Exchange in the interaction

We look at each other while in interaction and  adapt and react permanently to nonverbal messages in the contact of the conversation.

interactionWhen you think that an idea presented to you is a bad idea, you can still say: ” what a great idea ! ” and raise your eyebrows with a smile on your face. Meanwhile everyone knows that you found it a bad idea.  We don’t think about the nonverbal message when we react, so does the other. Others can only react to your words, but they respond to the nonverbal. Without the nonverbal we miss an important second level of communication: the general meaning of the communication.

In fact some forms of autism are identified by the fact that people are unable to decode nonverbal messages of their interlocutors. Some people are disabled when part of the message, thus the general meaning of the communication, is missing.

From a numerical point of view, all academic research on nonverbal interaction show that the nonverbal is more important than the verbal. These background studies are not contradicted, yet the object of disagreement lies rather in its interpretation.

People saying that the non verbal is not so important often reduce the action between words and movements of the body saying we understand each other even if we do not move… (!)

If one stops to move they are right. Gestures are related to speech and thus co-verbal. This dimension of nonverbal communication is most known and observed but it’s not the most interesting.

We now know that certain thoughts are formed in deep areas of the brain and emerge to consciousness few tens of seconds later.  The body reacts even before we are aware of it. The other sometimes feels our anxiety before we are aware of it.

Our discourse is packed with impressions and thoughts about the other person when we are in conversation.  When you talk to a person who does not understand you,  you’ll realize this immediately making you rephrase your words even before the person tells you that he did not understand.  100 % is related to body language, not saying that words are not important…

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About Gérard Stokkink

Gerard Stokkink, lecturer body language & non verbal communication
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