The Anatomy of Body Language.

“The average person lies 3 times for every 10 minutes of conversation.” (Cal Lightman, from ‘Lie to Me’).

Communication requires sending and receiving signals. Everyone has non-verbal

signals known as ‘tells’. Most body language is subtle and unconscious. Whether it be from a news report, someone telling a story, or other forms of communication, body language needs to be put into context in regards to the situation it occurs in.

For example, a car accident occurs between a larger man, and a young woman or a young man. The larger man may impose his frame, pointing and waving his arms. While the young female or male may be standing still, won’t look him in the eyes, and play with the collar of their shirt.

First thought may be that the young person is at fault, as the young person is appearing nervous. However, the response may actually be due to the larger man’s intimidating behavior, rather than guilt.

Anxious body language is not a sign of guilt.  Which is why it is important to understand the physiology behind body language, and the intricacies of what happens when a person is lying.

The Limbic System

There are a variety of things in the body that are conscious and unconscious. A smile can be both; whereas, breathing and pumping blood is more controlled.

The Limbic system is called the most primitive part of the brain, our base emotions

originate here. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, and inside this forms the grey matter.

The Limbic system is sometimes referred to as the ‘deep brain’. It is made up of various parts; however, some areas play more important roles, especially in terms of relating to conscious and unconscious body language.

The thalamus, hypothalamus and hippocampus are areas of the brain that play a role in emotions and memories. These are made up of the right and left hemisphere.

The thalamus is a message bank, passing messages back and forth from the spinal cord to the cerebral hemispheres.

The hippocampus is a storage place for memories. And the hypothalamus controls emotions. 

The Emotional Hypothalamus.

This region of the brain triggers a stress response. Various hormones are released when the brain is under stress, blood flow is moved away from less important systems. 

The blood flow is then moved to the muscles, causing the fight or flight response.

People that experience nausea when they are stressed is because the blood has been taken away from the digestive system and channels it to other areas.

The body goes through this process when displaying sets of body language, especially when the body is under stress for whatever reason. An automatic, subconscious reaction takes place before conscious thoughts come in.

When a person hears some news they don’t like, they may force themselves to appear happy, but before that takes place, the subconscious will trigger off their true emotions for a millisecond – known as micro-expressions.

A momentary freeze will occur, indicating that not everything is as it appears.

Being Aware when Communicating

It is important to understand your own body language, and read other people’s body language by first observing the different mannerisms they show.

It is impossible for humans to not communicate. If a person is speaking, and the listener is silent, then picks a piece of lint off their clothing, it may appear the listener is bored or disinterested, or simply lost interest for a second to clear their clothing…

Conversely, if a person has somewhat of a vacant expression; no smile or frown, no words, it is plausible to assume that the person is not understanding what is being said, or pretending to listen when they are thinking of something else.

Even lack of words and actions can indicate a great deal.

A person can use their own body language to change how they feel. Especially when it comes to exuding confidence in a situation that you may feel uncomfortable in. Simply pushing back your shoulders, standing straighter, and using open body language can change a great deal how you feel, and how others perceive you.

Reading body language requires both science and art. Understanding how the limbic system works, then using that understanding to read and interpret the individual reactions.

Looking for Changes.

Clustering of signals known as multiple tells is the most reliable way of getting the bigger picture in regards to body language. 

Image result for puzzles

Imagine a puzzle with all the pieces spread before you. Now you have to figure out where to put them, and even if one piece is missing, you don’t have the full picture. You have to move things around, and figure out what the picture may be saying, then begin to put the pieces into place.

Body language is similar to this. Looking for that ‘lost piece’, and moving pieces around to understand what you are seeing will enable the picture to form.

No set of body language signals can reveal truth or lies. It is the underlying emotions body language reveals that contributes to the bigger picture. 

Crossing arms may indicate defensiveness, protecting oneself from what is being said. However, it can also mean a person is uncomfortable in the situation – feeling out of their element. It can be an indicator the person is holding something back. Or simply a physiological action displaying the person is cold. 

Establishing the Baseline.

Body language is not a stand-alone indicator; we need to look for ‘changes’ from the body language the person originally started with. Known as establishing the baseline.

During an interrogation, a person may nervously tap their foot, but as the interview

continues, the person may open their body, relaxing their face. This can give the impression that their initial nervousness was in regards to being questioned, not necessarily their guilt. Unless the interrogator is not on the right track, so the guilty person begins to relax.

A guilty suspect may appear confident to start with; sitting straight, arms spread wide on the table. However, as the questions get more personal they may show discomfort or irritation.

The change of the original behavior is the best indicator to guide the interrogator to the next line of questioning.

The main thing to remember when learning the basics of body language – do not assume anything. A person that is prone to anxiety may appear more fidgety than a person more relaxed. However, neither may be guilty, or it might be the person is attempting to force relaxed emotions, rather than the person displaying outward obvious emotions.

Body Language should be like life. Do not go by just one thing you have seen or heard. Research, put things into context, understand what you have seen and the possibilities of why you have seen it. This will help you improve your overall skills in body language, and in life.

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Published by sharlene25

Sharlene Almond is the author of the genre-bending Annabella Cordova series, and a New Zealand travel book Journey in little Paradise. She has written a range of health, writing and body language articles; contributing as a guest writer on other blogs. Over the last ten years, Sharlene has attained qualifications in Body Language, Criminology, Journalism, Editing, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Pet Care, and Animal Behaviour. While setting up an online nutritional business, she is studying to specialize in Medicinal Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sharlene is also currently editing her second Annabella Cordova novel, with two others in the works. To support her online business, Sharlene sends out a trimonthly newsletter covering health, body language, writing, and even articles centered on health topics for your pet.

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