Posture & Body Movements in Communication

Written by steve johnson
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Posture & Body Movements in Communication
Next time you're talking, pay attention to non-verbal signals. (Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Non-verbal communication is one of the major---but often overlooked---factors of communication. From eye contact to common gestures, non-verbal communication encompasses a broad spectrum of forms. Many people even develop their non-verbal communication skills to become more successful speakers. Two of the main types of non-verbal communication are posture and body movements.

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Importance in Conversation

Both body language and posture are important under many circumstances. They often help to accent or complement a verbal message that might not stand alone well. They are also regulatory, and dictate when another person can speak or not speak; and can even serve as a substitute for verbal speech in some cases.

Cultural Differences

One of the most unusual aspects about non-verbal communication is that the meaning of it varies with the culture. This is especially prevalent in posture. Things such as bowing have no meaning most places; however, bowing serves as a show of rank in Japan. Slouching is generally regarded as a rude behaviour throughout many of the northern European countries. Showing the soles of the feet can be considered offensive in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

Signifying Feelings

One common belief is that body language, as well as posture, dictates a person's feelings in the moment. Although the extent to which this is true is debatable, one of the first books to spread this conception was "Body Language," released in the 1970s. Common body language---such as arm and leg crossing---tend to be taken as symbols of interest. Common arm crossing is sometimes seen as being less interested in people around you, while crossing legs towards someone indicates a sign of interest.


Touching is another area of non-verbal communication. Touch signifies several different types of information. Examples include touching a person on the shoulder, back, or arm and how much pressure was applied. Touch can come in different forms, such as rubbing, grabbing, or patting. One unusual type of touch is handshaking, where a firm touch can be seen as a sign of confidence and respect.

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