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4.4 Understanding Body Language


Body language is non-verbal communication by means of the body. Although they are generally not aware of it, many people send and receive non-verbal signals all the time.

You communicate:

  • by eye contact,
  • with your facial expression,
  • by your body attitude,
  • with gestures,
  • by the way you move.


Some researchers put the level of non-verbal communication very high. According to the communication study ‘Silent Messages’ by Mehrrabian only 7 percent of communication comes from spoken words. The tone of voice and body language of a person can be more important than the actual words said.


  • One of the most basic body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest. This can indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. In a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition.
  • Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn't trust the speaker enough to "take his eyes off" the speaker.
  • Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. Eye contact is often a secondary and misleading gesture because we are taught from an early age to make eye contact when speaking.
  • Disbelief is often indicated by turning away the eyes, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. When a person is not convinced by what someone is saying, the attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.
  • Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused.
  • Dishonesty or the act of holding back information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation.


In the contact with the trainees it is impossible not to communicate because there is always spontaneous, inevitable body language!

But: use your common sense! It is often difficult to interpret body language!