Shoulder & Body Language

Shoulders Is Where Sensitivity Lies

Our shoulders are a good spot to look for non verbal cues. They are very flexible and visible and they are moved by an emotionally sensitive muscle (the upper trapezius) which makes them highly sensitive.

Whether we dress them or leave them naked, or even the way we dress them will convey different meanings.

Because they are different from feminine shoulders, the display of shoulders in men, robust and thicker, may be motivated by male competition or the desire to appear masculine especially in courtship.

Women may display their shoulder’s slenderness with the same courtship intentions, as a sign of their feminine attributes.

Both men and women unconsciously square our shoulders conveying dominance when we stand tall in an aggressive and dominant attitude. We are preparing for an “attack” and we want to appear stronger and bigger.

As we often carry tension in our shoulders, if we want to make sure if a person is relaxed or tense, we should pay attention to his shoulders: someone who is truly relaxed will have their shoulders held low.

Another important interpretation of the shoulder position is during conversation. In order to tell is someone is really interested or involved in the dialogue taking place, look at his shoulders. If they are facing the interlocutor, then he is focused in the conversation. If, instead, the shoulders are turning away in a different direction, that probably means he wants to leave and his attention is on something else.

Finally there is the typical shoulder-shrug position. It commonly shows helplessness, resignation and or uncertainty. However, in a courtship context it may be used to suggest harmless intent, submission and friendliness in order to build rapport and invite physical approach.


Love After Lunch?

Why do we like to have lunch together?

If you are at work and in the early stages of courtship, lunch is a good way to go.

Scientists support the idea that in courtship scenarios getting together over a meal is a very good idea as it reduces our anxiety: our parasympathetic nervous system switches to rest-and-digest.

On the other hand, sharing lunch offers a great excuse for couples to sit together and have a light conversation while they are allowed to get a bit distracted by what they are eating. Eating together is less stressful than conversing without the shared focus of utensils, food, and drink.

Because lunch takes place during the day this provides a good venue for the early exchange of love signals providing a relaxed and calm environment.

Sharing lunch also makes us feel alike because we are “doing the same thing." When we share an activity with somebody our bond gets stronger and it contributes to building rapport. This is specially powerful in courtship. “Mimicking the postures and movements of others facilitates interaction and increases liking.” (Chartrand and Bargh 1999)

Office rituals inevitably involve eating and drinking together. Food consumption non verbally brings co-workers and staff closer together. It is a good team building activity.

Reference: The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, signs & Body Language Cues, By David B. Givens, © 2002 (Spokane, Washington: Center for Nonverbal Studies Press)


How We Express Dominance Through our Tone

People Unconsciously Adapt To Each Other's Voice Tones

It is widely known that when two people are conversing it is likely that they will copy each other´s body posture. This is the mirror effect. We mirror the other person in order to build rapport. We do this uncounsiously and it may denote that we like them (this not only applies to romantic love). This habit to mirror our interlocutor, also influences our tone of voice.

According to Kent State University researchers Stanford W. Gregory, Jr. and Stephen Webster, people unconsciously adapt to each other's voice tones (a phenomenon studied by students of "communication accommodation theory").

The manner in which we talk, rhythm, breathiness, hoarseness, or loudness may be affected by our speaking partner.

Out tone of voice reflects psychological arousal, emotion, and mood. It may also carry social information, as in a sarcastic, superior, or submissive manner of speaking.

In order to express dominance, we lower our tone: "The more threatened or aggressive an animal becomes, the lower and harsher its voice turns--thus, the bigger it seems" (Hopson 1980:83).


Touchy Situations

Touching Can Be Powerful

Many studies have been conducted to establish different patterns and their meanings when it comes to touching.

Touching is highly powerful to human beings. Touch can express different emotions such as comfort, courtship, anger or can be used to establish personal rapport.

In fact, it is through touching that we first communicate with the world. Before we are even born, we can hear the heartbeat of our mother pounding agains us rhythmicly.

Touching Helps Us Develop Emotionally and Mentally

It is believed that our first tactile experiences are important in helping our mental and emotional developing. Children that have received less afection through touching have taken longer to learn to talk and walk.

Self-touching, on the other hand is often seen in anxious or tense settings. It may be a way of self conoslation by means of self-stimulation.

It is common to see an anxious kid sucking his thumb or playing with his hair. As adults, we learn to refreain ourseleves from openly touching us but still do it unconsciously in situations where we find ourselves tense or restless. We may also play with our hair or pretend we are rearraging our clothes. We may even be caressing a part of our body such as arms, legs or tammy. Instead of a caress, we may disguise it as “scratching”.

Reference: Mark L. Knapp, Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction.

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