Bhave Institute of Mental Health

Bhave Institute of Mental Health


The evergreen song “Ishaaro ishaaro mein dil lene wale” and several other songs have been dedicated to the art of communicating without using words i.e. body language. It’s a universal language common across the globe and we humans have an inherent ability to read it. Whenever we meet someone for the first time, we often get a ‘vibe’ from them. This is because our brain reads their body language. Body language is a powerful tool to enhance our presence and the impact of our words.

There are different aspects to body language which we’ll see below.

Facial expressions: the presence of a smile or a frown, the raising of eyebrows, the rolling of eyes or the side eye are just a few examples of the countless expressions which flash across our face everyday. Often our expressions come involuntarily, bringing forth our true emotions.

Eye contact: eye contact is an essential component of our interactions. The way we look at someone can communicate many things, including interest, affection, hostility, or attraction. Maintaining eye contact also shows interest in the interaction and is vital to maintain flow of conversation. Hallmark of a good public speaker is being able to maintain eye contact with the audience.

Gestures : how the hands and body are used tells us a great deal about a persons intent and emotions. some people use their hands to emphasize their words. Hands folded across the chest signal to a closed attitude. Nail biting, locked ankles, fidgeting or rapid blinking can signify anxiety.

Body movement and posture: there’s a difference between the way in which people sit, walk, stand, or hold their head. Turning our body away from someone during conversation indicates disinterest. Tilt of the head can indicate subservience, guilt or superiority. There are several such stances which convey different meanings.

Space: have you ever felt uncomfortable during an interaction simply because the other person is standing too close? Distance maintained depends on the level of intimacy in the interaction. Touching to maintaining upto 18 inches distance is considered intimate distance whereas social distance is considered anywhere between 1.2 m to 3.6 m.

Touch: we communicate a great deal via touch. A firm handshake, a reassuring touch on the hand, a warm hug, an aggressive grip or a repulsive touch- they all convey vastly different things.

Voice modulation: we not only convey with our choice of words but also by how we say it. The tone, volume, inflection make a difference. Injecting anger, sarcasm or delight in the words changes meaning of what is said.

How to use body language as a tool

Paying attention to certain elements of our body language will enhance the quality of our communication. Some examples are:

  • Have an open posture : sit straight slightly leaning in with hand by your side.
  • Maintain good eye contact
  • Smile often
  • Have a firm handshake- it’s a sign of confidence
  • Avoid fidgeting or touching your face too much
  • Look interested with sounds of affirmation intermittently
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