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Learn to decode body language

Nonverbal communication has a great influence on our relationships with others. If our words have a definite impact, our gestures, our attitude, our look say much more than words. How to decode these non-verbal elements? How to use them to communicate better? 

Have you ever wondered why, without having met your interlocutor before, the current went (or not!) From the first minutes of your interview? Expressions from everyday life also illustrate this non-verbal communication wonderfully: “we are on the same wavelength”, “I cannot see it”, “I cannot feel it”… are they that there that words?

The power of the non-verbal is recognized and used by great communicators. This way of communicating makes it possible to address all the areas of the brain of one's interlocutor. The result is better effectiveness of its message. 

Recruiters, for example, have understood this and are looking beyond words during their job interviews.

Learn to decode body language

What is non-verbal communication?

In terms of communication, there are the words - learned, understood, mastered, chosen - consciously spoken, and there is everything that dresses and animates these words: the nonverbal composed of many elements. This apparently innocuous language speaks much more than our simple words.

Non-verbal communication thus includes everything related to body language acting as an unconscious vector of our emotions: postures, style, gestures, facial expressions, intonation, micro facial expressions, physical contact, movements, etc. 

These elements reflect our deep feelings about a situation, especially when we interact with others and can sometimes harm us, discredit a speech that is however well written and prepared or even simply betrays us.

When interacting with others, the words we use only represent around 5% of the information heard by our interlocutor. About 40% of his feelings about our intervention are transmitted by the intonation of our voice. 

The vast majority of our message is thus conveyed by our body language. This shows the importance of knowing the elements of the non-verbal, knowing how to decipher them and above all mastering them!

It is essential to perfectly master these elements when speaking in public, for example, or in the context of a negotiation where the non-verbal will bring precious information to those who know how to observe finely. 

Decode the elements of the non-verbal

Posture, speech, tone of voice, body language, look ... are apparently harmless elements that say much more about our real intentions and our emotions. Quick decryption of Synology or non-verbal language. 

The voice:

It is the first vector of our words. Without even seeing the person talking to us, we are able to say if they are nervous, relaxed, if they are smiling, etc.

The elements characterizing the voice are as follows: 
  1. Volume: sound level to be adapted according to the context and the audience (1 or more people, friendly interaction or public speaking, etc.). A voice that is difficult to hear or does not reach an entire audience will reflect a feeling of lack of control of the subject, uneasiness or doubt about the speaker. 
  2. Flow: this is the speed at which we speak. Pay special attention to your speed if you have to speak in public, because it is common to speak - much - too quickly when speaking in front of an assembly, thus denoting a certain nervousness. 
  3. Intonation: the tone of the voice literally gives life to words. It is sort of the melody of our speeches. It is important to modulate the tone of your voice in order to capture the attention of your / your interlocutors , for example, or to awaken a sleeping audience. 
  4. The timbre: varying from very serious to very acute, it is specific to each individual. 

The voice can be warm ( listening and empathy ), colder (presentation of figures or purely technical elements), or even powerful (rallying speech to motivate), etc. 

Physical appearance

If it is customary to say that the habit does not make the monk - which is intrinsically true, the fact remains that our general physical appearance and dress convey many messages about our personality. 

In addition, if you are well in your outfit, you will appear more confident and thus inspire more confidence in others. Unconsciously, even before our interlocutor has said a single word, our brain analyzes the overall appearance of the latter . Many people will stop at this first impression without trying to find out more. 

In addition - it is in particular the case in recruitment interview, what you wear more or less consciously betrays certain qualities - skills - just like certain more abstract aspects of your personality. 

A neglected appearance is likely to harm you for a position of responsibility, for example. In addition, being dressed like the majority of the employees of the company for which you are applying gives you an advantage expressed by this feeling of belonging to the same circle. It is the mirror effect, instantly and totally unconsciously inducing sympathy and positivity. 

Thus, during a job interview, you will take care to respect the dress code of the profession, but also of the spirit of the company for which you are applying. 

The colors we wear also say a lot about our state of mind and our personality. 

Posture and gestures

Your movements, and the way you do them, are strong indicators of how you feel inside and of your real intentions. Face to face, side by side, sitting, standing, etc. your position in front of your interlocutor also determines your relationship to this latter. 


The general position of your body, the inclination of your head, the way you position yourself in front of an interlocutor send unconscious messages to this latter: are you any threat to him? Do you exude warmth and kindness or, on the contrary, hostility and aggressiveness? 

Sitting in front of your interlocutor, do you have your upper body leaning towards the latter or rather well wedged against the back of your chair and rather behind? Do you cross your legs? Where are your hands and what are they doing?

Without even a word spoken, we are able to read various information through the attitude of our interlocutor.

Straight back, feet firmly anchored in the ground, controlled hands, non-fleeing gaze ... are all elements that project self-confidence, solidity and strength, a certain charisma. 

Back bent forward, fleeting gaze, hands constantly tortured mark, on the contrary, a powerful impression of shyness, uneasiness, lack of self-confidence, nervousness, etc.

Arms or legs crossed denote a closed attitude. 


The extent and the realization of your movements mark your state: relaxed, anxious, warm, hostile, threatening, open, closed ... Each of your gestures is unconsciously interpreted by your interlocutor and can determine the outcome of a negotiation, for example, or totally discredit someone's intervention.

Passing your hand through your hair, rubbing your nose, mouth or chin are all elements that can betray a lie or great anxiety. As well as jerky or rapid movements. On the contrary, large, controlled and slow movements are signs of self-confidence and comfort.

Among the significant gestures, we can cite the handshake, more or less soft, more or less supported; the accusing index or simply indicator; nodding indicating acquiescence, etc. 
The look

Don't we say that he is the mirror of the soul? Beyond this formula, the gaze returns a maximum of information to those who know how to decipher it . Sometimes eye contact is enough to answer a question. The intensity of the latter can put the person to whom it is turned at ease or, on the contrary, make them uncomfortable, even destabilize or frighten them.

The gaze can be present, supported, fixed, unstable, fleeing, turned upwards or rather towards the ground, straight or distracted and send different information: domination, manipulation, flight, anxiety, annoyance, boredom, anger, warmth, benevolence , etc.

Take care to look your interlocutor (s) in the eyes without being too pushy, which would result in making the latter uncomfortable. 

Facial expressions and micro expressions

An eyebrow that rises, the corner of the mouth that wriggles, the eye that curls, the forehead that wrinkles, the lips that tense ... Certain facial expressions moved in a totally involuntary manner by our muscles and recognized by all are easily spotted. 

Others, clearly more subtle, but just as involuntary, passing unnoticed for most of us, however reveal precious information. 

They are called micro-expressions. The latter, highlighted by Paul Ekman - American psychology specializing in the study of emotions - are universal, extremely stealthy (less than half a second) and the expression of one of our 7 emotions (joy, sadness , fear, anger, disgust, surprise, contempt).

If the first are easy to interpret, the second require a broad knowledge and a certain training before hoping to be able to use them as benchmarks. Dilation of the pupils, barely perceptible blinking of the eyes, half-opened mouth.

The micro-expressions are imperceptible for an uninformed eye and yet very talking. In this regard, mentalists, in particular, master - among other things - this art wonderfully, often bluffing the audience which remains stunned in the face of so much power. 

Space and distance

The distance:

Edward Twitchell Hall - American anthropologist specializing in interculturalism at the beginning of the XXth century - brought to light the concept of proxemia through which he classifies the type of relation existing between 2 protagonists according to the physical distance separating them during a interaction and fine cultural rules. He thus highlighted 4 zones, varying according to the habits and customs: 
  1. Intimate: highly emotional area ranging from 15cm to 45 cm, this is the distance separating 2 members of the same family, for example or extremely close, whose bonds are emotionally strong (physical contact, whispers, etc.). The dialogues are not perceptible by a person outside the area. It is sometimes called distance from secrecy. 
  2. Personal: from 45cm to 1.20m, it is called the affective zone. The bonds are emotionally less intense, but enough to tickle the affect. This is the distance for a particular discussion, for example, between 2 people who know each other well (friends). The dialogues are audible while remaining relatively muffled. It is called distance from confidence. 
  3. Social: 1.20m to 3.60m, this is the socialization area with interactions between individuals who know each other or rub shoulders regularly (acquaintances, work colleagues, etc.). The voice is heard and heard without effort. 
  4. Public: neither physical contact nor direct interactions, it is the distance between a person and a group of individuals (lecturer facing his audience, for example). 
Each individual has their own perception of these areas, which it is essential to respect, otherwise the discussion will collapse before it has even started. Depending on the experience, the personality or even the character of your contact, you will have to adapt. Do not cross the threshold of an area without being invited! 


The way you occupy the space determines your position in relation to your interlocutor (s). An influential person will be at ease in all places, will occupy all the space he has, reducing and/or increasing the distance between him and his / her interlocutor (s) according to his speech, sometimes showing domination (distance reduced), sometimes backwards (increased distance). This occupation of space marks their charisma and plays in favor of their power of persuasion . 

Power of body language

Listening to and understanding your interlocutor beyond his words is a huge asset in many situations. This allows, among other things, to:
  1. Interact in a clear and efficient way with its interlocutors: in sales interviews, in particular, or even during a job interview. 
  2. Convince more easily by adopting the right posture and adequate gestures. 
  3. Redirect a negotiation in front of a closed interlocutor by identifying signs of annoyance, non-interest, etc. and correcting the shot. 
  4. Identify more precisely the personality of a recruiting candidate by identifying signs of nervousness or lying. 
  5. Manage conflicts more effectively and detect the unspoken. 
  6. Detect resistance to change before it is clearly stated.

Learn to decode body language Learn to decode body language Reviewed by communication etiquette on 12:10 PM Rating: 5

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