Body and soul

 
 

With body language such a huge facet in daily life, Leanne Waters looks at what is being said in the conversations of the subconscious

Body language is a concept that has been played around with a great deal in contemporary society. However, it is not a modern invention, nor is it an exclusive characteristic of the human species.

The most accurate form of non-verbal communication, researchers have gone, as far to estimate that approximately 60 to 70 per cent of what we communicate to others is not through the use of words or verbal exchange. But rather, that we are constantly sending, receiving and subconsciously interpreting messages being exchanged via our body language – from posture, to gestures, eye movements and facial expressions; ‘reading’ one another’s body language can tell us the mood, feelings, attitude and even state of mind of our given company.

Body language is a necessity in the animal kingdom. And yes, despite the beliefs of the self-convinced hierarchy among us, we too belong to this kingdom in which the utilisation of body language is anything but primitive. In 1995, Susan Falder compiled an article, “Animal Body Language”, which claimed the winning first place of the prestigious ASBA ‘Golden Bell Award” for K-8 Curriculum.

In her research, Falder states that: “Kinesics, is the study of non-linguistic bodily movements, such as gestures and facial expressions (…) and is an important way to study different ways of communication within different species. Animals meet with others in various ways: through reproduction and the raising of the young, in defining and observing rank, through defending territory, and mutual warnings against dangers and enemies.

“All this and much more depend on an animal understanding the moods and intentions of others of its kind, on adapting its own behaviour to these cues, and influencing the behaviour of others in turn. Since animals, unlike humans, have no words to communicate with each other, they use signs of all kinds. This non-verbal communication plays an important role for us humans, too, both as a complement to and a precursor, which means one that precedes and indicates, suggests, or announces someone or something to come, of language.”

So how important is body language in our personal exchanges as students? We have all had that moment wherein that physical boundary has been crossed in some shape or form and has thus resulted in our own discomfort.

A perfect example of this discomfort and indeed the inspiration for this very piece would be the recently unwanted caress of this writer’s knee on a morning bus. Said moment – or something very similar – occurs for almost everyone, regardless of gender. For the most part, what sets these boundaries comes down to individual personalities, upbringing and moral disposition. However, it is a naive contention to disregard the instinctive nature of humans and animals alike in overshadowing and solidifying our physical perimeters with one another.

This being said, anyone who has frequented the Coppers dancefloor can surely attest to the huge alteration that context can make in our physical linguistics among peers. How we conduct ourselves in our daily behaviours understands and adheres to a socially accepted standard, in which awareness and consideration play a huge part.

One would never, for example, proceed to ‘bump and grind’ mid-conversation over a cup of coffee, right? And yet throw a handful of Jägerbombs and the words “from the window to the wall…” into the mix and said advancements become the status quo. Granted, here we find that motivation also plays a monumental role in our personal conductions; if on the dance floor, one is hardly being motivated by their desire to talk current affairs and ‘really get to know’ someone.

Furthermore, much aside from the affliction of our own youth, most of us belonging to the UCD alumni are Irish. According to the researchers of eDiplomat, whose objective is to accurately inform non-nationalists of Irish culture, Irish people are “interested in people and place great value on the individual.

“They are naturally courteous, quick-witted and will go out of their way to welcome visitors to their country (…) Although they work very hard, the Irish are dedicated to a less stressful lifestyle that allows time for friends and family, a visit to the pub, a cup of tea, or just a bit of a chat on the corner.”

This observation claims that we as a people “are not very physically demonstrative and are not comfortable with public displays of affection”; that the Irish “are uncomfortable with loud, aggressive, and arrogant behaviour”. Though entirely down to individual interpretation and the idiosyncratic nature of people, our demeanour and the messages we are sending out is certainly something under consideration for the next night out in Coppers.

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