Body Language 98 Head Shaking While Talking

October 30, 2020

There is an interesting form of body language that some people do while they are talking. It is moving their head from side to side. I am not sure what the origin is, but I see it in some commercials where people are advertising a healthcare service.

My guess is that the gesture is intended to make the person speaking seem to be more believable or genuine. It may be interpreted as being sincere, as in saying, “We are going to take good care of your mother.”

The gesture can also be observed when people eat particularly delicious food. I suppose the meaning is, “I can’t believe how good this Key Lime Pie tastes.”

You also see the gesture used in politics, particularly by female politicians. Two people I have seen do this on numerous occasions are Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton. It seems incongruous because, for most people, moving the head from side to side is thought to mean “no,” but these women use it to appear more credible.

The gesture is also commonly used to convey disbelief. If someone is telling you a tall tale about how he ate two gallons of ice cream in one sitting, you might be shaking your head slowly from side to side in disbelief. Remember the old adage, “never eat anything bigger than your head.”

The gesture, as with many other parts of body language, is culture specific.There are some cultures where the gesture is seen much more often than in the USA and with a different meaning. For example, in some southern European Countries such as Albania or Bulgaria, the gesture means “yes” rather than “no.”

Another interesting observation is that when babies are hungry for breast milk, they nod their heads up and down, but when they want to reject the breast milk they move their heads from side to side. Of course, babies do not have the cultural programming for gestures that come along later in life.

Another variant of the side to side head gesture is the Indian or South Asian Head Bobble. Here the head does move from side to side but it sort of rocks or tilts back and forth on top of the neck. In these cultures, the gesture is very common, and it can mean different things based on the context. One common meaning is, “I understand.” Another meaning can be, “Thank you.” If done slowly and with a slight frown, it often means, “I respectfully decline.”

Look for the head shaking gesture, and when you see it, look for other clues, such as the configuration of the mouth or the position of the eyebrows. These secondary clues can help you determine the true meaning of the gesture in that instance. Of course, the context of what is going on also will give you valuable insights.




This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language” by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.”



Body Language 49 Babies

October 12, 2019

In previous postings I have dealt with numerous aspects of adult body language, body language in children, and even the body language of animals. It is time to deal with the only remaining category of creatures: babies!

When we think of babies and their limited ability to move, ambulate, articulate, and communicate, it seems like there would be not much to report in terms of body language for babies. The exact opposite is true.

Babies have an amazing ability to let others know what is happening in their brain as well as all other parts of their bodies. This realization underscores that most of body language is instinctive, and we do it unconsciously.

For example, the baby in the above picture is curious about something. We can tell that by the shape of the mouth and the wide-eyed expression with the eyebrows held high.

The baby has no cognition of these signals, and is not doing them intentionally; they are just there.

Here is another typical baby expression that is pretty hard to misinterpret. The baby was not trained to make these expressions. The expressions in the two pictures are both unmistakable, and even though some things are the same, the messages we get are completely different.

Here is an interesting question to ponder. They say that a high percentage of body language is culturally specific. A person living in Eastern Europe will have different body language signals than a person from Canada. Do babies from different cultures have different body language patterns? If so, how did they come by these habits?

A more plausible explanation is that all humans are born with the same set of body language regardless of location and are conditioned as they grow to emulate the patterns of the specific culture in which they live.

The bond between a mother and the baby is particularly strong. The mother will know long before another person if the baby is hungry or wet. She will be able to interpret a runny nose far before things start to get messy. I suspect that the baby has a very good idea of the emotions of the mother without the ability to understand any words.

If the mother is sad or tired, the baby will know about that, at least to some extent.

I have no way to verify that and am reminded of the joke made by Steven Wright. He said that when he is with an infant, he writes down all the noises the baby makes so he can go back years later and ask the child what she meant.

Did you ever watch an infant communicating with a dog or cat? There is so much information being transmitted in both directions it is astounding. As adults, we have learned long ago to just absorb these signals and not think about them consciously. But the signals are still there throughout our lives, and we are constantly interpreting them in our subconscious.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.


We Really Have a Choice

January 9, 2016

Just for a moment, take a guess at what percentage of the world’s population woke up today with a mindset of peace and happiness.

If you think carefully about all of the people who don’t know if they will have anything to eat today, or those who are bent on destroying other people, whether it be in an organized group or with some kind of substance abuse, your estimate might be pretty low.

If you include those who haven’t a clue how they are going to survive financially or physically, and if you include those who must steal in some way from others in order to survive today, you might lower your estimate further.

As I pondered the question at length, my own estimate is that less than 20% of the people currently living on earth are actually living wholesome, constructive, and full lives.

Most people are trying to exist in a perpetual struggle as they cross off each day and draw one day closer to their grave.

Even in the richest and most productive country on the planet, a large portion of the population focuses on survival at the most basic level with little hope or optimism for a rewarding life, or they buy guns for the purpose of killing others or for protecting themselves (which is another way of saying killing others). I think it is really sad.

Now let’s flip to the other extreme. Every time a new human infant pops out of the womb, think about the potential that has been created in that little package. Every soul has the potential to become someone of significant positive value to the world.

What are the odds that a particular infant will grow up to be a Mother Theresa or a Nelson Mandela? I think you will agree the odds are infinitesimal, so nearly all of the wonderful potential that is born with each new baby is somehow blunted to the point that the person has no real chance of being a productive human being.

Now let me bend your mind a bit more. If you are one of the fortunate few people that live a comfortable and productive life, how can you use your extreme good fortune to make a difference?

You and I have a choice to just enjoy our luck as we take one more step toward our last day, or we can do our best to actually make a difference in the world. Oh I know, it seems like lunacy to actually try to make a difference because the problems are so immense, so we shrug our shoulders and go for hedonism.

It reminds me of a line from an old song by Buffy Sainte-Marie, “Ah what can I do say a powerless few, with a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, can’t you see that their poverty’s profiting you?”

There is no solution to this musing and no magic wand to wave that will have a noticeable impact. I just wanted to take a moment at the start of 2016 to remind myself that the choice of what I am doing with my gifts is really mine. I need to step up to the realization that if I decide to make a small change in the world, that is a good thing; and if enough of us do some good things, the aggregate impact may be large enough to notice.

So, I rededicate myself to helping to grow leaders in every way I know how to do it. That is the gift I bring to the world and my reason for living.

 

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763