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Non-Verbal Cues

Introduction

Have you ever wished you could read minds? Do you wonder what it would be like to automatically know how your friends and loved ones were feeling, if they were being honest with you, or if that person you had your eye on was interested in you? While it may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, recognizing the many ways that we communicate using non-verbal cues allows you to catch a glimpse into the minds of the people around you.

Learning How to Speak Without Words

Most of the time we think of “communication” as two people saying words back and forth to one another.  In fact, the words communicated often do not tell the whole story about what someone means or wants to convey.  Lots of the meaning comes from the unspoken, such as facial expressions, gestures, and body postures. While you won’t learn how to read minds, you can learn how to identify some common nonverbal cues and learn tips to improve your awareness of nonverbal communication.

Read through to learn some of the ways we rely on non-verbal communication every day, without even knowing it.

Expressing Emotion

While people may say that someone “wears their heart on their sleeve,” in reality, they’re much more likely to be wearing it on their face. A number of studies have shown that people are able to recognize emotions with a high level of accuracy just based on a brief glimpse at a person’s face. The study participants consistently identified the following emotions: happiness, anger, disgust, surprise, fear, sadness, and contempt. These studies were also conducted around the world, and they found the same results regardless of where the participants lived (so we can read facial cues in “different languages”!)

Recognizing Danger

One of the other things we assess automatically when meeting a new person is the potential for danger. Our brains are able to determine almost instantly, even when looking at a photo of an unknown person, how dominant or submissive they are based solely on their posture and facial expression. These instincts have been honed over centuries to help keep us safe and to identify whom we can trust.

Spotting Deception

Other non-verbal signals that are easy to spot are related to dishonesty. Though it should be noted that there isn’t any way to be 100% certain that someone is lying based off of a few non-verbal cues, it has been shown that people are more likely to do certain things when being deceptive. For instance, a person will sometimes touch their face – usually touching their nose or briefly covering their mouth when telling a lie. You might also notice someone shrugging his or her shoulders without realizing it when saying something untrue.

It’s also easy determine if someone is genuinely enjoying him or herself by noticing if their smile reaches all the way to their eyes. A fake smile only touches the mouth and doesn’t cause any of the telltale crinkles in the skin near the eyes. You can also tell if the person you’re speaking to disagrees with you or disapproves of what you’re saying by noticing that they’re pursing their lips.

Identifying Attraction

Facial expressions can also be reliable indicators of whether someone is potentially interested in you. You can look for them to do things like make good eye contact, appear invested in what you’re saying, and turn their body toward you during conversation. You might also notice that they’re unconsciously “mirroring” the gestures and motions that you’re making. Lastly, you should pay close attention to their pupils, which will dilate (become larger) in response to an increase in feelings of attraction and arousal.

Now that you know about some of the many ways nonverbal communication impacts your life, read on to learn more about the benefits of noticing and recognizing non-verbal cues.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text HOME to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.

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