Body Language 101
You Magazine interviewed Kevin Hogan.
The Science Behind Silent Communication
About Body Language
It's not surprising to learn that non-verbal communication, or body language, has been around since the beginning of man. While it's an integral part of communication, the irony is that it wasn't actually studied until the late 1800s, when colleges began including it in their communications curriculum.
The next milestone came in the early 1900s, when the body language of politicians began getting noticed. But it was September 26th 1960, during the first of four Kennedy/Nixon debates, when the subject gained widespread national attention. For those who are unfamiliar, people who listened to the debate on the radio proclaimed Nixon the winner. Polls taken of the people who watched it on TV said it was Kennedy who had won. From that moment on, the subject of non-verbal communication has been taken quite seriously.
Today, the study of body language has countless applications. In business, it can be used for everything from helping managers communicate better with their staff, to forging stronger relationships with clients. It is a vital component to any business that deals in areas such as sales, marketing, or advertising.
Body language is also important to lawyers and courtroom analysts. It is used to pick jury pools as well as to speculate on the accuracy of witness testimony. Hogan says, "The media use body language analysis more and more." Everyone, from politicians to celebrities, is scrutinized for how they conduct themselves physically.
Hogan himself has a lot of experience with this type of analysis. In January of 1998, during the President Clinton/Monica Lewinski scandal, Hogan was brought in by the New York Times to analyze this now historic press conference. Clinton, looking directly into the camera, vehemently announced, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
Hogan says, "I looked at the tape over and over, and then it dawned on me." When the President delivered the aforementioned quote, he pointed at the camera with his right index finger. The problem is President Clinton is left-handed. According to Hogan, pointing with the non-dominant hand indicates either anxiety or abject lying on the part of the speaker. He adds, "Rafael Palmeiro did the something similar when he denied using steroids during his testimony in front of Congress."
Hogan tells You! that body language plays a huge role in our personal lives as well. He says it is paramount in terms of "putting your best foot forward" during the dating process. For those who are in established relationships, it is even more important. According to Hogan, the body language used during arguments early in a relationship sets the tone for the future.
"Let's say that during an argument, you raised your hand," poses Hogan. He says it would not be unusual for your spouse to perceive that as a sign of your anger from that point on. Hogan adds that the longer a relationship lasts, the easier it becomes to interpret things negatively. But, by studying and practicing body language, either or both parties can find ways to communicate more gently.
Mr. Hogan says that body language is also important when communicating with children. As evidence, he suggests we look at pictures of adults drawn by young children. "Generally, these pictures depict long legs and tiny bodies and heads," he claims. The reason is simple – from where they're standing, this is their view. To better communicate with children, Hogan recommends getting down on your knee and addressing them at eye level.
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