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Interpretation: Looking at other side of picture

There are many printed and online books and article available about reading body language. I too have few books in written in English, Hindi and Marathi in my shelf. I referred these books many times at the beginning of career in research about social psychology and nonverbal communication.
In concluding section or epilogue of almost every book, there is strong message - Don’t try to jump on conclusions in hurry and try to look at other side of any picture. How many times we do it in real life? Matter of fact is we avoid doing so.

Interpretation based on recognized or repetitive patterns that we’ve been observing in books might not help us to arrive at an accurate conclusion in real life. Unlike some fixed hot-spots which an inexperienced person too easily acknowledge, there could be many pitfalls while interpreting or “reading” body language.
Without spending any extra time and applying mental power, most of us just jump on conclusions that take them away from the facts. Such body language experts are plentiful in our society.

Recently, I got a picture which is very good specimen for interpreting both emotional and physical status in given context. I’m sure that most of us would jump on the easiest conclusions while taking a first look at this picture.
I’m putting same lines below this image that were originally published with image in a slideshow on yahoo India news website. I hope that it would help you greatly while judging the validity of your initial interpretation.
"I think this kind of mindfulness isn't something you can get in the city in a mall watching a movie," says Mr. Ashok Thiruvenkatam (49) from Bengluru (India). He had just finished a 1,000 km brevet through Karnataka and did not look like a man recovering, as he matched his 12-year-old son Tarun for excitement and energy.
What is your very first interpretation about this situation? Perhaps, most probably, it would be - The boy is furious at his father. He is standing by putting his both hands on hips and he seems quite distressed by his facial expressions. His lower lip has protruded and nostrils have enlarged.
His is holding gaze not exactly in the direction of his father who is standing just a feet away from him. Father seems saying or asking something to this boy. Is the boy really angry with his father?

Many people think that different expressions we make unconsciously by face and body only convey emotional, social and relational status. This is not the whole truth at all because we’re not just social and emotional creatures but we’ve all have living bodies.
Many times we make muscular movements and adapt postures to adjust with given working situations, operational demands, external environments and our own internal physical states. Typical muscular movements we make on faces while experiencing physical pain or applying force to do something is a good example.

Now, let’s try to interpret same situation in an entirely different way. For that, we’ve to imagine physical state of boy at the moment this photograph was taken. Definitely, by looking at his body language, the boy seems distressed but reason is not his father.
As lines give hint us that the father matched excitement and energy of his son while cycling, the boy seems physically exhausted and running out of energy. Actually, father appears to have higher energy level as compared to his son. Isn't it? Regular exercise has offered him the endurance and skills to expend energy more skillfully.

Have you ever seen participants after crossing finishing line in running competition? Most of them stand in same the posture - both hands on rested hips. Muscular movement on their faces convey how much exhausted they are.
Winners of the race too can be observed giving away this typical distress cluster. Switch on your television and look out for players expressing physical pain, strain or exhaustion.

[Special note: Any offense isn’t intended towards the persons who have been pasteurized in this image. Thanks to Yahoo News for publishing this slideshow as a tribute to cyclists of Bengluru/Bangalore (India). Being myself as a regular cyclist, I promote cycling as sports and transportation through this article.]

Related Article:
1) Postures 2) This is what I (want to) see.


  1. Hello! interesting article. I agree that the first impression would be that the child is mad about something and looks like the father is asking him a question.

    In the last paragraph the interpretation giving of the father excitement and boys expression about exercising it makes more sense than the first impression we get from the picture.

    I also I agree that sometimes I jump in conclusion or first impression before finishing reading or looking a picture.

  2. Would the old adage here be true? We should never judge a book by its cover?

  3. Beautiful! Very true!

  4. Nice article, sir!

  5. This is a good point - ambiguity persists despite our determinations about nonverbal expressions - it's all about life stories, not quick conclusions. Exhaustion can be misread as frustration or anger...

  6. A hint may be the gentle smile on the father's face.

  7. As with anything we humans jump to the first conclusion and do not stop to analyze any situation. We are our best teachers. We can learn a lot faster about what others body language is projecting by studying ourselves in all the situations we face daily and how we react, do and how we look when feeling a certain way. Some people have taught themselves to react with minimal emotions to conceal themselves from body language interpreters.

  8. Hi - I am the father in the picture. My son was proud of me finishing the 1000m brevet. Looking ardently at something on the road with the sun possibly in the eyes makes him look upset! Well he was definitely not furious!

    1. Yeah! He wasn't definitely furious at anybody! He just seems exhausted and recovering back.


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