Body language: preverbal communication

Before we start to talk to someone, part of our brain scans the position of the body of our interlocutor.  Thanks to this mechanism we’re able to adapt ourselves. Discovery of this part of the brain (late ’90’s ) -responsible for this phenomena- is situated in the left cortex.  Its mechanism shows how easily human beings understand each other just by looking. Reading body language is decoding emotions by understanding one’s own emotions.

Body language is emotion!

The word EMOTION comes from the latin word ‘emovére’  meaning: ‘move’. Body language is particulary interesting at moments a person shows ‘different’ or suspect behaviour or we notice incongruence in body language and words.

Incoming information is processed differently by each hemisphere resulting in different reactions of the right and left side of the body: they do not respond synchronically. The properties of each hemisphere are different and shows more controlled expressions on the right side, while the left side ‘talks’  opener about our emotions. (Tucker D Williamson, review 91,pp185-215)

Five categories of non verbal communication:

Peri-verbal: time and space
Para-verbal: use of the voice (tone/timbre/etc)
Infraverbal: subliminal reality (ex: smell, colors,etc)
Supraverbal: conscient signals (ex: costume)
Préverbal: body language (synergology)

Reading body language, the domein of synergology, is based on exact observation of the movement(s) and a tool to understand non verbal signals at moments we want to understand the other. A judge can adapt his questions by reading body language as soon as he finds concrete signs of concealing of the suspect. For a security guard who sits behind a monitor watching an individual suspect, the analysis of the movements can help to recognize if the person carries up to something -or not.

A trip through neurobiology learns us that each movement of the body is a respons of brain activity. The body reacts on specific places. We all know the expression: ‘the hands are the tentacles of the brains’, meaning we don’t think about their use: they just perform our instructions. An itch -without reason-  has its story… Synergology gives meaning and content to the movement by its systematical observation of the movement into detail, based upon the working of the brain.


About Gérard Stokkink

Gerard Stokkink, lecturer body language & non verbal communication
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