The Cryptic Language of Non-Verbal Communication

Scientists are starting to decipher the things we don’t say with words

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

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Photo: Science Photo Library/Getty Images

TTraveling through the Atlanta Airport recently during a period of heavy delays, Patti Wood could see the pain and stress etched on travelers’ bedraggled faces. Anybody could. You didn’t need to be an expert in body language to pick up the cues. People were leaning on one another, slouching in their seats, or walking slowly as if through water with phased-out zombie-like stares. But Wood is an expert, author of seven books on communication, including SNAP — Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma. So she did what she’s compelled to do in such situations, she stopped and spoke with some of them.

“What I could do reasonably is sit with a few people and listen to their pain,” she explains. “Because listening deeply involves watching and listening for cues. When you listen deeply and someone feels heard and understood, it lightens their load, and they may not have to keep giving out the message verbally and nonverbally, ‘I am in pain!’”

But as Wood and anyone else who studies body language seriously will tell you, it’s rarely so easy to read people.

The science of facial expressions and body language is incredibly complex, ever-evolving, and riddled…

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB