Change Implementation Techniques for Laying a Foundation for New Ways

Technique 1.39 Non‐Verbal Signals (including tone)

{product-noshow 8|name|cart|picture|link|border|menuid:206|pricedis3|pricetax1}


. Understanding non‐verbal or social signals (including overall body language, gesticulation, proximity to others, tone of voice, etc) is a vital component of interpersonal communications, comprehension, understanding, etc.

"...people may not often tell us in words what they feel, but they communicate their feelings in their tone of voice, their facial expressions and other non‐verbal ways..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

"...In conversations, people tend automatically and continuously to mimic and synchronize their movements with facial expressions, voices, postures, movements..."

Elaine Hatford has quoted by Robert Sutton, 2007

"...though we cannot literally read other people's minds, we spend a great deal of our daily lives listening carefully to what other people say, watching their faces, eyes and body language and trying to make sense of their behaviour..."

Robert Winston, 2002

"...the minute you open a business meeting or presentation, your first words will tell those present whether you are worth listening to. People are usually thinking about other things and you have to break their preoccupation. They'll give you a few minutes and then they go back to their thoughts, unless you hold them......your voice conveys a lot of information about tells roughly how old you are, if you're interested in the conversation, and if you are lacking confidence or feeling low......when speech patterns are conflicting or predictable, the audience continues to hear but stops listening. To be entertained, the ear needs vocal variety. It is only when the content is compelling that the quality of voice does not matter..."

Michael Kelly as quoted by Jill Margo, 2007

The importance of non‐verbal signal compared with verbal signals is demonstrated by the Mebrabian equation for interpersonal communications:

"...Message = 20% words + 40% body language + 40% tone of voice..."

as quoted by John Edwards et al, 1997

Others (eg Amanda Cooper, 1996 and Rose‐Anne Manns, 2007a) state that words maybe as little as 7% of the message while body language accounts for 55%!!!!!!!

Yet most of our communication puts emphasis on the "word" part of the message, rather than the tone and/or body language

. It has been suggested that the reason body language is so important, it that it could be linked with the human evolutionary process, ie language was developed after body language (gestures)

"...language may have developed out of gestures......chimpanzees are much better at sign language than their brains, the area corresponding to the Broca's area is involved with making and perceiving hand and arm movements. Deaf humans also have no difficulty developing sign languages..."

Furthermore, there is speculation

"...that bipedalism enabled early man to develop hand and facial gestures first and that speech only developed after the rules had been laid down in the brain for grammar, syntax, etc..."

Michael Corballis as quoted by Peter Watson, 2006

Body language or non‐verbal signals are important in effective communication, ie

" expressing internal emotional states to others, in reading their internal states, body language is very communication, and at its most basic, entails the ability to read and express emotions......gestures, how we stand or sit, the use of our hands are all very important in conveying deference, indifference, trustworthiness..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Software is being developed where they are able to analyse facial coding, full sensing, gesture tracking and gaze tracking

. Research (Michael Slepian, 2013) has demonstrated that by watching professional poker players' hands, the quality of their cards could be determined. It is known that anxiety has a tendency to disrupt smooth body movement. The more smoothly players pushed his/her chips to the middle of the table, the more likely that the player had a good hand. This is more revealing than other movements like eyes, face, etc

. Body language and leadership are linked. A leader's body language will have a great impact on his/her followers, especially if there is some passion. The body language will re‐enforce his/her message. For example, passion is best expressed by action (including tone and gestures) rather than words

. In the Western culture, the most successful people are

"...more energetic. They talk more, but also they listen more. They spend more face‐to‐face time with others. They pick up cues from others, draw people out, and get them to be more outgoing. It's not just what they project that makes them charismatic; is what they elicit. The more of these energetic, positive people you put on a team, the better the team performance..."

Alex Pentland, 2010

. The importance of face‐to‐face communications. Alex Pentland (2010), stresses its importance, ie it is 2 times as important to success as additional access to information. Furthermore, it is thought that productivity can be increased by 10% by just rearranging the work environment to promote more employee interaction.

. Body language or non‐verbal signals include

gestures (how we use our hands, etc)

facial expressions (see later)



tone of voice (see later)







presence and absence.

These non‐verbal signals usually "speak louder than words" and can strengthen or damage your communications.

. As an English medical student, Robert Winston received the following advice about establishing good emotional contact with a "white English" patient

"...shake hands at the start of a consultation, make eye contact, lean forward towards the patient, do not cross your arms or fiddle with your pen, do not answer the telephone or turn to engage another person in conversation. Sit close to them if they are lying or sitting, and try to keep your head at their level. Show interest in what they are saying..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Remember: the first impression is pivotal in determining others' reaction to you. Even before your speak, people are making judgments about you based on your body language, etc. Included in first impressions is the way you dress, groom and behave. This has been referred to as the "beauty premium". Based on economic research in USA and Europe, the "beauty premium" is worth 5% in wages and there is a "plainness penalty" of 9%; with women receiving a lesser premium and a greater penalty than men. It is claimed that the "beauty premium"

" mostly due to physical appearance rather than self‐ looks like there's no difference between discrimination based on race and that based on beauty. It doesn't mean that an ugly person can't rise to the top; it's just that they face impediments getting to the top in the same way that someone born overseas or a woman faces impediments..."

Andrew Leigh as quoted by Deirde Macken, 2008

. Non‐verbal signals incorporate macro‐ and micro‐expressions or messages. For example, if a person is nervous they will bite their lip, and there will be noticeable changes in the macro signals which include

heart and breathing rates

blood pressure

skin conductivity.

The micro‐measures are less controllable and more instantaneous than the macro messages. The micro‐indicators, such as inner eye and eyebrow movements, are more reliable indicators but harder to detect and more automatic than the macro‐indicators

For fear, the facial micro‐messages will include

the eyebrows pulled up and together

the upper eye lids are pulled up

the mouth stretches back a little.

Furthermore, our skin, eyes and heart all register changes when we make decisions.

. These micro‐message take 1/10 of a second to occur and are very hard to notice. Furthermore, you cannot make them happen on purpose and/or hide them. Thus, the micro‐messages are more subtle and more indicative than macro‐messages.

. This highlights the importance of face‐to‐face communications compared with other methods of communications, such as telephone, video and internet linkages, as the complex range of non‐verbal signals will be less detectable. A telephone caller maybe disadvantaged by not seeing the other person laying their hands on the table (that may indicate a readiness to negotiate) or their leaning back (which can indicate the rejection of a proposal). The significant cues of staring (which may indicate that we feel combative) or the placing of hands behinds the head (which may suggest that we think that we know it all!!!!) are not available in non‐visual contact situations

. Cultural differences that can complicate the interpretation of non‐verbal signals, such as the gesture of using the "thumb touching the first finger in an oval shape" sign which has meanings dependent on location:

in USA and Australia, it means "OK"

in southern France, it means "zero or worthless"

in Japan, it is the "symbol of money", ie a coin

in Fiji, it means "fear"

in Latin American countries, it means "jerk"

. A component of body language is the distance people stand apart when conversing, called distancing. Based on American studies, there are 4 types of distancing

intimacy distance (less than half a meter for people who know each other very well)

personal distance (around half to 1 metre is the range in which personal conversations are conducted as this distance permits normal voice and takes into account intense eye contact)

social distance (around 1 to 2 metres is the range in which one person is comfortable when talking to several at once, such at a party, in a crowd, etc; usually the voice is raised and there is less personal focus on any given individual

public distance (around 3 to 8 meters is the distance the audience is defined as undifferentiated and our voice can be raised with our eyes roaming the room rather than focusing on anyone in particular)

One needs to be aware of cultural differences in distancing. What is acceptable in some cultures will be regarded as too close in another culture, etc

. An interesting observation,

"...According to body language experts, if someone's feet are pointing the directly at the person speaking, then they are probably in deep conversation. If their body language is more open, they will be welcome to interlopers..."

Brad Hatch, 2006a

. Furthermore, we automatically assign positive traits like honesty, intelligence, kindness and talent to good‐looking people, and we make these judgments unconsciously

. Research conducted in the 1976 Canadian Federal Elections found

"...attractive candidates received two and half times the votes given unattractive candidates......follow‐up research with voters found 73% of voters strongly denied that a candidate's appearance could have influenced their choice and only 1 in 8 voters was prepared to even consider that a candidate's appearance could have affected their vote. This means they made their votes on a subconscious level without even knowing it......our brains are hardwired to react to another's physical appearance..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Tone of voice

Tone and emphasis are important in conversation. Emphasis involves

inflection (such as, when asking a question, putting the emphasis at the end of the sentence)

speed (when nervous we tend to speak faster)

volume (increasing volume gives emphasis)

pausing (can give a dramatic impact)

breathing (if nervous it is frequent and shallow; it is best if the speaker breathes slowly and deeply)

. Identical words can be delivered in so many variations, due to the huge range of vocal elements. For example:

"...That's mine..."

This can be delivered as an assertive statement, or as a question if rising inflection occurs at the end of the sentence.

Another example:

"... I didn't say she stole my money..."

i) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (but someone said it)

ii) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (I definitely didn't say it)

iii) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (but I implied it)

iv) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (but someone stole it)

v) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (but she did something with it)

vi) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (she stole someone else's money)

vii) "... I didn't say she stole my money..." (she took something else)

Seven different meanings can be conveyed without changing one syllable, but merely deciding which syllables to emphasize.

. Tone of voice is an important part of communications: by speaking harshly you can convey anger; or sympathy is suggested by speaking softly. An inappropriate tone may generate a counter‐productive signal in the listener; unless you hear the words said, you can't possibly assess accurately what is meant by a given comment.

. Linked with tone are volume and rate of verbal responses, ie

"...verbal tones create an emotional atmosphere. Generally, if you mimic the tone, volume and rate of the verbal responses of the person you are talking to, he or she will be more likely to feel understood. The tone of your voice can change from a low to a high tone, or from a relaxed to a tense tone. The optimum tone is one that is produced and heard without straining. The rate of your speech involves how many words you use in a response and also the frequency and duration of pauses between comments. To demonstrate that you ready what to listen to another you can pause slightly when they stop speaking to see if they want to continue. A rapid speech rate response can increase the tension in a conversation that may be unwanted. By contrast, slowing your speech right down has the effect of taking the emotional temperature down, too..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

Facial expression and recognition

. Facial recognition always involves a strong emotional content.

"...When we communicate emotion, facial expression is by far the most important mechanism......this is why we are never entirely neutral in our dealings with other human beings ‐ however much we would like to be. Some people look trustworthy or kind to us. (In fact, research has shown that men with softer, more feminine features are more likely to be found 'not guilty' in court). Other people may seem sad, or threatening ‐ without us being able to find any solid evidence to support that verdict..."

Robert Winston, 2003

"...we are endowed with an ability to evaluate, in a single glance at a stranger's face, two potentially critical factors about the person: how dominant (and thereby potentially threatening) he is, and how trustworthy he is, whether his intentions are more likely to be friendly or hostile. The shape of the face provides the cues for assessing dominance: a "strong" squared chin is one such cue. Facial expressions (smile or frown) provide the cues for assessing the stranger's intentions. The combination of a square chin with turned‐down mouth may spell trouble. The accuracy of face reading is far from perfect......faces that exude confidence combined a strong chin with a slight confident‐appearing smile......usually evoke stronger indications of (negative) emotional responses...... these assessments include computations of similarities and representativeness, attributions of causality, and evaluations of the available associations exemplars..."

Daniel Kahneman 2012

On the other hand, facial expressions can be faked. Also emotions will dominate rationality and realism.

. Facial recognition takes place along 2 pathways within the brain: one is the conscious realm (higher cortex) and another is the unconscious (limbic system including the amygdala)

"...the conscious pathway works at a slower speed ‐ it is here that we work out, for instance, whose face we are looking at, and how we should behave towards them. This is why we often have an almost instantaneous first impression of a person, which is chiefly an emotional feeling......which we might find hard to put in words, which might, upon further inspection, turn out to be quite wrong.......amygdala does not merely generate emotions, but seems to encode very basic emotional memories. On meeting someone whose face has vague similarities to the feared and hated......for example, triggers a swift, brief and shadowy reliving of our feelings towards the original figure..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. There are some 7,000 facial expressions (see some of these expressions later in this section) in our repertoire and these expressions have similar meanings throughout the world. This is different from gestures which can have different meanings in different cultures (see later in this section) Also,

"...Psychological studies have shown that we are, in fact, more inclined to trust people whose facial characteristics resemble our own..."

Robert Winton (2003)


"...Facial attractiveness is a visual marker for fertility, genetic quality and health. The fact that such qualities have little to do with contemporary job performance......we are programmed to select beautiful people..."

Marc F Luxen et al, 2006

. We are better at visual recognition than verbal description. We find it easier to visualise faces like Marilyn Munro, Albert Einstein, etc. than to describe (verbally or in writing) them. We have an instinctive memory for faces.

. When looking at faces we use part of the brain called the fusiform gyrus that allows us differentiate the thousands of faces we know. On the other hand, when we look at objects, we use a different and less powerful part of the brain (inferior temporal gyrus)

. Faces hold valuable clues to inner emotions and motivations, and reveal what is going on inside our mind. Facial expressions are sufficient to create marked changes in the autonomic nervous system, like physiological responses (changed heartbeat, body temperature, etc.)

"...Many facial expressions can be made voluntary......But our faces are also governed by a separate, involuntary system that makes expressions that we have no conscious control over......Response may linger on the face for just a fraction of a second or be detectable only if electrical sensors are attached to the face...... Our voluntary expressive system is the way we intentionally signal our emotions. But our involuntary expressive system is in many ways even more important: it is the way we have been equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings..."

Malcolm Gladwell, 2005

. Furthermore,

"... We take it as a given that we first experience an emotion, and then we may ‐ or may not ‐ experience that emotion on our face. We think of the face as a residue of emotion......research showed, though, is that the process works in the opposite direction as well. Emotions can also start on the face. The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process..."

Malcolm Gladwell, 2005

. There is a common set of rules that govern the facial expressions of human beings and these are not culturally determined, ie we don't use our faces according to a set of learned social convention. The face is a goldmine of information about emotions. The face can make 43 distinct muscular movements. There are 300 combinations of 2 muscles; if you add a third muscle, there are over 4,000 combinations; 5 muscles can produce over 10,000 facial configurations. Research (Malcolm Gladwell, 2005) has shown that around 3,000 facial combinations mean something.

. Research has shown that people from different countries respond identically to emotions expressed facially. This means that emotions and their corresponding facial expressions are innate and not learnt. These emotions include happiness, anger, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, etc have served an evolutionary purpose. For example, disgust (corners of the lip downturned, nose wrinkled & eyes slightly split) has an important function as it has evolved in to avoidance to disease pathogens. We have learnt the meaning of what is toxic or disgusting by relying on cues from our surroundings. Over time we have developed a more complex system of emotional communication where we find some things which are revolting are generally unsafe and some have just been culturally constructed to seem so. Expressions of disgust may be universal but the things that elicit it are not. Emotions are processed in the basal ganglia and anterior insula of the brain; this area is very malleable, ie things can be reinterpreted or re-imagined

. It is of interest to note conditions like autism result in sufferers losing the ability to read and interpret body language, such as gestures and facial expressions, which puts them at a disadvantage in inter‐personal relationships.

. When we communicate emotions, facial expressions are the most important mechanism

"...expressions might be common to everyone, but the understanding of them differs from one individual to another. If your experience of smiles has been that people are mocking you, or are about to do something unpleasant, you won't be happy to see a smile. You maybe afraid and defensive..."

Robert Winston, 2003


"...we are hardwired to copy our fellow humans......there are various neurons within the brain that appear to fire only in response to the actions of other humans. The presence of these so‐called "mirror‐neurons" would tend to confirm the notion that modern man evolved living in groups, and that imitating our fellow group members was a valuable strategy to survive..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Smiling is an important facial expression. There are 2 types of smiles, ie the authentic and plastic. The muscles that produce the authentic smile a very difficult to control voluntarily as it is produced spontaneously when people are genuinely happy. To produce this model you must feel generally positive and pleased as the emotions are reflected in your facial expressions. The plastic smile can be produced on demand when the occasion demands that you perform politely. It is claimed

"...the genuine smile seems to reflect an attitude to life and a high level of optimism that convincingly predicts greater levels of satisfaction..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

Some people have difficulty reading neutral faces as neutral. People who grew up with parents who fought a lot, have problems learning to read neutral faces; they are okay in discerning happy or angry expressions. 

Conditions like depression, anxiety and irritability can affect on how another person's face is perceived. 

"...adults who are exposed to violence, neglect or physical abuse in their childhood are more likely to see hostility where there is none. This can create a self reinforcing cycle..." 

Heather Murphy 2018 


· By using for just 2 min high-power posture techniques that "make yourself feel big" changes the way the brain reacts and builds courage, reduces anxiety and inspires leadership. It involves standing in an expansive mode like starfish or standing with hands on hips, legs wide; shoot your arm straight up to answer questions rather than giving a bent elbow wave. Other high-power postures include

- feet on the desk with fingers laced behind the head; this increases testosterone levels by around 20% and lowers the stress hormone Cortisol by around 25 (David Hochman, 2014a)

- adopting upright, open postures

- stretching out comfortably

- raising and extending arms and legs

· Postures like touching the face or neck or crossing the ankles tightly while sitting are all associated with powerlessness, submissiveness and intimidation; similarly, slouched and hunched up postures

· Stereotyping is based on how people's snap judgments about warmth, courtesy and trustworthiness affect whom they date, hire, envy and disparage

· Our own body language sends signals to our own brains

Some Interesting Facial Expressions

organisational development change management

(source: Bertha Tobias, 2003)

. Importance of facial expressions

‐ they are not culturally‐determined

‐ they provide a "goldmine" of information about emotions, especially about what is happening inside our minds

‐ they are linked with the automatic nervous system, ie if your facial expressions generate anger, your heartbeat will increase, hands become hot, etc

‐ the face is not merely a residue for emotions; it can actually initiate emotions

‐ expressions can be both voluntary (the way we intentionally signal our emotions) or involuntary (equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings)

‐ micro‐ expressions can be hard to read

. Eye contact can mean different things. In Western culture we are encouraged to look into the eyes when talking to somebody, or listening to them, eg a parent will tell a child, "Look at me when I am talking with you". Returning a gaze is an indication of "communication receptivity". When people are in love or agreement, eye contact is a way of expressing this. On the other hand, when people are expecting conflict, eye contact is a way of conveying power, ie asserting dominance. Yet in some cultures, eye contact can be seen as threatening, eg eye contact with a female in Fiji can be interpreted as sexual harassment!!!!!

. An example of facial body language is the "4 faces of insight". People's faces change considerably when they have an "insight". The changes occur in a few seconds before, during and after someone has an insight; they produce 4 faces (awareness of dilemma, reflection, motivation and illumination

i) awareness of dilemma (identification of some kind of problem to be solved; with face looking a little unhappy and perplexed; eyes may be squinting slightly)

ii) reflection (most people look up and across with a dazed look on their face; the mouth might tense up; nearly everyone goes silent for a moment ‐ it has been found that people's brains give off Alpha‐band waves just before they come up with an insight. These waves occur when people shut down inputs from their external senses and focus on internal stimuli. Alpha waves occur with the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical messenger that increases relaxation and eases pain, ie we tend to feel good. During this stage we do think logically or analyse data, ie we reflect more. The brain is making links and connections.)

iii) elimination (this involves a rush of energy like an energetic punch. Strong gamma‐band waves are omitted as the brain simultaneously processes information across different regions to form a new middleman, ie insight

iv) motivation (the eyes light up and the mouth opens)

There are 2 types of smiling:

i) a polite smile involves 2 muscles and is used as a pretend/false or smile, usually on social occasions

ii) a genuine smile uses 4 muscles. When a genuine smile fades, it does so in a more even pattern than the polite smile

"...facial expressions are a vital part of our emotional vocabulary, and while it is possible to become conscious of them, they largely take place in the region of unthought, habitual action......6 such basic facial expressions: anger, disgust, sadness, fear, surprise and happiness.... we have automatic reactions that unfold within microseconds when we see these facial signals in others.....of the brain......the left side may read voice information, while the right responds to facial information..."

Robert Winston, 2003

Body language

Body language can profoundly, but generally unconsciously, affect people

"...In expressing our internal emotional state to others, and in reading their internal states, body language is very important..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Everyone can control their body language to an extent to hide their true feelings. But generally the body language will demonstrate true feelings and will contradict verbal lies.

If non‐verbals contradict the verbals, people believe and trust the non‐verbals

First impressions are very important. It is thought that the initial 5 seconds of any first meeting are more important than the next 5 minutes. So attention to details like grooming and appropriate clothing are important if you want to create the right impression


" a business environment......we found that the balder the man, the more power and success he was perceived to have, and the less resistance people would put up when he enforced his authority. The hairy‐headed men, on the other hand, were thought to be less powerful and less well‐paid..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

. Body language experts have long suggested that a significant part of the message an audience receives is determined before the speaker opens his/her mouth

"...yet most organisations......act as if bodies ‐ stature, size, posture, voice ‐ do not matter.....stature, gestures and voice are all critical to the construction of authority..."

Amanda Sinclair in AFRBoss, July 2001

. Organisations place a premium on performance and the illusion of competence, which even manifests itself in terms of height, ie

"...58 percent of American chief executive officers are more than six feet tall (183 cm), compared with just 14 percent of the total population..."

Malcolm Gladwell as quoted by Luke Collins, 2005

. There are gender differences. For example, women use body language (including tone of voice) more effectively than men, ie

"...body language reveals a woman's emotional condition and accounts for 60% ‐ 80% of the impact of most females......tone of voice conveys what she means and women communicate with a range of five tones ‐ men can only identify three. Words account for a mere 7% to 10% of the impact of the message. Consequently, the words are not critical to their conversation because most of their messages are non‐verbal..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

Furthermore, a woman displays more of the white of her eyes than a man because the female brain is organized as a close range communication tool

"...the white of an eye is an aid to face‐to‐face communications as it lets someone monitor the direction of another person's gaze, which gives clues to their attitude..."

Alan Pease et al, 2002

To demonstrate that you are interested when talking to someone you need to

‐ maintain eye contact with the other person

‐ listen to what the other person is saying, ie 2 ears and 1 mouth and use them in that ratio!!

‐ mirror body language, ie break down barriers by adopting the other person's pose and actions

‐ face the person you are talking to and listening to, which demonstrates that you are interested. Even more powerful is to stand/sit side‐by side rather than face‐to‐face; this indicates that you are on their side!!!!!!!

‐ tilt your head slightly to show you are interested


"...Laughter functions primarily as a social lubricant......laughter is up to 30 times more likely to occur in a group than when we are alone. It also seems that human laughter produces a phenomenon called allomimesis ‐ in which the behaviour of individuals synchronises, and results in all reporting the same physiological and emotional sensations......if the participants are interested in one another, the frequency and emphasis of the male's body movements directly mirrored the amplitude and frequency of the female laughter. In turn, the more mirroring there was between their body movements and the female laughter, the more the males rated the experience as pleasure. In other words, laughter gets us "on the same wavelength"......laughter can defuse violence, promote group bonding..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. There are 3 areas of the brain involved in laughter

"...the frontal lobe assesses the situation and detects 'what's funny', the supplementary motor area produces necessary facial and vocal movements and the nucleus accumbens gives rise to the attendant feeling of pleasure......the normally functioning brain depends upon both hemispheres working in tandem ‐ left producing the emotion, and right producing the meaning ‐ for humour to work..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Explore your awareness of body language messages by completing this matching columns exercise in the 2 exercises!

Exercise 1 ‐ The left hand column contains a list of body language behaviours. Draw lines to connect each behaviour with its corresponding message.

Description of your body language

What your body language is saying to others!

1. Body facing to the front with an open posture

A. I am determined to take control

2. Using reciprocal body language and maintaining strong eye contact.

B. I do not believe you

3. Direct gaze and broad smile

C. I am alert and interested

4. Hands on hips and/or standing on toes

D. I agree with you

5. Indirect gaze with slight slumping of shoulders

E. I am not confident

6. Head slightly tilted and hand on chin with fore finger pointed upwards

F. I am confident

7. Averted gaze with touching of the ear by the hand

G. I need reassurance

8. Raised eyebrows and gesturing with open hand

H. I am stressing a point

9. One hand around the neck and other hand around the waist

I. I want to encourage you

10. Opening your hands while speaking

J. I am lacking confidence

11. Pen/pencil biting and indirect gaze

L. I want to be helpful

12. Supportive gestures, such as making eye contact and nodding while somebody is talking

K. I am emphasizing a point

13. Relaxed arms and legs

M. I am not willing to co‐operate

14. Making eye contact and leaning forward

N. I need reassurance

15. Head tilted forward, steely gaze and face cupped in hands

O. I am relaxed

16. Raised eyebrows and slight smile

P. I am appraising you unemotionally

17. Arms crossed defensively and leaning backwards

Q. I am considering the point you have made

18. Open, direct gaze with eyes and with fingers interconnected

R. I am not tense

19. Frown on forehead, leaning forward with elbows on knees and chin resting on clasped hands

S. I have your attention

Answers to above test on your awareness on body language:

1F, 2O, 3S, 4A, 5J, 6P, 7B, 8K, 9N, 10H, 11D, 12E, 13R, 14C, 15G, 16I, 17M, 18L & 19Q.

NB Options E, G, J & N are interchangeable

Exercise 2 ‐ In the left hand column is a description of elements of body language; write your "interpretation" in the right hand column

Description of your body language

What your body language is saying to others!

1. Leaning back with arms folded and legs crossed and an impassive expression on face


2. The head leaning forward with chin resting knuckles of hand and raised eye brows


3. Chin resting on open hand and legs crossed


4. Knitted brow, closed eyes and nose pinching


5. Leaning forward with frank, open expression on face and hands gently clasped


6. Indirect gaze and ear pulling


7. Indirect gaze and body turns away


8. Tilted head with raised eye brows and set mouth


9. Tense jaw with wide eyes


10. Tilting head towards speaker with open facial expression


11. Eyes lowered and fiddling with fingers or biro


12. Fist is clenched with lowered head and is glaring aggressively


13. Hand is pointing aggressively with a strong gaze


14. Hand is raised and gaze upwards


15. Arms are folded and gaze downwards


16. Slightly opened mouth and hand covering mouth


17. Open hands like a stop sign while maintaining eye contact and calm, measured voice


18. Turning your body away and glancing at your watch and/or holding your pen as though writing


Sample answers to above test on your awareness of body language:

1. (I disagree with you), 2. (I am interested), 3. (I have an open mind), 4. (I am confused and have doubts about what is being said), 5. (I am interested in what you are saying), 6. (I reject what you are saying), 7. (I am doubtful), 8. (I am bored and not interested), 9. (I am irritated), 10. (I am interested), 11 (I am not interested), 12 (I am angry and not happy), 13 (I want to argue with you), 14 (I want to say something), 15 (I am shying away from involvement), 16 (I don't believe you), 17 (I am trying to calm the proceedings down) & 18 (I don't want to be interrupted)

More comments on reading body language

. Some negative body language includes arms being crossed defensively, the body tilted slightly backwards and a frown on the face

. Always match your tone of voice to the message you are delivering. And remember: a genuine smile is audible in the voice

. Do not drop your voice at the end of a sentence it is dispiriting

. Over‐assertive gestures, such as banging a table or other signs of anger, can alienate people

. Keep your distance by leaving an acceptable distance between people. This distance changes depending on situations; for instance, guests at a social gathering stand closer to each other than strangers in a non‐social situation. Generally, people who live in rural areas stand further apart than city dwellers. If in doubt about appropriate spacing when standing with others, leave a personal space of around 1 metre

. If you are feeling tense, take a slow, deep breath

. Make sure you that are not unintentionally wearing a hostile expression

. Practise a range of gestures in front of a mirror to find those that look natural for you. Gesturing with your hand adds emphasis. This emphasis can be signalled by a chopping motion, shaking a fist, smacking your fist into an open palm, or by spreading your palm, etc

Remember that it is the cluster or combination of signals, rather than any single gesture, that is important. If someone rubs his eyes, they may genuinely be itchy, sore or tired. You need to see at least 3 signals before you can assume that the person is lying


. There are involuntary signs that are revealed when you are not telling the truth, ie

"...moving the head a lot when talking, repeatedly touching the face, too much (too little) eye contact, sweating and dilated pupils, remembering too few or too many details, delivering abrupt answers to questions and leaving long gaps, or no gaps at all, before answering questions. Repetitious 'ums' and "ahs', too are a bit of a giveaway......voice quality changes......everyone has a specific set of facial 'give away clues' ‐ what the poker players would call a ' tell'. When Mrs Thatcher publicly denied that she ordered the sinking of the General Belgrano, for instance, her eyelids engaged in a brief but rapid flutter. When Kim Philby denied being the 'third man' who tipped off Burgess and McLean that their cover as double agents had been blown, his right inner eyebrow made a quick involuntary flicker. TV footage of former US President Bill Clinton has, unsurprisingly, also undergone some quite thorough investigation by those interested in the science of lying.......noted a range of changes in Clinton's body language when he publicly denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky......compared with his public interview when he was sworn in as President. During the interview about Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton showed a 250 percent increase in hand‐to‐face touching, and a 355 percent increase in drinking and swallowing. Meantime his stuttering rate increased by 1,400 percent, and other errors in speech by 1,700..."

Robert Winston, 2003

At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the interview about Monica Lewinsky was in a very different context, ie he would be feeling more aggressive than when he was sworn in a President

Linking speaking and thinking

The way people speak shows how they think. Thinking preferences can be categorised by choice of phrase. Categories include:

. Visual (I see where you're coming from)

. Auditory (this sounds like to problem to me)

. Kinistec (I can do it)

Adopting a similar posture and using the same gestures can create empathy. Furthermore, after initially mirroring their posture and language, you can subtly and slowly change your posture and language to suit what you are communicating, such as if they are sitting defensively, mirror their posture and then slowly change it to a more open one, ie leaning slightly forward, direct eye contact with a closed mouth smile and slightly clasped hands.

(sources: Alan Pease et al, 2002; Rosaline Scandar, 2002; Annabel Hepworth, 2004; Roger E Axtell, 1998; Mark Frank, 2002; John Edwards et al, 1997; Catherine Fox, 2005; Robert Winston, 2003; Dennis Hall, 2006 Amanda Cooper, 1996; Rose‐Anne Manns, 2007a; Martyn Newman, 2007; Deirde Macken, 2008; David Rock et al, 2006a; Anne Eisenberg, 2013)

Some Photographs Demonstrating Different Non‐verbal Signals

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

organisational development change management

(source: Robert Heller et al, 1998)

Learning to listen:

Know which questions to ask ‐ it will help you get the right answers

Use silence confidently as a technique to encourage hesitant speakers

Think about the words you hear, not the person saying them

Keep an open mind about what people say

Put promises in writing as soon as you can to avoid misunderstandings

Listening skills ‐ 3 main types

i) Empathising (drawing out the speaker and getting information in a supportive, helpful way). This involves imagining yourself in another person's position by trying to understand what they are thinking, and letting them feel comfortable ‐ possibly by relating to their emotional experiences. This is usually indicated by paying close attention to what the person is saying, talking very little and using encouraging nods and words

ii) Analysing (seeking concrete information and trying to disentangle facts from emotion). This involves the use of analytical questions to discover the reasons behind the speaker's statements, especially if you need to understand a sequence of facts or thoughts. Frame the questions carefully, so you can pick up clues from the answers and use the person's signals to help form your next set of questions.

iii) Synthesising (proactively guiding the exchange toward an objective). If you need to achieve a desired result, make statements to which others can respond with ideas. Listen and give your answers to others' remarks in a way that suggests which ideas can be enacted and how they might be implemented. Alternatively, include a different solution in your next question.

Points to remember :

A speaker's confidence is heightened by intent listening

What you are told should be regarded as trustworthy until proved otherwise

Misunderstandings are caused by wishful listening ‐ hearing only what you want to hear (selective hearing). Selective hearings can be influenced by prejudices, stereotypical views, favouritism and/or an inflexible mindset. Listen to what other people are saying without imposing your assumptions and pre‐conceptions. Do not assume that you know what somebody is going to say and consequently miss the actual message

Some useful statements to help clarify and understand the speaker's message:

. I am afraid I did not quite catch what you said. Would you mind repeating it, please?

. I am aware that this isn't your field of expertise, but I would be very interested in your opinion

. I can't have explained myself clearly. What I meant to establish was.....

The 3 steps to successful communications are:

. listen carefully to what is said

. respond (if necessary, ask for clarification)

. finally, take action

Constant interruptions can be very off‐putting for people who find it difficult to get across their point of view (it is a good idea to wait 3 seconds after you think the speaker has finished before replying)

Test your understanding by rephrasing statements and repeat them to the speaker (this will improve the understanding between speaker and listener)

Effective Listening

There is a difference between listening and hearing

. hearing is a physical process which is passive, ie the ears are working

. listening is active, ie alert and focused and, in addition to hearing, involves non‐verbal signals such as eye contact, alert expression and attentive posture

One of the important parts of listening is appearing non‐judgmental

Reflective listening ‐ playing back explicit understandings of what someone has said to us. This allows validation of the comprehended message, and reassures the speaker that his/her point is understood and taken seriously

Being misunderstood ‐ There are several main causes of being misunderstood

You are not clear about what you want to say;

Your language is vague even though your objectives are clear;

Your body language contradicts your verbal message;

Listener has decided in advance what the message is, without listening to you.

Feedback ‐ guidelines for analysing a mistake:

Show an understanding of exactly what went wrong;

Draw out ways in which performance or behaviour can be improved;

Use questioning rather than assertions to let the staff member know what you think and why;

aim to express your negative opinions honestly, but in a positive manner;

Most importantly, take negative feedback away from the emotional zone by being objective, not personal.

Asking questions (why, what, how and when)

The art of questioning lies in knowing which questions to ask when.

Types of questions:

open (question does not invite any particular answer, but opens up discussion), eg what do you think about....... ?

closed (question is specific and must be answered with a yes or a no, or with details as appropriate), eg do you ever read the company's newsletters?

fact finding (question is aimed at getting information on a particular subject), eg what percentage of the staff read the newsletter?

follow‐up (additional question is intended to get more information or to elicit an opinion), eg is this a good signal compared with last time?

feedback (question is aimed at getting a particular type of information), eg do you think that communication within the company has improved?

Ask specific questions if you want to hear specific answers.

‐ used open‐ended questions, ie unable to give a "yes/no" answer, to gain insight into the other person's character, and to invite a signal; write a list of questions before you start a meeting.

‐ do not be afraid to pause while thinking of your next question.

‐ speak in as natural a tone as possible to create a warm environment

. As an interesting side‐line, during puberty our ability to read non‐verbal signals is put on hold, ie

"...brains scans showed that a particular area of the prefrontal cortex was smaller in teenagers than it was in children. One explanation maybe that the transition to adulthood, in brain and body, calls for a massive internal effort......certain brain areas shrink back to allow others natural resources ‐ neuronal material, neurotransmitters, glucose..."

Robert Winston, 2003

(sources: Robert Heller, 1998; Alan Pease et al, 2002; Robert Winston, 2003; The Economist, 2013)


Search For Answers

designed by: bluetinweb

We use cookies to provide you with a better service.
By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our policy. I understand