The Scientific Portal of Behavior, Body Language and Nonverbal Communication#

Search for

May 28, 2011

Why we smile?

Grimacing monkey
A smile is a magical tool in human society. It helps in winning people’s hearts and draw sympathy and favor. Smiley and emoticon have become integral part of text messaging and chatting applications around the world. We feel quite better when somebody smiles at us and we smile in return. Smiling person is like and loved the most than the one who presses lips tightly and glares at you.

Why we smile at each other so instinctively i. e. without training, instruction or compulsion? The answer to this question is both exciting and bizarre. My very own hypothesis about its origin, briefly titled as "Harmless Teeth" is as following. Please don't forget read it till the end.

Very few of us might know that our primate cousins (apes and monkeys) also smile at each other. When two primates stand in front of each other or pass along side, they open their mouths slightly so that their teeth should get displayed. In their society, smiling has a lot to do with social harmony, dominance and survival. Smile has almost similar value in human society too.

Dr. Paul Ekman
expressing anger
By doing this, they make each other feel safe by passing a message, “Don’t be afraid! I’m not baring my teeth at you. I’m friendly!”. It's only the dominant male in their group who doesn't show his teeth to others. He uses his teeth only to bite and injure his sub-ordinates or rivals to proclaim his superiority or control.

In face-to-face encounter, direct eye contact made with enlarged eyeballs and pressed lips is a classical sign of threatening, intimidation or hostile intentions. If any person is confronting to such kind of eye contact made by others for a considerable amount of time, it’s assured that it would result in either running away or retaliation through Amygdala Hijack.

Elongated hostile gaze leads to parasympathetic distress and our primate cousins use same strategy smartly. Dominant male gorillas stare with hostile facial expressions to control a large group of sub-ordinates and to deter rebellions or rivals. It's a sort of territorial invasion with eyes and also an invitation to fight.

According to my hypothesis, ritual of smiling is comparatively less related with lips and teeth than eyeballs and gaze. Orbicular muscles (Orbicularis Occuli) around the eyes unconsciously contract while smiling to convey that an individual is afraid of other person(s) during face to face encounters, confrontations and interactions.

43 different facial muscles

Displaying teeth along keeping eyes smaller in appearance creates overall effect of harmless intentions. Otherwise, displaying teeth by opening lips but deliberately keeping eyes wide open at the same time simply looks comic, weird and frightening. Also, clenching jaws and displaying teeth by opening lips at the same time also doesn't create the expected effect of harmless intentions.

Additionally, contracted orbicular muscles help in protecting eyes from possible attack and also reverse the effect of the stronger, hostile and dominating gaze i. e. our eyeballs appear smaller than their normal size. Along with the same, separation of both lips and turning their corners upward might have evolved to enhance orbicular muscles (Orbicularis Occuli) contraction.

A thin band of Zygomatic muscles on both side of face arising from Zygomatic bone i. e. near the outer edges of eyebrows and merging into Orbicularis Oris muscles (circular muscles around lips) at both corners of mouth contracts and pulls the edges of lips upwards while we smile. Also the puffed cheeks due to this pull provide an additional protection to eyes.

Air hostesses smile a lot during the flight
to keep the distress low in the passengers.

Smiling or looking at the smiling faces associated with Endorphin (a neurotransmitter) secretion. It induces feeling of happiness in mind even if smile is genuine or fake one. We portray different kinds of smiles for expressing appeasement, acceptance, approachability, innocence, happiness, friendliness, agreeableness, fondness etc. All of these facial expressions are non-threatening for others.

Very shocking it might sound for most of us but we can portray 43 different kinds of smiles. Also, a smile is the most commercially capitalized aspect of the overall body language.

[#Special Note: This articled has been accepted by, translated into Spanish (EspaƱola) and posted on Evidentia University (Behavioral and Forensic Sciences) website. It's URL is]

Related Articles:
1) Why we wave hands at others? 2) Positive body language 3) Making true friends 4) Woman's courtship Body Language (Part 1) 5) Woman's courtship Body Language (Part 2) 6) Primary Attraction 7) Why we hug? 8) Genuine Smile 9) Child inside us 10) Importance of Touch 11) Asymmetrical Smile but not Contempt

May 20, 2011

Making true friends

Friendship is the fathom of familiarity. It’s an invaluable and marvelous treasure that everybody wants to discover throughout lifetime. It enlightens life for once and all. Friendship is a perfect mirror in which one can get glimpse of true nature and meet very potentials through sympathy, mutual confidence, encouragement, co-operation, constructive criticism, idea generation, due appreciation, support and solidarity.

Initiating friendship or acquaintanceship at once is different than retaining and flourishing it further. Many aspects of positive body language can help you to invite persons into friendship but ultimately it’s quite sustainable process of reciprocation and resemblance.

Following are most crucial clues which would help in both finding and making friends you truly deserve:

1) Approach: Approaching to or facing somebody in non-threatening, casual and open-minded manner is the foundation of any relationship. Walk towards or face the others cheerfully and confidently. Do smile, wave hands and strike conversation with any suitable opening line like “Hi”, "Hi There", “Hey”, “How are you doing?”, “What’s up?”, “Nice to see you.”, “How the things are going on?”, “Hope you doing well.” etc.

Shaking hand is very good at initial stage but when familiarity gradually forms then do avoid it. Instead of hand shake, do start touching the person (if socially or gender appropriate) briefly at forearms and shoulders.

Don’t cross your arms on chest, entwine them behind your back or put them in pockets, purse or hand bag. Don't shrug shoulders or turn torso away from person. Turning your back suddenly at person is utterly disgraceful.

Even how you look at somebody does convey a lot more than actual words pretend. Try to maintain 70-75 % of steady eye contact during face to face interaction. Also, avoid standing or sitting on exactly an opposite side of man and side way of woman as much as possible. Comfort level with steady eye contact may vary in different cultures and societies.

When time comes to apart, end conversation with any suitable opening line like “Bye”, “See you.”, "Good Day", "Take Care", “Meet you later.”, “Talk to you later.”, “Best of luck.”, “Nice to see you.” etc. Wave hands, smile and walk away.

2) Active Listening: Just hearing to anybody is absolutely different from listening to it actually. Listening is mentally engaged state that reflects your true interest and attachment towards the other. When somebody’s distressed, despaired or disheartened then he/she really wants other to carefully listen or even synchronize emotionally.

Active listening and querying about what other person feels at given moment can strengthen any relationship more rather than giving quick solutions and let emotional intricacies remained unheard. Nod you head in agreement repeatedly while you listen. Conscious mirroring is very good.

3) Expressiveness: Everybody has an equal right of expression and it should be exercised. In friendship, one should encourage other to talk freely about feelings and experiences. It creates very conducive environment. Don’t impose yourself onto others every time. It would compel others to withdraw, frown or irritate.

Don’t lean over others or look with contempt. Just sit or stand straight and let others to take their turn. Be curious towards the other while they share.

4) Reconciliation: Reconciliation is crucial to heal any annoyance, hurt or distress caused by action or behavior from either side. If somebody gets hurt then lean forward, bow your head, put your palm on your heart and simply say “Sorry”, “I feel very sorry” or “Sorry, I hurt you.” from bottom of heart and with very soft voice.

Gently touch the other person by grabing its hands, touching shoulders or face or giving a hug (if socially or gender appropriate). Look at face and try to catch its gaze. Look directly into its eyes and and ask that If he/she could excuse you for whatever you did or gone wrong from you.

5) Support: It's the core of any relationship. Everybody of us unconsciously seeks support the way how we grow up by constant attention and care taken by parents during early childhood. If situation allows, put your hands behind shoulder of other person while standing, seating or walking (if socially or gender appropriate). By this, you make other person feel secured by you.

Take every opportunity to congratulate other person. Do genuinely appreciate achievements, performance or appearance. Frequently ask others about their well-being and if you could help them anyway.

6) Reciprocation: Sharing and exchange gives unprecedented joy and feeling of satisfaction. This is very common experience and our society and culture encourages it. Reciprocation makes relationship valuable are worth sustaining.

When somebody spends time, intellect and energy to exchange resources, ideas, opinions, information, complements, thoughts and feelings with you then you should duly recognize them and appreciate efforts or intentions of other person. Try to share in return of same from your side as much as possible and whatever appropriate is.

Despite of freedom everybody has to befriend and enjoy great things in life, some limitations and constraints should not be violated. Respect other as an individual first. Take their personal responsibilities and social roles into account. Avoid expecting (an immediate) response from others every time you initiate an exchange.

Also, let others know about your inability to meet, talk or exchange if situations and circumstances don’t allow. Don’t make others to feel bother with childish comments and queries.

Avoid excessive touching and crossing intimate boundaries of others (especially a member of an opposite gender). Avoid intimate gaze, flirting, suggestive gestures or submissive facial expressions with member of an opposite gender.

Attraction for a member of an opposite gender is quite natural, obvious and inevitable but trying to transform the friendship into a romantic relationship may not assure its survival a over long time. Friendship and romantic relationship are two entirely different areas in the first place.

One person may not behave in romantic relationship the way he/she supports and appreciates you as a friendship. Indeed, man and woman can become very best friends forever if they develop good mutual understanding and mind their existing relationship, social responsibilities, goals and aspirations.

Related Articles:
1) Positive Body Language 2) Why we wave hands at others? 3) What is hand shake? 4) Why we copy each other's body language? 5) Why we hug? 6) Why we smile? 7) Importance of eyes in relationship 8) Importance of Touch 9) Proxemics

May 06, 2011

Positive Body Language

It’s quite true that what’s on your mind is manifested by body through expressions, movements and actions. Moreover, the way you make your body to move or act definitely affects your feelings, perceptions and thinking as well. It’s exactly like how good nutrition, balanced diet, exercise and optimism assures health, improved immunity and sense of well being.

When it comes to communication, every step or action directly affects its outcome. Each and every chunk of communication affects personal, social and professional relationships and mutual rapport. How firmly, confidently, fluently and comfortably we can express ourselves is the base of effective communication.

Positive body language can help us in making what we want to convey or communicate to others more effective. It’s not only about how you feel about others but how much you are comfortable and positive with yourself while interacting with others in a given situation, condition, circumstance or environment.

Please keep in mind that there's nothing like a single 'Universal Positive Body Language' (UPBL) at all. Below mentioned suggestions and tips are largely applicable to social interactions in an urban environment only.

1) Posture: Posture is how you walk, stand or seat in front of the others. It’s directly related to energy, curiosity, acceptability, safety and sense of comfort with any physical or social environment and people around you.

If you really want to encourage others to interact with you comfortably, do adapt open and upright posture because it expresses open, attentive and acceptance mode.

Astonishingly, the upright posture, torso orientation and barrier free body positioning greatly improves grasping.

2) Greeting: Greeting or gesticulating in complementary way is an inevitable part of social communication. It makes other feel safe about you. Unless you don’t make others notice about your approach or advance towards them, they would hardly take it as safe confrontation because they are not prepared for the same. Be polite, enthusiastic, open and compassionate while greeting.

You can see how most effective leaders, celebrities or personalities drive a surge of overwhelming welcome and good will due to their style of greeting and gesture.

3) Distance: How close you stand or seat with others greatly affects on how others perceive or likely to think about you and accept you. If you meeting first time with any person or group of people, don't stand very close to them at all. Social distance or zone might vary in different societies and cultures across the globe.

Do avoid touching any of other person's body parts other than engaging in a hand shake, only if it’s an locally accepted social ritual. After getting acquainted with the same person, you may enter or let other enter into your personal zone by your convenience and comfort.

4) Eye Contact: Eye contact is the most important aspect of face-to-face interaction. It affects the level of confidence, interest, intimacy, trust and sympathy that other cultivate in their minds about you.

Do maintain relatively steady eye contact with person you are talking or interacting with. Don't look away or down instantaneously and jerk your neck in front them. Avoid glare or prolonged gaze.

If you are talking to or interacting with more than one person, look at each of them in repetition. Comfort level with a steady eye contact might vary in different societies and cultures across the globe.

5) Smile: Smile is powerful tool to help other easily and freely accept your opinion and thoughts. Smile with steady eye contact can bring magical effect during interactions and also invoke interest in others. Smile improves you face value.

Avoid smiling continuously, unreasonably and frequently otherwise you would be mistaken as a mentally unstable person, a liar, an idiot, a crazy person or a flirtatious person. Exercise a genuine, warm and long lingering smile.

6) Gestures: Gesturing is a truly wonderful tool for explaining, mimicking and illustrating. Gestures also control the flow, direction, tempo and pace of verbal exchange.Gesturing can turn a dull, bland or boring verbal interaction into a dazzling and also a memorable deal.

Gestures can convey message or information with a greater effect, accuracy and speed that cannot be achieve entirely by words. Don’t cross your arms over your chest, put your hands into pockets or hold them behind your back. Do use them well for skillful, timely, effective, assertive yet non-offensive gesturing.

Avoid exaggerated, unusual, intimate and repetitive gestures or such gestures that other can't understand or decode locally. Align your facial expressions with your postures, gestures and vocal tones. Open palm gestures are ideal for making other feel trustworthy and safe about you.

Most crucial thing above all to remember is that faking doesn't last longer. Reflecting positive body language outside starts with becoming more and more positive and confident from within.

Related Articles:
1) Conscious Shift in Body Language 2) Confident Body Language 3) Importance of Eyes 4) Words and Gestures are alike 5) Let your spirit soar higher 6) Making true friends 7) Why we smile? 8) Like attracts Like 9) Job Interview Tips 10) Proxemics 11) Good posture is Healthy 12) Power Postures