Language & Culture

Universal Body Language

Without speaking a word, humans are able to convey a wide array of emotions thanks to body language. It is a universal mode of communication that goes beyond verbal language to reveal people’s attitude and feelings. From every country to every tribe, there are 6 universal non-verbal expressions that can be easily identified: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.  Although the feelings conveyed by body language are fleeting, they remain true and consistent.

Cross Cultural Gestures Image

 

Because interpreting body language is a second nature to many people, we often fail to realize that communication is possible through non-verbal expressions. Regardless of culture or language, certain gestures remain universal. For example, when someone is happy, they will most likely smile or chuckle, their eyes widening in delight. Similarly, a person overcome with sadness will take on a defeated or devastated look, accompanied by slumped shoulders or wet and teary eyes. Of course, the complexity of body language means that observing just one gesture is sometimes not enough to accurately discern someone’s feeling. The key is to observe these gestures in clusters, as it is what will essentially make the difference. If someone’s eyes are fixed on an object, it may be because they are interested in it. But if their fists are additionally clenched and their face red, they are probably portraying symptoms of anger.

Being able to recognize and read these well-known expressions may seem insignificant, but in reality it is a highly sought skill. Many companies now recommend their human resource personnel attend courses on micro expressions and body language, which give more detail on how non-verbal communication reveals much more than once thought about an individual’s personality. More and more client managers are also attending these courses, as much can be gleaned from the way prospective clients sit, gesture, and how much eye contact they maintain.

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While there are many gestures and expressions that differ from culture to culture, universal body language is easily recognized and rightly understood by the majority of the world’s population. Be it consciously or subconsciously, it is a tool that not only speaks loudly and clearly of what we are feeling, but also unites us all.

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