“Body language is the process of using facial expressions, gestures, gaze, tone of voice and postures in order to send and receive non-verbal messages.”
Language, as a form of communication, is quite a recent discovery. Considering the history of a mankind, and while it is still a matter of discussion, we can estimate it to few hundred thousand years. Prior to that time most of our communication was similar to those of other animals – understanding and sending nonverbal cues. Humans are the only animals on Earth that developed a complicated language structure and a vocabulary, in English language*, as an example, exceeding six digit number.
In everyday life you use usually 2500 words to communicate effectively in a wide range of social and practical situations. To be able to communicate in foreign language you need around 1000 words. And in case you do not speak a foreign language and you are in a situation you need to communicate, you manage to find a way to do so. Why? Because body language is universal. It was common to our ancestors and is part of our subconscious behavior.
Facial expressions, body movements, gestures are common to all humans in all cultures. Some gestures and reactions are inborn, and they are universal around the world. Others are typical to the culture or ethnic group, are learned by observation and some are refined with age and use.
Fear, happiness, anger are not expressed by words but by our bodies. Non verbal signs can reveal much about your feelings and meaning to others and how others reveal their feelings toward you. Being aware of your body language can help you express your feelings and emotions in a better way, can also help you to be in control of the way you show and communicate your emotions.
Unlike the spoken language, body language does not consist of vocabulary and set of grammatical rules. To understand it, you need to remember about the three rules when reading and interpreting nonverbal communication elements:
1. Read gestures in clusters – only when having big picture you can get the right information
2. Look for congruence – elements that correspond with each other, there should be a harmony between the spoken and non-spoken message
3. Read gestures in context – this one is probably the most important, always interpret behavior in its context, you simply cannot single out a gesture
*The number of words in the English language is : 1,019,729.6. This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor for January 1, 2012 although The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words.