Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

I Speak Two Languages, Body and English

Mae West, the American actress and sex symbol, once said that she spoke “two languages, Body and English.”  Everyone’s heard of body language (lenguaje corporal in Spanish) but how many are conscious of the language they give off with actions and gestures?  In an article entitled 10 Powerful Body Language Tips by Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. and author,  the article not only shares ten fascinating tips to make a nonverbal impact on your workplace but gives scientific evidence for the tips making it all the more believable.  Here’s just a few to tease you.

  1. To boost your confidence, assume a power pose.  A “high-power” pose such as leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on the desk actually causes a hormonal shift in both males and females giving them a greater feeling of power and willingness to take risks.
  2. To connect with someone instantly, shake their hand.  People are two times more likely to remember you if you shake their hands, as the power of touch creates a human bond within as little as 1/40 of a second.
  3. To improve your speech use your hands.  Brain imaging found that the area of the brain where verbal speech comes from, Broca’s Area, is active when you are both talking and when you wave your hands.
  4. To improve your memory, uncross your arms and legs.  A study showed that university students with uncrossed legs and arms remembered 38% more of the lecture content than students who didn’t leave them uncrossed.

There is no more important time for positive body language than during a presidential debate.  Body language expert and author of You Can’t Lie to Me  Janine Driver said after the first of three debates that “in respect to body language Romney was the winner.”  An article in the Daily Mail called President Obama’s performance poor as he was laid back and unassertive.  He kept his head tilted or down instead of upward, projecting less confidence, and Romney kept his head “on straight” and focused his eyes either on the president or on the moderator.

Driver also she said that ”if you were from another country and watched this based on body language, people would think that Mitt Romney was already the president.”  This is very true and I have first-hand experience!  I’ve been using the presidential debates with certain classes and it was the students in fact who reminded me just how big of a role body language plays during the debates.  Many either without having an opinion or in fact preferring Obama said that Romney was the clear winner due to his body language.  Political lingo about loop-holes or the affects of tax cuts on the deficit are hard for native English speakers to understand, so it makes complete sense why body language plays a key role in the attitudes towards the candidates both in America and beyond.

ABC news called the Vice Presidential debate last week a case of a “bulldog versus a puppy.”  Vice President Biden was more aggressive and smiled profusely during the debate, which looked positive compared to his opponent; however, a study done by assistant professor at Purdue University, Chris Kowal, revealed another side of Biden.  By using computer software that analyzes the facial expressions produced by nearly 400 muscles in the face, Biden’s facial expressions revealed readings of frustration and discomfort, “the emotions you might experience laughing at a funeral” Kowal said.

Elections come down to many things, including tax plans, social agendas, body language and swing states.  Paul Ryan can’t make up for his performance on the body language stage, but President Obama has two more opportunities.  I’m eager to hear what both candidates have to say in the upcoming debates.  No doubt there will be a lot of ‘malarkey’ spoken, and the altitude won’t be an issue… but was it really an issue before?

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