Body language: look instead of words


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Text comes from: Die Macht der versteckten Signale: Wortwahl - Körpersprache - Emotionen. Nonverbale Widerstände erkennen und überwinden (2014) of Dr. Gabriele Cerwinka, Gabriele Schranz, published by Linde Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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In our face there are about 20 muscles that are only there to express our feelings. The finest nuances, which are often lost in "heavy" words, can be visualized with it. This has advantages and disadvantages.

facial expressions

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Dr. Gabriele Cerwinka cerwinkaDr. Gabriele Cerwinka is a shareholder of Schranz and Cerwinka OEG.

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Here writes for you:

Gabriele Schranz SchranzGabriele Schranz is a shareholder of Schranz and Cerwinka OEG; Vienna - Zurich.

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Reactions are unconsciously registered

We react with these muscles to external or internal stimuli. Often, these irritating reactions only flit across our facial features for a fraction of a second. Nevertheless, she unconsciously registers our counterpart - and therefore all the more sustainable!

The eyes play a central role in the language of the face. It is not for nothing that one speaks of “the windows to the soul”. They reflect our feelings pretty clearly. Although I can consciously conjure a smile on my mouth, it is questionable whether this smile will also reach my eyes.

A sincere smile

A sincere smile is always reflected in the eyes. The pupils open and allow the light - and the message of the interlocutor - to penetrate our senses. A really open posture shows up in the enlarged pupils. They unconsciously awaken trust in others.

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However, if the pupils only contract slightly, we close ourselves to what is going to affect us. We close off too much light, but also too much emotion. This effect is often underlined by a more or less strong contraction of the muscles around the eye - a typical sign of defense, of internal resistance.

The “welcome look”

The eyes are one of our most important communication tools. A welcome without eye contact is not a good introduction to a conversation. Through the conscious eye contact, we signal to our counterpart that we have perceived it.

A short eye contact is also common among strangers who, for example, enter an elevator at the same time: "I have noticed you, I am peaceful, I am not afraid of you and you have nothing to fear from me." After a maximum of two seconds your gaze wanders again.

The threatening look?

This is a typical greeting ritual among strangers - without words. If we were to fix the stranger next to us in the elevator to the fifth floor with our eyes, he would feel extremely uncomfortable, maybe even threatened, according to the motto: "What does he want from me?"

In any culture, a degraded look is not a sign of weakness and submission, but rather expresses respect and appreciation. In our western culture we are accustomed to face the other, to seek the confrontation.

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Strength or weakness?

Whoever is looking away is considered unsafe, weak and almost defeated. And that is precisely what matters - especially in the professional world: to win and to be defeated. Either me or you. Only the strong survive.

Retention is not interpreted as a virtue, but as a weakness. Self-assured behavior is the top priority. Every aid is right for us. The conscious training of our body language is not so popular at the moment.

If two understand each other well, a good observer also knows from afar without hearing the words. The two are facing each other, their body is relaxed, no one disturbed the conversation by moving.

Like a mirror

The body is similar, almost mirrored, all movements are synchronous. The two are recognizable on a wavelength. Whoever is thus in harmony with the other tends to reflect the attitude of the other.

If the one slightly tilts his head, the other one does so imperceptibly. If one of the two arms is intertwined with the other, the other is not a sign of defense, but perhaps only agreement that the point is somewhat delicate, and that for both. They speak not only with words a common language.

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At eye level?

It is different if this harmony is deliberately disturbed. This happens exactly when a conversation partner suddenly turns to the side and turns the other side of the bone. The waves of conversation bounce off and are thrown back. "I will not accept your message, I will send it back!"

An important requirement for the same wavelength is the respective speaking position of the individual “transmitters”. Our communication is disturbed, for example, by the fact that one conversation partner is sitting and the other is standing. If we are not at the same level, the effort for a good discussion atmosphere is much greater.

Clear fronts

This barrier can also be deliberately used in conversational situations. Of the Chef, who sits on his "throne" while the visitor has to make do with the "penitent chair", wants to create clear fronts from the start.

He is probably not interested in a peer-to-peer. Supervision and subordination must be clearly defined.

The situation is similar with the typical "official calls": One - the "petitioner" - stands in front of the table of the "almighty official" and has to be slightly forward to present his concerns - not a good start to a conversation!

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Criticism from the superior position

On the other hand, it is also easy to argue aggressively from above. If an employee is standing next to a colleague sitting at the desk, he can express his criticism from a superior position in this position.

If the colleague remains seated, and may even retreat before the verbal attack, sinking even further into his chair, the aggressor has gotten the upper water.


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