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December 31, 2011

Reading Body Language - Para Language

How words are pronounced by somebody is most important than what they literally mean. There’s strong relation between our emotional state and clues we convey through pronunciations. This relation is studied under a branch of science, which is called as PARA LANGUAGE. 
 
Humans have well developed system for creating different sounds with varying tone, volume, pitch and annotations. Torso, throat, oral cavity, lips, jaws, tongue and facial muscles play different roles in vocal articulation.
 
Age, level of energy, body mass, endurance, medical condition, illness and hormones also have large impact on human voice. Kind of sound an individual creates while speaking is identical to the individual's hand signatures.

Emotions, attitudes and feelings can be conveyed and interpreted with the help of voice only. In fact, some of us are very much skilled in understanding emotions just by listening to voice and not watching any facial expressions at all.
 
Like paying keen attention to body language clues, listening to voice also gives insight of person’s emotional, cognitive and also physical state. Emotional and homeostatic processes too are deciding factors in same. We can understand emotional state, just by listening to speech of a person. Can we reverse direction of this process?

Let's try to figure out that how each person shown below would likely to pronounce words or create sound just by looking at its body language in a given situation.

What kind of sound each person would make?
 
1) A police officer who is standing upright and looking dominant - bluffed chest, stiff neck and hands on put hips or hold on back. He would be able to talk in firm tone and uniform pitch very easily.

2) A lonely lady who looks physical exhausted and trying to console herself. She would speak in monotonous and sluggish voice (on telephone) because she is sad or exhausted.

3) A boy who is making merry, playing, jumping and dancing. He would laugh or twitter sound in joyous tone. It's play time for him without any external interference.

4) A lady who is sharing something with other person by sitting very closely to it. They are not making any gestures and meeting gaze with others. She must be whispering in a secretive low tone. Highly private gossip!

5) A couple who is making aggressive gestures, clenching fists, bearing teeth, crossing hands on chests and fiercely gazing towards each other. Definitely, they would yelling and shouting on each other.

6) A salesman who has leaned forward and titled neck at one side, He has put on smiley face while speaking. He must be buttering up your boss to place an order or sign a contract.

Ability to decipher emotions based upon para linguistic clues is most useful especially when we cannot observe somebody face to face.

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Reading Body Language - Micro Expressions

Lie to Me (the world famous TV serial) made common people aware about how ability to detect tiniest movements of facial muscles could bring dramatic turn while interrogating the suspects. Bringing a criminal into confessing crime it committed isn't easy because it tries to defend itself from being detected by the law and enforcement agency.
 
Exactly like the crime investigators, forensic experts and criminal profilers pick, photograph and document the tiniest clues from the place crime took place, interrogators have to do the same by picking tiniest expressions from faces of people they interrogate, question or try to get information from.


A micro-expression or micro-momentary facial expression is nothing but the expression of different emotions that unconsciously occurs within fraction of a second. Just like a macro or clearly detectable facial expressions, micro-expressions convey what is being suppressed by an individual.
 
With experience and age, people learn to control autonomous facial expressions, movements and gestures by giving away clues about them momentarily. A novice or inexperienced observers can and do overlook micro-expressions because they remain almost undetected by untrained eyes.

Who says I'm afraid?
Unlike normal, macro and subtle expressions; micro expressions appear and disappear within fraction of a second on human face. Unlike inexperienced or untrained observers, analysts, experts and interrogators can instantaneously crack or zoom into micro expressions. Also, they can be monitored while running a video clip at lower frame rate or watching a photograph.

Micro expressions can bring surprising turns while interpreting body language because they are emotional outlets of actually what somebody is trying to suppress or hide from others. Learned and volunteer control (cortical control) still let their trails appear as much as for 1/4 fraction of a second as per pioneer emotion and facial expressions scientist Prof. Dr. Paul Ekman (University of San Fransisco, United States).
 
Did she kill her husband?
Experienced interrogators and lie detectors mostly rely on micro expressions because smart liars can confidently claim that ordinary people easily believe in. In a real incident, a suspected woman was arrested for the murder of her husband.
 
During the police interrogation, she boldly claimed, "I really don't have any idea about him. I hope that he'll come back very soon". However, she unconsciously gave away a subtle clue that as ordinary individual would have ignored and wouldn't have ask any serious questions to her.


While claiming the same, she turned her face contemptuous, just for fractions of a second. If she really cared about her husband then why she expressed disrespect (towards him) in the first place? Experienced
interrogators would sense that something must have gone wrong in their relationship.
 
Expert interrogators could have possibly get her confession of murdering his own husband by asking a few serious questions about their relationship. It's worth remembering that the devil is in the details.

In May 2013, I got a certificate from Humintell for completing facial micro-expression training and passing the final test with 93% percent of accuracy. Though I passed with ‘Expert’ level, it wasn’t an easy task at all because the mood of an individual at given moment and ability of moving own facial muscles can make a great difference.
 
Therefore, my own facial muscles helped me in passing this test in single attempt. Ability to portray micro-expressions on your own face can give you the real advantage and the edge in identifying them on faces of other people.

My Certificate from HuminTell

Are you good at picking micro-expressions? You can test your skills by following this link that takes you to a demo test. The test is also available below. Try yourself and know your score. Taking this test on a desktop computer is highly recommended.

 

Reading Body Language - Context

Like Cluster, Context makes a nonverbal message more clear to understand. CONTEXT is an environment, background, circumstance, setup or situation according to which it should be interpreted. Without knowing the context, reading body language would drastically mislead us.

Let's see how exactly two different environments, circumstances, situations or surroundings can give two different meanings to the same expression or action.

There are two different persons taking out their frustration following sequence of events. One person is standing in the audience gallery while watching a football/soccer match with his favorite team playing in it whereas another person is a senior police officer who is standing inside the police station with his colleagues.

Both of them are in two completely different environments and conditions to express their feelings, motives, intentions and emotions while reacting to something. Context plays very crucial role in understanding what they want to convey actually.

Both of them suddenly yelled and smashed fist on their palm. Smashing fist on the palm is one of the ways of taking out frustration (sadness with anger) over unexpected or impending failure, loss or shortfall. We punch the fist on palm because we cannot punch anybody else at the moment.

The young football fan smashed his fist on palm after watching an ace player missed the goal post during the last few minutes of the second half. He took out his frustration over the wasted opportunity by his favorite team in making the goal for winning over its opponents at the end.

On the other hand, the police officer listens that a criminal who was arrested after a year long pursuit succeeded in escaping from prison a few minutes ago. He smashed his fist on palm, yelling “Damn it!”. He took out frustration because all efforts he and his team took to arrest the criminal got wasted.

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November 26, 2011

Reading Body Language - Proxemics

During Golden Globe Award Ceremony of 2016, an unusual incident happened. After her name being announced as a receiver of an award, the famous American singer Lady Gaga started walking towards stage. While making her way through audience, she briefly brushed off behind the chair on which the famous Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting.
 
While reacting to the same quite spontaneously, viscerally and unconsciously, his unique facial expression and nose touching made the headlines all around the globe and several YouTube clips were published. Why he would have done it after all? Let's find out very reason behind the same.


In last two articles, we have seen that how clustering and congruence are crucial for reading body language. Now let's  move on towards understanding the importance of interpersonal distance which is called as PROXEMICS. It is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behaviour, communication and social interaction.
 
Wars are fought over a piece of land but most of us really don’t realize that the interpersonal distance or physical space between any two individuals plays a great role in and also affects stress level, hostility, aggression, comfort level and overall relationship. Interpersonal distance becomes critically important while encountering or meeting a complete stranger. So let's take an example from the real life so it would make sense very clearly.
 
It's an usual day in the company and you start working on routine tasks. Suddenly, team leader informs you that few newly recruited members are joining your team. You are asked to gather at some place for getting formally introduced with them face to face. Until this moment both parties might not have seen each other so little amount of nervousness coupled with excitement lurks inside everyone's mind.
 
While looking at each other, both parties smile nervously but avoid prolong eye contact except those who develop the feelings of physical attraction for each other instantaneously. Formal hand shake, mutual introduction and exchanging a few words take place by keeping socially accepted distance from each other. Even, the team or group leader keeps socially accepted distance from the new joiner.

At the beginning, getting face to face is filled with uneasiness and anxiety. Glancing at either side of own body, looking down, hovering gaze, putting hands in pocket, giving nervous look or smile, grabbing things in palms, moving torso away or crossing arms over chest can be observed being done unconsciously by both parties.
 
They don't come close to each other or interact voluntarily like seniors or more experienced colleagues do among themselves. An accidental touch and trespassing is regretted and asked felt sorry for. Also, the new joiners form their own group despite of unfamiliarity among themselves.

Some days pass and regular work-related interactions start taking place between you and new joiners. Apart from work, everybody starts talking, sharing and complementing with each others irrespective of tenure in the company. It gives opportunity of judging, profiling and knowing each other consciously or unconsciously.
 
Although it's not precise, we naturally tend to figure out mutual strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Also, it's not at all necessary and obligatory that every junior member of a team become close companion of every other senior. Some subconscious needs, reservations, biases, orientations and/or complexes motivate us to form a bond with more like minded persons.

Initial awkwardness, shyness, nervousness and disorientation slowly fades. Interactions start happening at close distance as compared to earlier days. Touching, seating or standing closer, eating together, whispering, handling personal stuff or a prolonged eye contact becomes normal.
 
Everybody starts looking at faces and into the eyes of each other quite comfortably. Postures of two interacting persons become quite grounded, firm and relaxed. Strong rapport is established among new joiners and senior team members over the time. Meeting and greeting each other brings excitement and freshness at workspace.

Doesn't it appear like a miracle? Gradual shrinking of interpersonal space and development of new relationship! Why we tend to stay away from new people in the beginning and get closer gradually (or in worst case - drift away)? Certainly, it's really worth interesting and enlightening to know in the first place.

Too close?
Interpersonal space or distance between two individuals is crucial factor for judging that if other person or object is in favor of our survival interests. It's a core mechanism of our  subconscious mind of gathering visual clues and deciding to move towards it, let it to move towards ourselves or step back and run away from it. 
 
When the space required to watch (hear and smell too) others and decide the strategy is intruded, invaded or trespassed with unknown intentions (by strangers), we feel very uncomfortable, challenged, dominated, offended or stressed. Limbic system starts sending flight or fight signals to the body.
 
Basically, there are only reasons to invade or intrude the personal and/or intimate zones i. e. either to attack and harm somebody or to get intimate with somebody. Hence, lesser the physical distance remains between any two individuals, more both of them expect non-offense, courtesy and carefulness. Otherwise, they try to fight or run away (flight) for their own safety.
 
Until we don't spend enough time in observing and judging the level of hostility, degree of harmfulness, intentions, motives and temperament of the other person, we don't want to allow it to come closer with ourselves. Until we don't judge anything or anybody as harmless, we want to keep a safe distance with the same.
 
Edward T. Hall, the cultural anthropologist has defined four different zones around our body. Each zone is a circular area in which we let other to enter or stay depending upon kind of relationship we're seeking or currently have with them. Below are approximate distances with which Edward T. Hall put up his theory but radius of each zone may vary culture, society or geography wise.
 
Different zones of proxemics (Interpersonal Distance)
 
1) Intimate Zone (from 6 to 18 inches): This is the zone a person guards as individual property. Only romantic partner, close friends and relatives are allowed to enter in it.

2) Personal Zone (from 18 to 48 inches): This is the distance we keep from others during friendly interactions, social gatherings or parties.

3) Social Zone (from 4 to 12 feet): This is the distance we keep from strangers or persons with a little or no acquaintance at all.
 
4)
Public Zone (beyond 12 feet): This is the distance we maintain while interacting or addressing to large group of people.

Even though we allow individuals like siblings, parents, children, friends and partners to enter in our personal and/or intimate zones; there are a few occasions, situation and circumstances in which invasion of personal and/or intimate zones is entertained, allowed or tolerated without showing overt sign of distress and discomfort. Sharing public spaces like bench in a park or a desk in a pubic library are few examples of the same.
 
Also, there are a few occasions in which we allow a large no. of strangers to invade our personal and/or intimate zones. Those are the only kinds of occasions in which we voluntarily come closer with a single goal in our minds. The long waiting queues or a crowd gathered on railway platforms, at music shows or sport matches are few examples of same.

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November 19, 2011

Reading Body Language - Congruence

In last article, we came to know about clustering which is the first thing to collect while reading body language. Moreover, a cluster is a door step for interpretation of a nonverbal message more accurately. If any words are involved in a cluster then it has to be analyzed or scrutinized further to check if it conveys a true message or not. So let’s move forward to authenticate a massage. Why verification of authenticity is required in the first place at all?

By most, our brain maintains proper coordination or synchrony among facial expression, posture, movement, words and tone of voice. If they remain more synchronized with each other, a message gets across more effectively, precisely and correctly. Bodily clues and moves supporting, synchronizing and reflecting what words are conveying is an truthful massage. It is called as CONGRUENCE or compatibility.

What if someone wants to distract or lie to others with a false message? Our deliberate cleverness comes into play for the same. In practical life, we find ourselves in very awkward situations in which passing exact and true message may not be in our best interest. They are a number of reasons for same but all of them cannot be discussed in this article.
 
There are two persons saying, "I'm open to and confident about the new challenges!". One person has crossed arms over chest with false smile on face while the other has opened arms wide and seems ready to embrace. Who would you believe to be ready for challenges?
 
Who's open and confident? Person to standing at left or Right?
 
Anxiety, fear, guilt or distress of being damned, embarrassed and punished by others while saying what others are expecting to hear from an individual starts leaking out through the lack of bodily control and movement coordination. Ultimately we try to cover up it by verbal crafting but mind doesn't let us to deny the truth.
 
Movements of various parts of our body become less compatible with each other and/or get completely out of synchrony. Thus a whole cluster appears to be non-congruent and incompatible with the spoken or uttered words.
 
Always remember that actions clearly convey whereas words merely (try to) convince. That's the very reason why it's said that Actions speak louder than words.
 
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