Body-Words Disconnect

“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech” -Deborah Bull

TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about the body-words disconnect. The concordance, or lack thereof, between words and actions is a powerful revealer of motive. Congruence between what someone is telling you and how their body relays those messages speaks volumes to the truth, emphasis and purpose of the message. “Reading between the lines” and “it’s not what someone says, it’s how they say it” are popular clichés that remind us of the importance of the connection between words and mannerisms.

“The concordance, or lack thereof, between words and actions is a powerful revealer of motive.”

The first step in understanding the body-words disconnect is carefully listening to what people tell you. The words serve as the message. If you don’t carefully listen to the message, any further interpretation will be lost. You need to be cognizant of what someone is telling you. Next, survey their body language. This requires visual and auditory engagement in the conversation. Visual input (facial expressions, body movement and position) is as crucial to auditory input (words, volume, inflection).

“The first step in understanding the body-words disconnect is carefully listening to what people tell you – the words serve as the message!”

The simplest – and extremely useful – aspect of the body-words disconnect is as follows: listen to the words people tell you and, if the words don’t match their body language, consider an alternative meaning or motive. For example, comments “welcoming” of your opinion expressed with a closed body posture (e.g., arms crossed) would indicate a defensive stance.

“Congruence between what someone is telling you and how their body relays those messages speaks volumes to the truth, emphasis and purpose of the message.”

Another common example involves words evoking positive emotions, like joy or happiness, with incongruous facial expressions like frowning of the brow. A few years ago, Gill and coworkers presented an excellent summary of the strategy of many common facial expressions (D Gill, OB Garrod, RE Jack & PG Schyns, Facial movements strategically camouflage involuntary social signals of face morphology. Psychological Science 2014;25(5):1079-1086. doi:10.1177/0956797614522274). Here are a few key illustrations:

·       High dominance—wrinkling the nose and snarling the lips

·       Low dominance—raising and lowering the brows, showing dimples, stretching the lips, and lowering the chin

·       High trustworthiness—raising the brows, deepening the lines between the nose and mouth, and smiling

·       Low trustworthiness—narrowing the eyes, wrinkling the nose, dilating the nostrils, frowning, and parting the lips

·       High attractiveness—raising and lowering the brows, smiling and pulling the lips back in a slight smile

·       Low attractiveness—tightening the eyelids, wrinkling the nose, and pulling the lips open and back

The purpose of today’s Sunday Surgical Scrub is not make you an expert in decoding body language. Although this is an interesting skill set, it is obviously beyond a single post. However, the call to action is for you to be cognizant of the body-words disconnect and, when these two spheres do not align, look for alternative motives for the communication in question.

 

MEDICINE & MACULA: Here is a fundus color photo of a patient I saw recently with Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) disease. VKH is a severe inflammatory condition with a myriad of ocular and systemic effects. The fundus photo shows circumscribed retinal edema with multiple serous retinal detachments.

 

The optical coherence tomograph (OCT) shows serous subretinal inflammatory infiltrates.

 

GRATIS: “Language is a more recent technology. Your body language, your eyes, your energy will come through to your audience before you even start speaking.” -Peter Guber

 

My best to you,

David Almeida

david@davidalmeidamd.com

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