There is a funny commercial going around these days about a man leaning on an orangutan’s cage waiting for his girl friend. Even gestures the man makes, the ape imitates, right to the kiss the man gives his girl friend when she arrives. The man and woman walk off and the orangutan goes off, lips still pursed, in the same direction.
This is a prime example of body language. It demonstrates the question some researchers have about the development nonverbal language. Did it exist before we could speak, did it occur as well as language? Is it a learned behavior from watching others?
The science has not yet come up with an answer, but there are some clues. There have been observations of blind children in different cultures who smile and laugh even though they have never seen a smile.
Researchers have discovered two types of nonverbal language from their studies: voluntary, which refers to movement, gestures and poses made consciously and involuntary body language, which often takes the form of facial expressions that happen unconsciously very quickly.
The man and the ape were making voluntary movements. Others that we know about include conscious smiling, hand movements (naughty and nice) and imitation. Although people are generally not aware of it, people send and receive non-verbal information. Some of these indicate what the person really means. Other times there is misunderstanding because the body language alone is not sufficient to understanding.
In spite of the possibility for confusion the art of nonverbal communication is studied in the field of selling. It is important for sales personnel to be able to read the nonverbal language of the client. With added information on how to subtly redirect the client, a salesman who has studied the field can close the deal. Places where sales people are being taught body language include insurance companies, car-showrooms and direct sales companies.
It’s very hard to tell what a person’s nonverbal language is saying based on the information I have given you. You can learn about programs on how to read body language from sites like Self Help Discovery or other places on the internet.