Section B

Body Language

"I liked him the minute I saw him!" "Before she even said a word, I knew there was something funny about her." Such statements are examples of "snap judgments", opinions which are formed suddenly, seemingly on no sound reason at all. Most people say snap judgments are unsound or even dangerous. They also admit they often make snap judgments and find them to be fairly sound.

Snap judgments like "love at first sight" or "instant hate", if taken seriously, have usually been considered signs of immaturity or lack of common sense. When someone "has a feeling" about someone else, people more often laugh than pay attention. Most people think you find out about a person by listening to what he says over a period of time. Others say "actions speak louder than words," usually in relation to keeping promises, paying bills or sending money home.

Because people assume "you are what you say you are", they talk a lot to become acquainted with each other. Once two people have become acquainted, they think it was their conversation that gave them their information about each other.

As behavioral sciences develop, however, researchers find the importance of speech has been overestimated. Although speech is the most obvious form of communication, we do use other forms of which we may be only partially aware or, in some cases, completely unaware. It is possible we are unconsciously sending messages with every action, messages which are unconsciously picked up by others and used in forming opinions. These unconscious actions and reactions to them may in part account for our "feelings" and "snap judgments".

We communicate a great deal, researchers have found, with our bodies — by the way we move, sit, stand and what we do with our hands and heads. Imagine a few people sitting in a waiting room: one is tapping his fingers on his briefcase, another keeps rubbing his hands together, another is biting his fingernails, still another grabs the arms of his chair tightly and one keeps running his fingers through his hair. These people aren't talking but they're "saying" a lot if you know the "body language" they're using.

Two of the most "telling" forms of behavior are driving a car and playing games. Notice a person's reaction to stress in these situations and to aggressive behavior in others. Those who easily become angry, excited, passive or resentful when driving or playing may be giving insights into the inside self.

While clothing serves a purely practical function, how you dress also communicates many things about your social status, state of mind and even your aspirations and dreams. The eleven-year-old girl who dresses like a college student and the forty-year-old woman who dresses like a teenager are saying something through what they wear. What you communicate through your kind of dress definitely influences others to accept the picture of yourself you are projecting: in the business world, the person who dresses like a successful manager is most likely to be promoted into a managing position.

Also important are the ornaments a person wears: buttons, medals, jewels, etc. Such ornaments are often the means by which a person announces a variety of things about himself: his convictions (campaign buttons), his beliefs (religious tokens), his membership in certain groups (club pins or badges), his past achievements (college ring or Phi Beta Kappa key) and his economic status (diamonds).

Another sign of a person's nature is said to be found in his choices in architecture and furniture. A person who would really like to live in a castle would probably be more at home in the Middle Ages. Those who like Victorian family houses and furniture might secretly welcome a return to more rigid social norms. People who are content with modern design are probably comfortable with modern life-styles.

When you see a person for the first time, even though he doesn't speak to you, you begin watching him — his actions, his attitude, his clothing and many other things. There's a wealth of information there if you know how to "read" it. Perhaps snap judgments aren't so unsound after all.