December 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Mind your body language
Mind your body language
HUMAN beings around the world speak thousands of different languages. However, a universal kind of communication that we use all the time and does not need any form of speech is body language.
Everyone sends and subconsciously picks up various body language signals. The way we sit, stand or look at a person while talking to them sends out waves of negative and positive communication, telling them how we really feel. Many people learn the art of understanding body language and use it to their advantage in establishing relationships and enhancing their careers. Psychologists have in fact studied body language for years, and many general principles have been established as positive and negative modes of non-verbal communication or body language.
When we come into contact with other people, we are using communication skills that we are mostly not aware of. Have you ever wondered what it is about certain people that impress you every time you see them? Their posture and general appearance (even though they may not be physically attractive) speaks volumes in their favour, even before they have said a word. The answer to all these mysteries lies in harnessing the power of body language and being able to use it when you need it most.
Epictetus, a first century Roman philosopher, is quoted as saying, "nature has given us one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak." This is a very interesting observation, but not only do we hear from our ears; our eyes and senses tell us a lot about the other person’s personality, or even mindset. Animals also rely on the use of body language in communicating with each other.
For pet owners, reading up relevant research is helpful and tells us what signals convey what meanings. For example, birds that exhibit flashing or dilated pupils are usually showing signs of aggression. If, however, the bird clicks its tongue against its beak, then this is a welcoming sign that it wants to be friends. In dogs, bright eyes and a wagging tail are sure signs of contentment, but a frightened dog will try to make itself as small as possible, by flattening its ears against any perceived danger. Just like humans, animals have their own "dictionary" of different body language signs. Deepak Saini, an entrepreneur, emphasises the need to improve body language in securing job opportunities. "As Managing Director of my firm, I am always on the lookout for competent professionals for my company. While conducting interviews, I keep watching the interviewee’s positive body language, and that usually helps me make up my mind as to which I will finally employ," he said.
What exactly are those signs that convey these constructive signals then? "Good eye contact is one of them," he further said. "When a person looks you straight in the eye, he succeeds in gaining an interviewer’s full attention."
Eye contact also conveys the feeling that the person you are talking to is being honest in whatever he/she is saying. It is also essential to appear enthusiastic towards the particular job opening.
"A point to note while appearing in an interview is not to slouch or lean backwards in the chair. This puts across a feeling of lack of interest or simply arrogance and disrespect on the part of the interviewee towards the job interview," he added.
These are some of the examples of how you can use small body gestures to your advantage. Once a person starts to understand its significance, you will be able to unravel the mysteries of different body language signals.
How to tell if others tell a lie
We have all had those moments when a conversation with someone just does not seem as though there is a grain of truth in it. If you observe more closely, you will find the person’s discourse and body language are in complete contrast, giving you the feeling that the person is not telling the truth.
"I can always tell when I am being lied to," said Navneet Kaur, who teaches O’ Level students. "It’s not what is being said, but the way it is being said that alerts me to any signs of deceit. The most common thing a student will do when lying, is to shift their eyes either to the floor or any object in the room while replying to a question. They also tend to shift from one foot to the other while talking, that usually confirms that they are not being honest, and I then manage to get the truth out of them."
Many of us remember the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, but did you really believe the former President when he stated he did not have a relationship with the woman in question? When your body and facial movements contradict the words that are coming out of your mouth, your non-verbal communication tells a whole different story.
Though many of us are brought up on honesty being the best policy, it is useful to recognise the tell tale signs of lying. These include darting eyes, avoiding direct contact with the speaker, fingers tugging at the hair, using hands or fingers to partially cover their mouth while they are talking, and wrinkling their nose. The police or other investigating agencies frequently use lie detectors or polygraph machines for interrogating suspects. Though it is not a foolproof device, a lie detector has an estimated 90 per cent accuracy rate, and has been in use since the 1920s. Along with other body movements, micro gestures - expressions that occur in less than a second — are also used.
Many law-enforcing agencies have their interviews taped so that they can study a suspect’s micro gestures, which are played back in slow motion. Body language experts have researched and identified thousands of gestures that have particular meanings. Studies further show that non-verbal communication has a much greater impact and influence on your listeners, than the spoken word. In other words, it is your body that is doing the real talking.
The advantages of conscious body language are quite undermined in our part of the world, but it really does have many advantages in our day-to-day life. Psychologists in India emphasise that learning the concept and application of body language, becomes a good investment in the long run.
The good news is that body language will boost your confidence, taking out the qualities that you never realised you had. Just by improving your posture for instance, you will feel surer of yourself and all signals that your body position will send to others will be: I believe in myself, you will too. This single statement says it all, as this is also the most important thing that you need other people to know.
One of the first things to do in enhancing your own body language is to perfect your posture. Many of us have heard the expression to stand tall. Taken literally, an erect posture does wonders to enhance body image. Standing straight with chin held up and shoulders pulled back, instead of rounding shoulders and thrusting the neck forward, is a sign of positive body language. Also, sitting straight, and making sure that your back is straight will make you feel in control. Straight posture also acts as a defence line against depression, as research has shown that maintaining proper posture makes a person think positively.
The person you need to impress with your enhanced body movements is yourself. Regulating your breathing by taking long deep breaths, squeezing up and then relaxing your muscles is a very good relaxation technique. At the moment there is not much awareness in our society about the significance of body language and its use, says Taniya Shah, who is studying for a Master’s degree in clinical psychology.
Also for girls who do not enter a profession, body language helps them to be more confident on the domestic front or within social circles. A girl, who sends positive body language signals within her household, is much less likely to be intimidated by her husband or in-laws.
One of the most interesting aspects of body language is to be able to read the signals other people are sending when they communicate with you. By watching out for the following signs in other people, you should be able to get an idea of how they relate to you.
Leaning closer: comfort, interest
Relaxed posture: openness to communicate
Gesturing warmly with hands: interest in conversation
Hand resting on cheek: evaluating and considering the conversation
Open palms: sincerity, openness, and receptivity
Nodding: interest, agreement and understanding
Leaning away: discomfort, uneasiness
Arms crossed over chest: disagreement, resistance, on guard
Hands clasped behind back: anger, frustration
Sitting with hands clasped behind head: arrogance, superiority
Tapping or drumming fingers: impatience, annoyance
Steeping fingers together: closing off, creating a barrier
Fidgeting: boredom, nervousness or impatience
Hand over mouth: generally negative; often denotes disapproval or reluctance to speak openly
Clutching objects tightly: anxiety, nervous anticipation
Q I compile cricket statistics very keenly. Can I make a career in this field? Please advise.
Sudhir Patil, Chandigarh
A Compiling cricket statistics can be a career only if such statistics can be made available at a mass level for which you can either write books or work for the sports section in a newspaper, magazine, TV channel, radio or a book of records. You are most likely to find work in specialist sports magazines or sports television channels.
Your penchant for statistics could also be a great asset for a career as a cricket journalist or commentator. As jobs for cricket statisticians are not easily or frequently available, you may have to initially work in a broader field, even within sports. With some perseverance and the right breaks you should be able to score a hit. I hope you are using the computer to make your task easier.
Q I am planning to do my Master’s in the UK. Could you please tell me about the accommodation facilities available for international students in the UK.
A Accommodation facilities at each educational institution vary a great deal. While some universities and colleges can offer rooms in halls of residence or student flats to 90 per cent or more of their first-year students, others cannot provide accommodation for more than 20 per cent of incoming students. However, all institutions will help you find a suitable privately-owned accommodation.
Some of the different types of private accommodation available are:
Hostels offer accommodation for both single and married students. Meals are usually provided although some have cooking facilities. To be on the safer side, apply for a room well in advance.
Lodging are rented rooms in private houses. Since the owner and his family will live in the house, you will have to adapt your lifestyle to fit in with theirs. Meals may be provided or you may be allowed to use the kitchen to cook your own meals.
Flats and houses are available on rent. A group of friends share the rent and other bills for a furnished flat or house situated near the college.
Q I have done my Bachelor’s in Fisheries Science. Is there any related PG course in business management which I could pursue?
A To begin with, you could look at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary & Animal Sciences University, Chennai 600051 (www.tanuvas.com) which offers a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management (Animal/Fisheries Sc). This is a 1-year part-time evening course comprising two semesters.
The eligibility is BVSc, BFSc, BSc (Agri/Horti), BE, BL, MBBS or equiv or BSc or BA with an OGPA of 3.00 out of 4.00 in trimester system or 7.0 out of 10.0 in semester system or 50 per cent.
Students of Madras Veterinary College who are pursuing their MVSc/PhD can pursue the PGDBM concurrently in the evenings.
However, you could also enrol for an MBA in Agri-Business Management which is offered at the blue-chip IIM-Ahmedabad (www.iimahd.ernet.in) as well as in a number of leading agricultural universities.
These programmes will prepare you for a managerial and entrepreneurial career in enterprises serving or dependent on agriculture and allied sectors.
These enterprises may be engaged in activities such as:
Production & marketing of inputs (seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, farm machinery and equipment, livestock feed, irrigation, and credit);
Production, procurement, processing & marketing of output: such as agriculture (crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, agro-forestry, horticulture, dairying) marketing, agro/food processing;
Providing Services to agriculture: such as export and import, rural banking, financing agri-products, insurance, logistics, water management, R & D, and rural energy.
Q I am a fresh science graduate, but my problem is that I stammer while speaking which causes me great deal of embarrassment. Please guide me, which career I should choose, keeping in mind my handicap.
Haris Khanna, Jammu
A Stammering is not a permanent disability. It is largely curable with some medical help and determination on your part. Any job that involves research, or deskwork, should be best for you to begin with. Once you gain in confidence, you can slowly graduate to activities that involve more interactions with people. Just proceed one step at a time — and you’ll be amazed at the progress you make. You are a bright young man with all your faculties intact. Make the most of life and the opportunities it throws up. Don’t let a minor problem like stammering deter you from doing anything you fancy. Also remember this cardinal truth: People take their cues from you; if you are not embarrassed or self-conscious, no one can possibly make you feel uncomfortable.
Try composing your speech in your mind before you speak. You’ll find it helps immensely. "Practice" is the operative word here.
As a child I always marvelled at the story of Demosthenes. This determined Athenian youth not only overcame his awful speech impediment but also went on to become one of the greatest orators and statesmen of all time.
Coming back to the present, do consult a good speech therapist to get the right professional tips and advice.
Q Could you please give me some advice on tackling the general studies section of the Civil Services prelims?
Pervin Mathew, Ludhiana
A The prelims are conducted in May each year to select students for the main exam.
There are two objective-type (multiple-choice) papers on general studies and optional subject.
As the syllabus for the GS paper is pretty vast and somewhat undefined, you require a wide awareness and general knowledge of the world around you.
The questions on general science require a general understanding of science, including observation and experience of everyday phenomena.
The NCERT textbooks are a good bet for all three sections (physics, chemistry and biology), although there is a predominance of questions from bio. Focus on the applied aspects of the other two.
The current events section tests your knowledge of national and international events. Scan newspapers and magazines regularly and focus on events of wide and significant import, including awards and achievements in sports, literature, and culture.
History of India requires a broad general understanding of events in their social, economic and political context — covering each of three periods (ancient, medieval and modern). Focus on the freedom struggle in a chronological order in the modern history segment.
In the geography section, focus on the economic, social and physical aspects of Indian geography, including highlights of agricultural and natural resources.
Please send in your query preferably on a postcard along with your name, complete address and academic qualifications to: Editor, Career Hotline, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160020, or at firstname.lastname@example.org