally more perceptive than men, and this fact has given rise to what is commonly referred to as ‘women’s intuition’. Women have an innate ability to pick up and decipher non-verbal signals, as well as having an accurate eye for small details. This is why few husbands can lie to their wives and get away with it and why, conversely, most women can pull the wool over a man’s eyes without his realising it. This female intuition is particularly evident in women who have brought up young children. For the first few years, the mother relies solely on the non-verbal channel to communicate with the child and this is believed to be the reason why women often become more perceptive negotiators than men. INBORN, GENETIC, LEARNED AND CULTURAL SIGNALS Much research and debate has been done to discover whether non-verbal signals are inborn, learned, genetically transferred or acquired in some other way. Evidence was collected from observation of blind and/or deaf people who could not have learned non- verbal signals through the auditory or visual channels, from observing the gestural be- haviour of many different cultures around the world and from studying the behaviour of our nearest anthropological relatives, the apes and monkeys. The conclusions of this research indicate that some gestures fall into each category. For example, most primate children are born with the immediate ability to suck, indicating that this is either inborn or genetic. The German scientist Eibl-Eibesfeldt found that the smiling expressions of children born deaf and blind occur independently of learning or copying, which means that these must also be inborn gestures. Ekman, Friesen and Sorenson supported some of Darwin’s original beliefs about inborn gestures when they studied the facial expressions of people from five widely different
  • 10. cultures. They found that each culture used the same basic facial gestures to show emotion, which led them to the conclusion that these gestures must be inborn. When you cross your arms on your chest, do you cross left over right or right over left? Most people cannot confidently describe which way they do this until they try it. Where one way feels comfortable, the other feels completely wrong. Evidence suggests that this may well be a genetic gesture that cannot be changed. Debate still exists as to whether some gestures are culturally learned and become habitual, or are genetic. For example, most men put on a coat right arm first; most women put it on left arm first. When a man passes a woman in a crowded street, he usually turns his body towards her as he passes; she usually turns her body away from him. Does she instinctively do this to protect her breasts? Is this an inborn female reaction or has she learned to do this by unconsciously watching other females? Much of our basic non-verbal behaviour is learned and the meaning of many movements and gestures is culturally determined. Let us now look at these aspects of body language. SOME BASICS AND THEIR ORIGINS Most of the basic communication gestures are the same all over the world. When people are happy they smile; when they are sad or angry they frown or scowl. Nodding the head is almost universally used to indicate ‘yes’ or affirmation. It appears to be a form of head lowering and is probably an inborn gesture, as it is also used by deaf and blind people. Shaking the head from side to side to indicate ‘no’ or negation is also universal and may well be a gesture that is learned in infancy. When a baby has had enough milk, he turns his head from side to side to reject his mother’s breast. When the young child has had enough to eat, he shakes his head from side to side to stop his parent’s attempt to spoon feed him and in this way he quickly learns to use the head shaking gesture to show disagreement or a negative attitude. The evolutionary origin of some gestures can be traced to our primitive animal past. Baring the teeth is derived from the act of attacking and is still used by modern man in the form of a sneer and other such hostile gestures, even though he will not attack with his teeth. Smiling was originally a threat gesture, but today it is done in conjunction with non-threatening gestures to show pleasure. The shoulder shrug is also a good example of a universal gesture that is used to show that a person does not know or understand what you are talking about. It is a multiple gesture that has three main parts: exposed palms, hunched shoulders and raised brow. Just as verbal language differs from culture to culture, so the non-verbal language may also differ. Whereas one gesture may be common in a particular culture and have a clear interpretation, it may be meaningless in another culture or even have a completely
  • 11. opposite meaning. Take, for example, the cultural interpretations and implications of three common hand gestures, the ring gesture, the thumb-up and V sign. The Ring or ‘OK’ Gesture This gesture was popularised in the USA during the early nineteenth century, apparently by the newspapers that, at the time, were starting a craze of using initials to shorten common phrases. There’ are many different views about what the initials ‘OK’ stand for, some believing it stood for ‘all correct’ which may have been misspelled as ‘oll korrect’, while others say that it means the opposite of ‘knock-out’ that is, K.O. Another popular theory is that it is an abbreviation of ‘Old Kinderhook’, from the birthplace of a nineteenth century American president who used the initials as a campaign slogan. Which theory is the correct one we may never know, but it seems that the ring itself represents the letter ‘O’ in the ‘OK’ signal. The-,’OK’ meaning is common to all English-speaking countries and, although its meaning is fast spreading across Europe and Asia, it has other origins and meanings in certain places. For example, in France it also means ‘zero’ or ‘nothing’; in Japan it can mean ‘money’; in some Mediterranean countries it is an orifice signal, often used to infer that a man is homosexual. For overseas travellers, the safest rule to obey is, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. This can help avoid any possible embarrassing circumstances. The Thumb-Up Gesture In Britain, Australia and New Zealand the thumb-up gesture has three meanings; it is commonly used by hitch-hikers who are thumbing a lift, it is an OK signal, and when the thumb is jerked sharply upwards it becomes an insult signal, meaning ‘up yours’ or ‘sit on this’. In some countries, such as Greece, its main meaning is ‘get stuffed’, so you can imagine the dilemma of the Australian hitch-hiker using this gesture in that country! When Italians count from one to five, they use this gesture to mean ‘one’ and the index finger then becomes ‘two’, whereas most Australians, Americans and English people count ‘one’ on the index finger and two on the middle finger. In this case the thumb will represent the number ‘five’.
  • 12. The thumb is also used, in combination with other gestures, as a power and superiority signal or in situations where people try to get us ‘under their thumb’. A later chapter takes a closer look at the use of the thumb in these particular contexts. The V Sign This sign is popular throughout Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain and carries an ‘up yours’ interpretation. Winston Churchill popularised the V for victory sign during World War II, but his two-fingered version was done with the palm facing out, whereas the palm faces towards the speaker for the obscene insult version. In most parts of Europe, however, the palm facing in version still means ‘victory’ so that an Englishman who uses it to tell a European to ‘get stuffed’ could leave the European wondering about what victory the Englishman meant. This signal also means the number two in many parts of Europe, and if the insulted European were a bartender, his response could be to give an Englishman or an Australian two mugs of beer. These examples show that cultural misinterpretation of gestures can produce embarrassing results and that a person’s cultural background should always be considered before jumping to conclusions about his or her body language or gestures. Therefore, unless otherwise specified, our discussion should be considered culturally specific, that is, generally pertaining to adult, white middle class people raised in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, North America and other places where English is the primary language. GESTURE CLUSTERS One of the most serious mistakes a novice in body language can make is to interpret a solitary gesture in isolation of other gestures or other circumstances. For example, scratching the head can mea
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