What’s your Superpower?
A study that Albert Mehrabian undertook in 1971, suggested that the way we communicate face to face is made up from three components – what we say, the tone of our voice and the body language we use. Surprisingly, the words we use only make up a tiny part of the way we communicate with the bulk of it being taken up by our body language, or non-verbal communication.
- Words (the literal meaning) account for 7% of the overall message
- Tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message
- Body Language accounts for 55% of the overall message
There are certain non-verbal communication (body language) skills that each of us possesses in lesser or greater amounts.
There are six main skills within the way we use our body language and there are strengths and drawbacks associated with each:
Some people are naturally emotionally effusive. They easily convey their felt emotions through facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, and body movement. The upside is that emotionally expressive people tend to be more popular, and can be the life of the party. The downside is that everyone knows what you are feeling. Importantly, emotional expressiveness is a key component of charisma and is related to what is called “dynamic attractiveness.”
You know this is your Body Language Superpower if people can always tell what you think about things or people, even though you think you are being diplomatic!
This is skill in monitoring and controlling the nonverbal expression of emotions and feelings, and being able to cover felt emotional states with a different, emotional “mask.” People high in emotional control are skilled emotional actors, but they may appear distant and “hard to read.” People with high levels of emotional control are like poker players—you never know what they are really feeling or thinking inside.
You know this is your Body Language Superpower if people often think you are difficult to read or if you are good at faking how you feel.
People skilled in emotional sensitivity are good at “reading” others’ non-verbal cues, and are able to easily detect others’ emotional states. As a result, those who possess a great deal of emotional sensitivity are seen as empathic; these are the persons whom others seek out when they are troubled or in pain. On the downside, possessing too much emotional sensitivity can make you prone to “emotional contagion”—feeling other people’s pain and emotional states to the extent that you become “infected” by their emotions.
You know this is your Body Language Superpower if you can always tell how other people are feeling and know if there is something that is upsetting them, even when they are trying to be normal.
This is a non-verbal skill with some elements of verbal and social competence. Social sensitivity it is the ability to “read” social situations, and to know how to behave appropriately in a wide range of social settings. It helps the skilled individual to understand the complexities of social interaction, and to anticipate others’ actions and behaviours.
You know this is your Body Language Superpower if people can read a room and can fit in in any kind of situation.
Skill in Deception.
The ability to lie successfully partly involves being able to tell a plausible verbal lie, but also requires the ability to portray oneself as honest. Research has determined that some people are successful liars simply because they look more honest overall, regardless of whether they are lying or telling the truth. Their non-verbal behaviour, which includes rapid speech, an expressive face, and fluid body movements makes certain skilled individuals better liars.
You know this is your Body Language Superpower if people can rarely if ever tell when you are lying!
Skill in Detecting Deception.
A very rare non-verbal skill is the ability to detect deception. Most people cannot detect deception at better than chance levels, but a very few individuals—what Paul Ekman and his colleagues call “wizards”—are able to detect deception through careful analyses of both verbal and non-verbal cues. This skill was portrayed in the TV seriesLie to Me.
You know this is your Body Language Superpower if you can always spot a liar – and not just because you have evidence to prove it!