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There must have been a time when someone said something to you and you didn't believe them. Perhaps it was the way they rolled their eyes, or how they stood that made it impossible for you to believe them.

Body language also called non-verbal communication is as important as your words and voice when you speak.  If it doesn't tally with what you are saying, people will find it difficult to believe what you are saying. 

Body language is the conscious and unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes and feelings are communicated (Oxford dictionary).

Types of body language

1. kinesics/Body movement: This refers to the whole movement of the body or parts of the body such as hand or face.  Specific categories are seen below





Gestures that serve the same function as a word


the signals that mean 'OK', 'Come here!', or the hand movement used.5


Gestures which accompany words to illustrate a verbal message


the common circular hand movement which accompanies the phrase 'over and over again', or nodding the head in a particular direction when saying 'over there5



Gestures used to give feedback when conversing

Head nods, short sounds such as 'uh-huh', 'mm-mm', and expressions of interest or boredom. Regulators allow the other person to adapt his or her speech to reflect the level of interest or agreement. 5



Adaptors are non-verbal behaviour which satisfies some physical need.


Adaptors include such actions as scratching or adjusting uncomfortable glasses, or represent a psychological need such as biting fingernails when nervous5


2.  Posture: How people sit or stand. Two kinds are open and closed posture. “Someone seated in a closed position might have his/her arms folded, legs crossed or be positioned at a slight angle from the person with whom they are interacting. In an open posture, you might expect to see someone directly facing you with hands apart on the arms of the chair. An open posture can be used to communicate openness or interest in someone and a readiness to listen, whereas the closed posture might imply discomfort or disinterest”.5

3. Proxemics : This is the study of personal space. The four main categories of Proxemics are  Intimate Distance (touching to 45cm), Personal Distance (45cm to 1.2m), Social Distance (1.2m to 3.6m), Public Distance (3.7m to 4.5m). These four distances are associated with the four main types of relationship - intimate, personal, social and public.5 Learn more about proxemics  and its implication in communication here 

4.  Eye contact: Frequency of eye contact often determines the level of trust. If you avoid eye contact, people will suspect you are lying.

5. Para-language: The voice apart from speech, such as pitch, tone, and speed of speaking;

6. Facial expressions: Such as smiling, frowning and blinking.

7. Physiological changes: Such as sweating, blinking when you are nervous, increase in heart rate etc.


Resource: 22 Body Language Examples and what they mean


5. Skills you need, “Non-verbal commnunication (accessed September, 4 2010)


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