How to make true friends – Part 4 – Body language

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Read the other part of this series:

How to make true friends "“ part 1 "“ Know yourself

How to make true friends "“ part 2 "“ The pride of loneliness

How to make true friends "“ part 3 "“ The art of honesty

The components of Body language

We've all read about body language and seen TV programs about it. It's one of the most important parts to communication we can master and there is an art to body language, both the receiving of body language and the giving out of body language.

Learning about body language can help when making friends and when wanting to help your overall interaction with others personally or in business or in the workplace.

You might not realise that body language has wide range of components. Here are the main categories:

  • Kinesics (body language)
  • Proxemics (proximity)
  • Haptics
  • Oculesics
  • Chronemics
  • Olfactics
  • Vocalics
  • Adornment
  • Locomotion Walking, running, staggering, limping

Although body language skills can be learned to a degree it is extremely difficult to teach due to the nature of humans and the different shapes and sizes we come. However if we know the components of body language and have a rough idea of the structure we can become better body language communicators.
Obviously to look at each component and write about it would be a book in itself so I will give an example of each component and direct you to a useful website.

Kinesics: This is how we use our body to let others know how we are feeling. Some body language signals used are:

Shoulder shrug: The simple act of a shoulder shrug can tell someone a lot about you if you use this gesture a lot. It's basically telling the other person that you are quite submissive, you're telling them you don't know something and sometimes you're saying you don't really care. It's also a sign of resignation and possibly that you've given up on something.

You can read more about Kinesics here

Proxemics: This is the use of space to signal privacy or attraction to someone. There are four different types of space: social space, personal space, intimate space and public space.

When you are attracted to someone you will notice that you will stand closer to them and don't mind them coming into your personal space. On the other hand if you are not attracted to someone your personal space becomes bigger and the person that enters that space will be given clues by you to back off or you will back off.

Be careful to read the signs correctly about personal space as it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for you and the person you are with, if not read correctly.
You can read more about Proxemics here

Haptics: The use of touch to convey feelings. Have you ever had someone who touches you on the shoulder or the arm when they are talking to you? This is the use of Haptics to convey a sign or trust or attraction. Think about a time when you are chatting to someone and they touch your arm when they are telling you a story, this happens quite a lot in human interaction, but only with people who trust you or whom you trust.
This also happens when two people are attracted to each other and it is a way of touching the other person in a non-sexual way but still give the sign that you are interested in them.

Couples use haptics all the time to convey love for each other and of course to show love for each other.

You can read more about Haptics here

Oculesics: This is the use of eye contact to convey your feelings. We will use eye contact every day of our lives so it makes sense to learn the best ways to use your eyes to your advantage.

Certain situations demand different uses of the eyes. For example, if you are arguing it is seen as strong if you can hold your gaze. If you are deferring to someone it is better to lower your eyes, if you are loving someone, it is good to stare into the pool of the eyes.

Eye contact is one of the most important areas in non-verbal communication.

You can read more about Oculesics here

Chronemics: Use of time, waiting, pausing. I remember being obsessed with time when I was meeting someone for a date. My mantra was "˜If they are not on time for a date they are not that interested'. I used to wait for 15 minutes tops and would then leave. This is of course a bit silly, but it said a lot about me and it says a lot about the other person as well.

Your speed of speech is also a non-verbal indicator that you are in a hurry, or you don't think people will listen long enough to let you speak slower. There are a lot of Chronemic indicators in body language and it is one I find the most interesting.

There are two types of people when it comes to chronemics, see if you can recognise yourself:

Monochronemic person: someone who does one job at a time, concentrates on the job at hand, adheres religiously to plans, emphasizes promptness, and is accustomed to short-term relationships.

Ploychronemic person: do many things at once, highly distracted and are subject to interruptions, change plans often and easily, have a strong tendency to build lifetime relationships.

Read more about Chronemics here

Olfactics: The use of smell to help us in our lives. We all know that smell is important when it comes to warning us of dangers, for example rotten food smells, which is a warning to us not to eat it.

Humans also use this knowledge of smell to attract a potential mate. This is why the perfume industry is still booming and also why ads portray deodorants in a sexual way.

Vocalics: Tone of voice, timbre, volume, speed. Another important aspect of human interaction especially for sales people, public speakers and politicians etc. Your voice gives a lot of clues about how you are feeling at any particular time.

If you speak to quickly it could be sign that you think that what you are saying is not worthy of being heard. Speaking too loudly is a sign of brashness and pomposity, speaking too softly is a sign of being too timid and lacking confidence. Your voice holds a lot of clue to the type of person you are.

Read more about Vocalics here

Adornment: What you wear and how you wear it. What you wear is another indication of your personality. One classic example is wearing something to distinguish you from another group, think about the mods and the rockers, or Goths, punks, teddy boys, skaters etc.

Your hairstyle is another part of adornment and the way you wear your hair says a lot about you.

Think about the phrase "˜First impressions last", most people dress to impress when meeting someone for the first time or for going for an interview, this is part of the non verbal communication side of adornment.

Locomotion: Walking, running, staggering, limping. How do you walk when you are felling depressed or low? Shoulders hunched head down, walking slowly. Now think about how you walk when you are feeling bright and confident; head held high, chest out, walk quickly.

The way you walk tells a person a lot about you. I always walk in a confident way even if I am feeling low, it helps me to get into a better mood and feel more confident. When you are feeling weary trying walking as if you are confident and very happy, pretty soon you'll be feeling more confident and happier.

Read more about Locomation here

As you can see I have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to body language. It is a fascinating subject and one I would recommend learning about. Most of us instinctively can read the signs of body language but we can always learn more and gain advantage when it comes to making friendships in all areas of our lives.

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.