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Reading Body Language - Para Language

How words are pronounced is most important than what they literally mean. There’s strong relation between our emotional state and clues we convey through pronunciation. This is called as science of PARA LANGUAGE. Emotions and feelings can be conveyed and interpreted with the help of voice only. In fact, some of us are more skilled in understanding emotions by listening to voice and not watching facial expressions.

Humans have well developed system for creating different sounds by varying tone, volume, pitch and annotations. Torso, throat, oral cavity, lips, jaws, tongue and facial muscles play different roles in vocal articulation. Immunity, level of energy, body mass, endurance and hormones also have large impact on voice. Kind of sound we create while speaking is identical to making a signature on paper.

As like paying keen attention to body language clues, listening to voice also gives insight of person’s emotional and also physical state. Like making gestures by hands, we also modulate our voice depending upon different circumstances, conditions and requirements. Emotional and homeostatic processes too are deciding factors in same. We can understand emotional and physical state too 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 - a world famous TV serial made common people aware about how ability to detect tiniest movements of facial muscles could bring dramatic turn while interrogating suspects. Bringing a criminal into confessing crime it committed isn't easy because it tries to defend itself from being detected by law and enforcement agency. Investigators and forensic experts have to pick tiniest clues not only at actual crime scene but also on faces of people they interrogate or try to get information from.

 

A micro-expression or micro-momentary facial expression is nothing but movements of different facial expressions that unconsciously occurs within fraction of a second. Just like a macro or clearly detectable facial expressions, micro-expressions give away seven different emotions. A novice or inexperienced observer can overlook micro-expressions because they remain almost undetected by it. By experience and age, people learn to control autonomous facial expressions, movements and gestures by giving away clues about them swiftly.

Why says I'm afraid?
Unlike normal or macro expressions, micro expressions appear and disappear within fraction of a second. Sometimes, expressions are miniaturized to keep them unnoticed by observer. Unlike inexperienced or untrained observers, experts can instantaneously crack or zoom into micro expressions. Also, they can be monitored while running video clip at lower frame rate or watching photograph.

Micro expressions can bring surprising turns while interpreting body language because they are emotional outlets of actually what somebody tries 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). He and his colleagues have developed very reliable tool called as Micro Expressions Test Tool (METT) that let you learn and detect micro expressions online. You can test your skills by following this link that takes you to demo test. 

She killed her husband?
Interrogators and lie detectors mostly rely on micro expressions because smart liars can confidently make claims that ordinary people easily believe. A suspected woman arrested for murder of her husband boldly claims, "I really don't have any idea about him. I hope that he'll come back very soon". 

While saying it, she turns contemptuous for fraction of a second. If she really cares about her husband then why she expressed hatred or disrespect? Something must be wrong in their relationship. Expert interrogator can possibly get her confession by asking serious questions.


No need to check time
In social environments, we can see people managing to cope with distressing moments by replacing clearly apparent expressions by their miniaturized versions. A veteran project leader in a software company slightly touches wrist watch but doesn't look at it while addressing to farewell party. Actually, he replaces “hands-crossed-on-chest” posture to defend himself from anxiety of somebody being hurt by his words unintentionally. Even though he doesn't express anxiety on his own face, his body gives away a miniaturized expression of indented posture he unconsciously wants to adopt in front of the audience.

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 mood of a person at given moment and movements in own facial muscles can make a great difference. However, my own facial muscles helped me to pass the test. Ability to portray micro-expressions on you own face can give you real edge in identifying them on faces of other people.

The Certificate from HuminTell
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Reading Body Language - Context

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

Let's see how an environment can give different meaning to an expression or action.

There are two different persons taking out their frustration following sequence of events – one person is standing in audience gallery watching a football match whereas another person is a senior police officer standing inside the police station with his colleagues. Both of them are in completely different environment to express their feelings and emotions in reaction to something. Context plays very crucial role in understanding what they want to convey actually.

Both of them suddenly yelled and smashed fist on palm. Smashing a fist on palm is taking out frustration over (unexpected) failure or shortfall – we punch on palm because we cannot punch anybody else for consequences.

A young football fan smashed his fist after watching an ace player misses the goal post during last few minutes of second half. He took out frustration because of expecting that his favorite team shouldn’t loose any opportunity to win over its opponent.

On the other hand, a police officer listens that a criminal who was arrested after a year long pursuit succeeded to escape 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 were meaningless.

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