“It is well known that body language can be stronger than words. But, normally we do not stop to reflect on this statement and how true it is. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a SPEAK event in Leiria. During the SPEAKnic, I discovered that it is possible to connect, laugh, interact, and fully understand others even if we do not share the same spoken language. And this was possible thanks to our body communication since it is key to enhancing authentic connections! ”Maria Ojeda
What is body language?
Body language is the unspoken part of the conversation. In simple words, body language is a “silent language” that individuals use to express themselves. It includes physical behaviors, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, tone, body movement, and more. People do mostly all of these nonverbal communications instinctively. Interesting right?
Body language is with us everywhere we go and it is part of our daily life, for that reason, in every conversation or interaction we are giving and receiving thousands of wordless signals. Even if we are not aware of those cues they are meaningful and they do have a big impact on us. For instance, our body language helps us to convey messages, interact and influence others.
The importance of body language
Body language is important because with it we send strong messages, moreover, they are key to communication as they transmit people’s needs, intentions, and emotions and they help us to gather deeper information than words. Our nonverbal communication helps us to build trust, it reveals our emotional state and our level of engagement; it also communicates if we like someone or if we want to go away, hence they help us to respond and act in our daily interactions.
Being aware of the importance of body language can help us to be better communicators, be more empathic and have success not only professionally but also personally. Additionally, body language it’s important because it helps us to understand the world surrounding us!
Body language and culture
Body language is not a new phenomenon, it has been with us since the beginning of humanity. Indeed, human culture and civilization development is based mainly on understanding the importance of nonverbal communication (SAB, 2023). With this fact, there is no doubt that body language is and will be part of our culture as much as verbal language is.
Our nonverbal communication could tell us a lot about who we are and where we came from. Through body language, we can have access to a better understanding of cultures. Participating in intercultural activities may help you discover how diverse we are even when we talk about the nonverbal world.
From the very first moment we greet each other or do a handshake, we are able to contemplate cultural differences. For instance, in Western culture, a strong handshake is synonymous of confidence, whereas, in far Eastern cultures, it can be considered a little aggressive. Also in North European countries a handshake is short and firm, while in Central Europe and in South America the handshake is warmer and longer. Regarding greeting differences, in Latin American Countries and some European countries kissing when greeting is really common, but in Asian cultures kissing is considered something very intimate to do in public.
Hands, arms and eyes
Handshakes and greetings are not the only part in which our body communicates our culture. Our hands and eyes tool! Our hands are part of our body expressions, and the use of our arms and hands also will vary from culture to culture. In South America, Spain, Portugal, Italy and some other European countries, hands are key for expressing ourselves and making our point, but for example, in Nordic countries, the use of arms in conversation is very little.
When talking about eyes, in Arab countries, Spain, Latin America, and Greece eye contact is expected during the whole conversation, but in Finland and Japan, eye contact is only seek it at the beginning of a conversation. Another example that may show cultural differences is the physical touch, in fact Latin American, Northern Europe, and North American cultures are considered as high-touch cultures but Far Eastern countries are considered as low-touch countries. Last but not least, how we sit can even communicate different points of view for cultures and even our silence during interactions will lead to many different interpretations…
Universal body language
Once listed some of the existing differences in body language across cultures, we can not ignore that there are universal nonverbal cues many countries and citizens share. For instance, a huge smile represents happiness and joy, arching our eyebrows will show surprise, and lowering our mouths corners will show sadness.
Discovering these universal differences and similarities could be sometimes very obvious but at the same a tricky task. That is why we encourage you to discover the world of unspoken cues with SPEAK, either if you join as a buddy, participant, or attend our events. You will be able to gain more knowledge about the main differences and similarities of body language between cultures and this will help us comprehend each other better.
How body language can connect us
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog post body language is a natural connection builder. Without this, we can simply not interact or communicate effectively. Is impossible to imagine a world without gestures, eye contact, smiles, or facial expressions, isn’t it?
That is why we have to be more aware of how body language can improve and enhance our relationships with the world. Also it opens a new vision for us about different cultural gestures, expressions and more. For that reason, this silent element of communication, if well-used,is key for building inclusion and a better world. As it lets us see beyond the eyes, beyond words and connect with other people.
To sum everything up, body language is always with us and in every second of our social interactions. It is really helpful when trying to build meaningful connections as it conveys messages and can bust our synergies between cultures and mostly it helps us to share our world!
Find more ways on how to connect with people with Seven Ways to Meet People in a New City or get to know 5 Reasons Why Language is Key For Integration.