So you always speak your mind. But, do you know that your body has a mind of its own too? How emphatic can your NO be when your body is screaming YES YES YES?
Dhoom 3. Ah! The sizzling smooch and sexy bikes. The turquoise beads on Ash’s porcelain midriff. The tan on Hrithik’s chiselled bod… But wait! Is that all you are drooling about? Did you notice that seductive fire in Hrithik’s eye as he struts out of a crowd in singlet and silk scarf? Noticed his confident gait? Saw that beefy shoulder that screamed I-know-what-I-am-doing? Did you hear and see all this without the hunk speaking a word? Did you notice that he spoke more with his body than his mouth?
Well, Hrithik is no exception. He is doing what we all do everyday. Speak with our bodies. Often unconsciously. At times deliberately. That really constitutes 80 per cent of all our communication. Yes, 80 per cent. If you are sexually attracted to someone or playing by the rules of courtship, non-verbal communication—or body language—is actually as much as 95 per cent. It could be a twitch of an eyebrow, a moist eye, a quick caress, playing with your naughty curls, a whisper down the nape… They all talk, convey your message, speak for your heart. You don’t really need to dip into your vocabulary list to say ‘I love you’. Let your eyes say it for you.
WHO PERSONIFIES WHAT?
Aggressiveness: Shoaib Akhtar, Mayawati Volatility: Salman Khan Grace: Sushmita Sen, Madhuri Dixit
Says psychologist Dr Samir Parikh, “It is not too difficult to know a person even before he or she has spoken the first word. If someone looks into your eye and talks, his confidence is obvious. If he slouches or has a limp handshake, his insecurity is such a giveaway.” Film critic Taran Adarsh attributes Hrithik’s confident body language to his success. “He was always a looker but there has been a definite change in his stance since the Kaho Na Pyaar Hai days. Look at Abhishek. He had such awkward body language when he started off in Refugee, and now he struts around in an Alice band. His band and his body loudly proclaim that he doesn’t really care about sniggers or smirks.”
WHAT IS BODY LANGUAGE?
Body language is a broad term used for communication using body movements or gestures instead of or in addition to verbal communication. This kind of communication is so important that it can actually shape your career, your relationships, your life.
First, look at the career, that dreaded interview. You thought you fitted perfect, you even shot off witty repartee, but then the bosses picked someone else for the job. Wondered why? Just look at this guy. He knocks gently on the door, walks into the interview room in a well-tailored suit, gleaming shoes, his hair in place. Nothing unkempt about him, he seems just right for the manager’s job. But his chances run dry when his handshake goes limp, he slouches on the chair and sits cross-legged, shoes pointing at the board members…
Like you, he is not hired because his limp handshake and his slouch meant he had a laidback attitude. Well, the company was looking for an aggressive manager. Too bad!
Forget the interview, have you noticed these two? They work in the same office, on the same floor. She often notices him standing at a distance, looking at her longer than usual. And when he talks to her his eyebrows get arched, his voice gets huskier and he picks imaginary lint off his shirt…
She knows he is falling in love with her. She is waiting for him to say so.Image stylist Sabira Merchant, who has chiselled many a gawky girl into an elegant Miss World or Miss Universe, believes your body language can completely transform you into a Cinderella—and you don’t even need those glass slippers or the Fairy Godmother’s magic wand. “When handpicked girls walk into my two-day workshop to prepare for the pageant, the first thing I ask them to do is to speak about themselves. Those first few minutes give me a hint about who is a winner.” Merchant notices everything—from the inflection to the diction to exaggerated hand movements. She can not only distinguish a winner from a loser, but also transform gawkiness into oomph. “It is easier to teach better body language to someone than tell them how to roll their Rs and get that drawl.”
So, if you think you have bad body language, don’t get disheartened, it can be as easy as learning and rustling up a cake in a jiffy.
A Smile is one of the easiest expressions to see and recognise: you can see one across the length of a football field!
CHIN UP, CHEER UP
Explains Anuja Jha, corporate trainer, “The body and the mind work in tandem. All your thoughts, emotions and their physiological manifestations are happening simultaneously. So if you are depressed, your body would say so—you would look downwards, your body would go limp. But if you are happy, your body would be erect and you would look up.”
For Anuja, something as ordinary as looking up at the sky can be an antidote to depression. “A chronically depressed woman came to me. She would not look me in the eye and her body language was what we call ‘resigned’. I did not preach, I did not recommend any medicine. All I asked her to do was to go to Gujarat during Makar Sankranti and participate in the month-long kite flying festival. She did that, flying kites and looking up at the sky… Just that ‘looking up’ chased away her depression!”
LOVE THAT BODY: ROMANTIC BODY LANGUAGE
The eyes do the initial signalling. The person looks at the object of affection longer than normal, then looks away and then looks back for even longer. When you talk to the one you love, you use doe eyes or bedroom eyes. The eyes are slightly moist and the head inclined slightly downwards. Preening gestures—tossing head, combing hair with hand, polishing spectacles, picking imaginary lint from clothes—convey to the other that “I am making this look good for you”. If a man is talking to the one he is attracted to, he would occasionally play with his earlobes. A woman in the same situation would play with a lock of her hair or tuck her hair behind her ears.
WHAT THE BODY SAYS
- Brisk, erect walk: Confident
- Standing, hands on hips: Aggressive
- Sitting, legs apart: Open, relaxed
- Walking, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched: Dejected
- Hands clasped behind back: Angry, frustrated, apprehensive
- Eyes down, face turned away or rubbing eyes: Disbelieving
- Sitting, hands clasped behind head, legs crossed: Confident
- Sitting, legs crossed, foot kicking: Bored
- Pulling or tugging at ear: Indecisive
GONE IN 30 SECONDS
You might need a month to vanquish depression just by changing your body language, but if you believe psychologists and anthropologists, it takes exactly 7 seconds of the first meeting to decide whether you would hit it off with the other person. Just 7 seconds! However, in a job interview, the seconds could stretch just a little more—30 seconds.
Basab Bordoloi, General Manager, Employee Development at Stracon, one of India’s largest BPOs, hires hundreds of recruits every month. Says he, “Those first 30 seconds decide whether we would hire a person or not.” Of course, the rules are not the same for every person, every job. Anthropologist Desmond Morris, who wrote The Naked Ape, says nurses worldwide are trained to be ‘body liars’ because they need to convince the patient that all is well.
TALK TO THE HAND!
It might sound strange that though the body often does a lot of talking on our behalf, gesticulating is universally not accepted as a norm of public speaking. Interacting with one person and reaching out to hundreds of people at the same time require different skills. On a one-onone basis, it is easy to decide your body language, but in a crowd you are reaching out to different kinds of people. Anuja explains, “Human beings can be divided into three types: visual, kinesthetic, auditory. Visual people translate everything into visuals; they speak faster and always look into the eye. Kinesthetic people look down while talking because they connect with their feelings before saying anything. Auditory people speak slowly. If you gesticulate too much in public, it puts off the kinesthetic and auditory kinds. So, don’t use your hands too much when speaking in public.”
INTERVIEW FAUX PAS
- Shun loud or casual clothing. Go formal. For women, minimal makeup and jewellery is acceptable.
- Be very careful about your hair. Make a pony tail, pull it back in a tight bun, leave it open, do whatever you want to but don’t look unkempt.
- Don’t sit cross-legged with your shoes pointing at the interview panel.
- Rest your arms on the arm rest; don’t hold it too close to the chest.
- Never slouch, sit upright.
- You are being watched in the waiting area too. Don’t fidget. Don’t keep asking when your turn would come. Nobody likes an impatient employee.
It’s not the hands. What really is the body’s most potent tool? The eyes. Nearly 400 years ago, writer George Herbert said, “The eyes have one language everywhere.” And it still holds true. Consider this: Pupils actually dilate at the sight of a sexually stimulating photograph or someone desirable. Show someone a photograph of a naked body and see! Researchers go on to define gaze, the best gaze—if you are in a business meeting, direct your gaze around a triangle on the other person’s forehead; if you desire someone, gaze at the eyes and then move to the chin and down.
It is not just the eyes, though. A man’s preening behaviour might involve straightening his tie, combing his hair with his fingers. Women often play with their hair, inadvertently drawing attention to their breasts. That’s a very potent ‘I want you’ signal.
In the Washoe project, they even taught better body language to a chimp. You don’t get left behind!
BODY LANGUAGE OF CELEBS
Clinical psychologist Dr Rakhi Anand analyses at the body language of some celebrities:
Sonia Gandhi: She is always covered with her saree palluand long blouses. It reflects her personality—very guarded, very professional. She maintains a reasonable distance from people, especially men. She never bends her neck to speak with someone. She rejects all advances by people to come closer.
Rahul Gandhi: His public persona is at odds with what he really is. The way he talks and his body language convey that he is doing what he is trained to do, not what he wants to. His body language is designed to portray the image of a leader. He is probably very different with family and friends.
Shah Rukh Khan: His body language is of a person with highly refined social skills. He puts up a very humble front. He knows what he has to say and when. His body contributes immensely to his image.
Hema Malini: She talks through her eyes, which represent her feelings. She knows her mind and conveys it very clearly. There is no ambiguity. She never minces words about what she feels or thinks and her body says so, very clearly.
Sania Mirza: Even when she is moving on the tennis court, her body talks of confidence and very lofty ambition.
Anil Ambani: He always reaches out to people. His body language is very open, very humble, very warm.
Mukesh Ambani: He always seems very secretive. Look at his eyes and you would know that he is always very guarded about everything.