As humans, we live out each day with a hope that tomorrow will be better. We try to live life out higher standards and make our experiences fuller and more meaningful. Many times, we have no control over what happens to us and life gets us down. Nevertheless, we still try to do what we can to improve our situations.
Healthy life choices bring about a better tomorrow. People attempt to create a healthier lifestyle through improving their physical, mental and even spiritual fitness. Exercise and a healthy diet are sought after, and the mental and spiritual states are fed and fueled according to each individual’s needs. But I think we may be forgetting something; how often do we make an effort to improve upon our social health?
I cannot express how many times people have been told ‘don’t be a wallflower,’ or ‘perhaps you should work on your confidence,’ or ‘learn to make new friends.’ From personal experience, I can say I had no idea how to grow socially, and I am willing to bet I am not the only one. When it comes to social health, people tend to accept that they are either an introvert or an extrovert and nothing would change their social status for the better.
Even I believed that. I was, and still am an introvert, but I have been able to learn more about social health and find skill sets and techniques to improve on and find success in my social life. I am talking about the understanding of and uses for body language.
Let’s face it; we interact with other human beings pretty much every day of our lives by sending messages through verbal and non-verbal communication. Contrary to popular belief, the verbal communication is not the most important part of communication. Usually, 60-75 percent of communication is non-verbal making body language a huge part of understanding people and being able to comprehend healthy relationships. Just like exercising your body for physical fitness or learning stress relievers for mental fitness, there are ways to enhance our social physique to become more successful with other people and yourself.
Uncovering the Truth
Words are unreliable on their own. Everyone knows this as truth. Anyone can say one thing and mean something else entirely. One of the ways to improve your social interactions is to understand when someone is lying or if they are telling the truth. No one wants to deal with swindlers and cheats and they especially do not want to be associated with such people. So what are some of the key giveaways that a person’s honesty is compromised?
The first thing to remember about dishonesty is that it is not ‘natural.’ If someone is lying, they usually move a lot less than the people around them, retracting movements of their arms and legs in the belief that moving will give away their position or draw attention to their guilt. Most of the time people who are not guilty will look around and move fluidly. So be weary of the statues.
Another tell of a dishonest person is how they place their feet. If what someone is saying does not quite sit well with you, look down and see which way their feet are pointed. Are their toes facing the nearest exit? Is one foot facing away from you? They are probably not being truthful, or they really just don’t want to talk to you. People who are misleading will subconsciously point themselves away from interrogation and be ready for a quick exit.
Most people believe that when you are telling a lie, you look down or away, unable to keep eye contact, when in fact the opposite is true. People will tend to stare someone down when lying as if purposefully trying to convince the other person of their honesty. When speaking truthfully in a normal conversation people naturally look away, remember things, pick at clothing, etc. Only about 60 percent of the time is spent in eye contact with another person.
Now that we have a basic understanding of when someone is not being honest with us, we can chose our relationships more carefully and more to our personal advantage. Now let us look at how we can make our relationships even better by enhancing and easing communication through the use of building rapport.
Rapport is a state of harmonious understanding between two or more individuals. Sometimes, rapport occurs naturally when you end up “hitting it off” with someone without having to try. Friendships are often built this way because it is easy and effortless, but rapport can be built and developed from the ground up by finding common view points and developing an empathic bond.
Meeting someone for the first time can be stressful so building rapport is essential to help reduce the tension. Start out with being polite. I understand that this might sound unnecessary to point out but it is very important. People tend to appreciate selfless attention to what they are saying when they are in a conversation more than listening about someone else. Small talk helps to establish knowledge of shared experiences and interests that eventually raise more topics for the conversation. It is also useful to inject humor. Laughing with someone (though not at the other person’s expense) automatically creates a natural harmony.
Building rapport with someone contains a small percentage of the topics/nuances of conversation, but it is mostly the connection of non-verbal communication. As was said earlier, most of communication is non-verbal, so it makes sense to realize that we need to connect with other people on a non-verbal level. Non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, gestures in body language, tone/pitch of voice and the physical distance between communicators.
Non-verbal messages allow people to reinforce or modify what is said in words, convey information about the emotional state, define or reinforce relationships between people, and provide natural feedback. With that in mind, it is important to convey an open and welcoming attitude to the other person when starting a conversation. Sit or stand in a relaxed and attentive state. Uncross your legs and lean forward slightly to show that you want to listen.
Matching or mimicking a person’s body and voice also helps to enforce a connection. When mirroring someone’s body movements and positions, it gives the subconscious mind the idea that the people involved are very similar and can readily relax. Matching someone’s voice tone and pitch provides an even stronger correlation between speakers. If someone speaks quickly and excitedly, or slowly and with more weight, matching their verbal patterns gives the other person more subconscious cues suggesting that they are on the same page with you.
Close relationships will always begin with some form of rapport, whether it is natural or manipulated. For those relationships that are difficult or regularly avoided, learning to build rapport in these situations can actually change the outcome of the connection. Subtly acquiring the ability to get along with anyone you chose to makes social situations that much easier to walk into.
Taking Things Further
Like any kind of exercise, it takes time to ‘get in shape.’ Practicing social skills and techniques will better current relationships and make new ones easier to work with from the get go. But like any other fitness, there are ways to further one’s study and understanding of uses and effects of verbal and non-verbal communication.
In many business situations, it helps to have the ‘upper-hand’ or ‘control of the room.’ This is actually possible to obtain in any given situation including that stressful business negotiation. Practicing building rapport can guide a person to learning how to lead a group of people. Establishing a baseline of connection in a room of people, or leading a crowd, becomes a beautiful asset in social living and business structures.
There are also many more aspects to the human body and how it reacts to certain thing and displays its emotions. If desiring to dig deeper into human behavior, there are meanings to eye-movements, hand-movements and voice changes to consider.
One of the most influential people to study human behavior and deception is Dr. Paul Ekman. Dr. Ekman was the man to discover some of the universal facial expressions and micro-expressions. The Ekman Group, a foundation started by Ekman, offers training and support in online communities about such topics. Training is offered to the general public alongside the training for law enforcements and national security agencies. Dr. Ekman wishes it to be possible for anyone to become more adept to better understand and connect to people around them.
For a better grasp on the idea of micro-expressions and deception training, check out the television show Lie to Me. The show is a fictional representation of what goes into the study of human emotion and how hard it actually is to hide strong emotions. It can be a great point of learning some of the basics while having an entertaining aspect.
If even after reading this, someone is still skeptical about the influence body language has over our social life, then I would dare them to test it out. Attempt to purposefully build rapport with the first new person you meet or have a conversation with someone you don’t typically get along with. Match their personal rhythms. See what happens. There is nothing more satisfying than realizing you can exercise all the aspects of your life and have as much control over your health and fitness as possible.