Body Language Concept

Body Language Concept

Body language is a term familiar to most people and most people take advantage of body language in everyday life. Body language is non verbal communication prior to someone articulates, and gives an idea about what is there in the mind of the other person. American president, George Bush senior once used the phrase “ read my lips, no new taxes” in the 1988 Republican National Convention, indicating that even lips are capable of conveying messages.Through body language one person grasps the emotional state such as happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, excitement, fear, confusion of the other person. Non-verbal communication is very primitive,and animals and birds communicate through it. In the Bible (Genesis 11:1-9), we read how God confounded the people who were until then speaking one language in the process of building the Tower of Babel as tall as the sky. Since they lost the ease of communication through a single language, they managed to communicate through body language.  

There are many different types of non-verbal communication, such as facial expression, gestures, eye contact, touch, voice modulation and movement of limbs. One can tell if someone is happy in body language by watching one smiling. Smiling is an important non-verbal cue to look for. While acting in movies and in dramas, one may not smile naturally. If someone fakes smiling, only corners of the mouth move laterally. This can be seen when someone poses for a camera in which the whole facial muscles including eye lids and forehead do not move. The whole impulse of smiling is transmitted from hypothalamus (part of limbic system) to midbrain and through facial nerve to facial muscles. A genuine smile suggests that the person is happy and enjoying the company of the people around him or her as the impulse is from the brain. Likewise someone fakes shedding tears, again all facial muscles will not be involved resulting in ‘crocodile tears’.  

  There are a lot of hand gestures, which convey a lot of different confusing messages to unwary observers. The gestures of youngsters are different from that of senior citizens. For example to ring someone by phone, he or she would show one’s palm close to the ear, but for a senior citizen, it is a fist with extended little finger and thumb close to the ear. This is because of the advent of flat mobile phones. Making a circle with your thumb and your index finger is how to signal "OK" in the US. But make the same gesture in Brazil, and one is giving the equivalent to showing the middle finger in the UK, the gesture has an insulting and scatological connotation. In India making a circle with index finger and thumb, means ‘excellent’,and that is the typical gesture one shows to approve the taste of a curry.  In South Africa if one curls the fingers over the thumb, indicates that he or she is supporting another in thought, and wish the person good luck for an important event. Display of a palmar side of the fist with extended little finger is a gesture for asking the other person to wait some more time. Touching the tips of fingers of both hands in an angle while talking means the person is speaking with authority. Victory and thumb up signs are familiar with most people.   

There are many gestures with hand and head, individually or combined. Some of them are positive and others are negative. If one rests the head on the palm, it denotes the person is bored or depressed. Touching the nose with fingers means, the person is not telling the whole truth. If someone is stroking one’s chin or beard unintentionally suggests the individual is trying to come to a decision about a matter with thoughtfulness. When the hand is placed on the cheek accompanied by a furrowed brow, demonstrates deep concentration. People often pull the lobes of one of their ears when they are attempting to make a decision but remain indecisive and unable to come to a conclusion. Touching a ear lobe in Spain is a method of reporting that someone has not paid for one’s drink! Nail biting indicates stress, nervousness, and the person is waiting to get a result. 

Let me narrate a few of the head and neck body language. Tilting the head to one side means a person is listening keenly and interested in the subject. Turning the head towards left and right means the person is not agreeing but bending it and touching the chest means, the person agrees to the other person\'s point of view. In certain far east countries the meaning of these head and neck movements might be different. Eyes are very significant body language generator which convey a lot of information on the the state of one’s mind. Looking someone directly in the eye while speaking shows that one is confident and one trusts the other person. But staring at a lady that causes fear of physical attack can be considered as a crime or tort. A wink is an expression made by briefly closing one eye, which might accompany with contraction of facial muscles on that side. This body language denotes something is a joke or a secret or as a signal of affection.


Body language matters a lot to various trade and underworld ring leaders. Take the case of a terrorist, an armed robber, a burglar or a contract killer who need to work in an enclosed space without making much noise. Body language comes to their rescue through eye pointing, facial expression with raised eyebrows, changes in the breathing pattern and deep diaphragmatic low volume monosyllable talking which impart cues of horror in the victim. In a doctor-patient encounter, the physician’s ability to diagnose and treat a medical condition depends 60% on the body language such as the gestures, gait, postures, expressions, articulation and inappropriate behaviour. In a poker game even keeping the cards close to one\'s chest will not help, if the opponent gets cues through the body language. In most indoor and outdoor two player games, showing body language of fatigue, stamina and ‘given up’ feeling, will evoke sense of victory in the opponent. The auctioneer in the auction room mainly relies on body language of the participants, to increase or fix a bid. It has been reported that in most professions, 55% communication is through body language, 38% through vocal tone, and only 7% through words or verbal communications.   

  The cultural differences in body language are vast, and is reflected in each country’s arts, etiquette,behaviour and tradition. The Bedhaya is an extremely slow and solemn dance, in Indonesia. The dance has Indian-derived hand gestures revealing Mahabharatham mythology. Traditional dancing in any form or in any country works on body language display. Kathakali, is a traditional Indian dance, native to the southern state of Kerala, India. In this dance the performers dressed in beautiful, colourful costume and facial paints, portray Hindu Mythology through body language of hands, eyes and posture. The audience is expected to decipher the meaning of eye and hand movements reflecting the emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, excitement and fear. 

We all might have felt the necessity of using gestures and facial expressions when we have gone to a foreign country where no one speaks our language. Think of our great explorers in fifteenth to seventeenth centuries who set out on long haul voyage to discover inhospitable terrain where they lived for months depending entirely on body language to communicate with the natives. Body language in fact evolves through human life cycle such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Inability to talk in infancy and possible deafness in old age helped to proliferate the use of body language. 

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This blog is about my experience as a doctor working in various countries in different clinical set up. This experience spans through 45 years, in which I acquired a lot of favourable contacts and unfavourable encounters. I shall dig deep into them and make it interesting to the readers. Unlike others in the profession, I worked as a community medical officer in a remote areas, prison medical officer, benefit service medical officer, in cardiac surgery in prestigious institutions and as a private doctor. I was managing my own businesses, and real estate in three continents. I hope the information I impart will be valuable to the like minded readers.

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