What’s Your Body Language IQ?

Margie LawsonBy Margie Lawson

THANK YOU to Joan Rhine for inviting me to join you all today – and to Gloria Harchar for posting the blog. I look forward to having fun with this topic,

WHAT’S YOUR BODY LANGUAGE IQ? ;-)))

Margie Lawson—psychologist, presenter, and writer—is a kinesics specialist, an expert on body language. A former college professor, she taught psychology and communication courses at the post-graduate level. Margie teaches on-line courses and presents full-day master classes and workshops across the U.S. and overseas. In 2008, she’s presenting 15 full day master classes including ones in New Zealand and Australia.

Want to WIN a Lecture Packet?

Anyone who posts a comment has a chance to win one of Margie Lawson’s LECTURE PACKETS (a $20 value):

1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions

2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More

3. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

Descriptions of the courses are included at the end of the blog.

What’s Your Body Language IQ?

By Margie Lawson

Psychologist, Presenter, Writer

I’m intrigued with the unconscious power of body language. I developed a course, and master class, Empowering Characters’ Emotions, to teach writers how to write body language well and infuse it with psychological power.

Let’s start with a True/False quiz that I created. How well do you read body language?

1. Ninety-three percent of communication is nonverbal. T F

2. If people say the right words, it doesn’t matter how they say them. T F

3. Some people wait a few seconds before showing their nonverbal response. T F

4. Body language can only be interpreted one way. T F

5. People unconsciously mirror nonverbal behavior of others. T F

6. If the words and body language contradict each other, the listener believes the body language. T F

7. Facial expressions convey 85% of the nonverbal message. T F

8. People can cover up their emotions by keeping their face blank. T F

9. Lips carry more nonverbal messages than eyes. T F

10. When anxious, people touch their face more often. T F

STOP! Did you take the quiz? Ready for the answers?

Nonverbal Language

1. Ninety-three percent of communication is nonverbal. T F

TRUE – It’s a monstrous percentage — which is why people should monitor their nonverbals. Let’s look at the number one phobia in the U.S. – public speaking. If you’re nervous you may display a cluster of anxiety flags, e.g., rolling in lips, tightening mouth, evasive eye contact, halting gait, soft voice, modulated voice tones. If your anxiety escalates, your nonverbals become more pronounced: e.g., collapsed chest, shoulders forward, respiration rapid and shallow, pupils dilated, voice pitched high, face tight. You can project more confident body language, and you’ll feel more confident. You’ll teach yourself to extinguish some of these anxiety flags. People will react positively to the new, confident you. Pavlov’s conditioning is a powerful reinforcing agent. Over time, you won’t have to pretend to be confident . You will be confident.

2. If people say the right words, it doesn’t matter how they say them. T F

FALSE — An easy one. Vocal cues carry qualifying messages that support, tweak, or discount the words. Americans are pros at sarcasm. Watch your voice inflection, rate of speech, volume, and tone. Be sure your vocal cues support your message – unless you’re telling a joke.

3. Some people wait a few seconds before showing their nonverbal response. T F

FALSE — Nonverbal communication is continuous. It’s on-going. It never stops.

4. Body language can only be interpreted one way. T F

FALSE — An easy answer, with complex levels of application. Cognitively, people know there are multiple interpretations. Yet, people interpret nonverbals one way at an unconscious level and act on those feelings.

Let’s imagine a wife asks her husband to accompany her to visit her mother, and in the next half-second his gaze shifts away and back, he sighs, and his mouth tightens.

The wife reads his nonverbals, assumes her husband doesn’t want to go, and reacts before he can say anything. She says, “Forget it. I’ll go without you.” Her tone is sharp enough to cut a diamond (vocal cue and hyperbole). Her nonverbals — posture stiffening, eyes flashing, harsh vocal cues — surprise her husband.

He stares at her, his mouth open (confused) or closed tight (agitated). She turns, grabs the keys, and leaves, punctuating her anger by slamming the door. The husband stands there wondering what the heck happened.

Her question, asking him to go with her, triggered a thought. He recalled the car had a vibration the last time he drove it and he wondered if the tires needed to be balanced. His split-second nonverbal responses – shifting gaze, a sigh, and his mouth tightening – reflected his body responding to his thoughts about the tires. WHOOPS! The wife thought his nonverbals communicated that he didn’t want to go with her to visit her mother. She reacted with anger. He has no idea why she got angry and left. He probably thinks she’s PMS’y. ;-)))

Situations like that play out too frequently with couples, friends, coworkers. People misinterpret nuances of body language and take action. Misreading the escalating stimulus/response patterns of nonverbals, builds conflict. Pausing, realizing that body language can be interpreted in a gazillion ways, and getting clarification, can result in fewer slammed doors and more smiles.

5. People unconsciously mirror nonverbal behavior of others. T F

TRUE – and so fun! When you’re in a restaurant, watch couples and friends who like each other. They both lean forward seemingly at the same time. One leads by a nanosecond. They may reach for their beverages and drink at the same time. They mirror posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice patterns. Their body language looks choreographed.

6. If the words and body language contradict each other, the listener believes the body language. T F

TRUE — This answer was covered in #5. :-)))

7. Facial expressions convey 85% of the nonverbal message. T F

FALSE – Facial expressions are key, but vocal cues, posture, movements, spatial relationships, all contribute to the nonverbal message. Depending on the research, faces carry 30 to 50% of the nonverbal message.

8. People can cover up their emotions by keeping their face blank. T F

FALSE — Faces are never blank. Lips twitch. Nostrils flare. Eyes narrow or widen almost imperceptibly. Mouths barely open or barely tighten. Pupils dilate. Tips of tongues show when people moisten lips. To a kinesics specialist, these are all diagnostic indicators. To a writer, these are cues to write flicker-face emotions.

9. Lips carry more nonverbal messages than eyes. T F

TRUE – The lips do more. Watch people’s mouths. You’ll have more insight into their reactions.

10. When anxious, people touch their face more often. T F

TRUE – Self-Touch behaviors increase when people are anxious. They touch their face (cheek, eyebrow, lips, nose, ear), or near their face (throat, jaw, back of neck, behind ear, hair), or hands and arms.

Self-touch behaviors accelerate when anxiety is high. They are body language polygraphs. When people are in a job interview, when suspects are interrogated, when a guy proposes to his gal, self-touch behaviors significantly increase. The person who’s anxious may touch their face, throat, hand, or arm every 10 to 20 seconds, sometimes every couple of seconds, unaware of their self-touch behavior.

HOW DID YOU SCORE? Did you make a 100? 90? 80?

Chime in. I’ll respond throughout the day and this evening. Check back, I’ll respond.

Body language is fascinating. For those of you who are writers, you get to monitor your body language when you’re pitching to agents and editors, interacting with booksellers, introducing a speaker, being on a panel, presenting a workshop, and doing a book signing.

PLUS – When you’re capturing nonverbal communication on the page, you get to explore the full range of body language, and challenge yourself to write it fresh. Look at the power you have with body language. You can use nonverbals to complicate scenes and drive plot points. :-)))

REMEMBER: YOU COULD WIN A LECTURE PACKET!

Post a comment – and you’ll be included in the drawing to WIN one of my LECTURE PACKETS (a $20 value).

Here’s a brief description of each topic.

Empowering Characters’ Emotions (ECE) is offered on-line in March. Writers learn the full range of nonverbal communication, writing fresh, the Four Levels of Powering Up Emotion, and how to use her EDITS System.

In May, Margie teaches her advanced editing course on-line: Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More. Writers take the EDITS System deeper, learn her Five Question Scene Checklist, dig deep into more editing techniques, and explore 25 rhetorical devices to take their writing to a higher level.

Margie also developed Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, a power-packed on-line course and master class that helps writers defeat their self-defeating behaviors by accessing the writer’s strengths.

Lectures from each of Margie’s on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from her web site. For more information on her courses, lecture packets, and presentations, visit her web site: http://www.MargieLawson.com .

The WINNER will be drawn at 9PM tonight. The WINNER will be posted here.

Thank you!

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37 thoughts on “What’s Your Body Language IQ?

  1. Hey, Margie. This is so much fun.

    I missed the one about lips, which was silly of me because my characters press their lips together, or their lips flatten, or curl up at the corners, or open!

    I particularly enjoyed your example #4, where he was thinking the tires might be bad and she thought he didn’t want to go with her to her mother’s.

  2. Now this is interesting. :)

    I can see how I do some things you mentioned myself. I’ve also seen how I’ve somewhat unconsciously used some of the same things in my characters. And THEN I saw something I can use to heighten the tension in a scene in a cross-country trek. :)

    I don’t know why I was surprised that lips show more than eyes. It makes sense when I think about it, but I’ve just always thought of it the other way around.

  3. Margie, fantastic stuff! I can’t wait to incorporate some of this in my writing.

    Everyone, I took Margie’s “Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors” class, despite the fact that I didn’t think I had the time to do it. After the first week I realized I didn’t have the time not to.

    Thanks so much for sharing with us, Margie!

    Joan

  4. Margie, I missed #6. I thought words would carry more impact than body language.

    Thanks, this was great

    Betty Gordon

  5. Gloria —

    Most people think the EYES win. But out LIPS carry more nonverbal messages. Glad you have lips well represented in your writing. :-)))

    Thanks for jumping in the blog pool first!

  6. Woohoo! I did very well – but then, I live with a psychologist! I slowed on the lips one until I remembered my ball-playing son. He has no expression on his face when he’s pitching but every now and then, he’ll give a tiny twitch of the lips after a solid throw. Now I need to remember to bring these ideas into play with my characters more often.

  7. Hey Jeff —

    Hmm, you’re a guy — and you’re not a perfect communicator? Surprise! :-)))

    Seriously — for guys to get an 80% or higher is good. Females monitor their nonverbals, as well as interpret nonverbals, better than guys.

    Good to see you here!

  8. Jen —

    Excellent! My body language blog triggered new ideas you can use to add depth to your characters. Yay!

    If you’re interesting in more fresh information on body language, my Empowering Characters’ Emotions course (and Lecture Packet) covers how to write the full range of nonverbal communication as well as my EDITS System. Emphasis on paralanguage (vocal cues) which writers need to know to add psychological power to their scenes.

    I teach Empowering Characters’ Emotions on-line in March. :-)))

  9. Joan —

    I’m glad to hear you got a lot out of my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors class. I bet you’re taking charge of your days, and your writing time, and boosting your producitivity. :-)))

    Ah – Now you’re learning about my Deep Editing expertise. Using psychological power to hook the reader’s emotions contributes to making your book a page turner!

  10. Betty —

    Hello! Glad you learned something new about body language.

    If you want to learn more, check out a full description of my Empowering Characters’ Emotions course on my web site: http://www.MargieLawosn.com — and click on LECTURE PACKETS.

    Empowering Characters’ Emotions is a power-packed course, and a power-packed full day master class. :-)))

    Thanks for dropping by the blog. Maybe you’ll be the WINNER today!

  11. Hi, Margie. I see now that I neglect using lips and concentrate too much on eyes. Maybe I need to retake your class in March and concentrate more this time around.

    Thanks for the added insights.

    Barb

  12. I was in a family meeting with a counselor and my daughter yesterday and wasn’t even conscious of feeling anxious but I was sure touching my hands and rings a lot. I don’t think I use the mouths of the characters in my books enough, Mainly to eat, talk and kiss, not to show emotion. I’d better step that up. I love the idea of misunderstanding another person’s body language when you were each thinking about totally different things. What a way to move a plot forward.

  13. Tessa —

    Ah – You live with a psychologist. You know body language. :-)))

    Excellent example of your son’s face showing little emotion in a high pressure situation, except for a lip twitch. I call that a FLICKER FACE EMOTION in my ECE course — and I got into iin depth and share examples from debut and award-winning authors. Writers definitely need to learn to think like psychologists and capture a variety of flicker face emotions on the page to add emotive power.

    Thanks for dropping by the blog!

  14. Hey Barbara —

    Fun to see you on one of my blogs again. You get around!

    As you know, my Empowering Characters’ Emotions course was loaded with power-content and power-examples when you took it. AND, I’ve added more topics, more examples, and taken nonverbal communication deeper.

    If it works in your schedule for you to take an on-line class in March, I’d love to see you in class again. Registration info is on my website, http://www.MargieLawson.com, under ON-LINE CLASSES. The deadline for registering is Feb. 27th.

    If you have questions, just ask! margie@margielawson.com ;-)))

  15. Carol —

    Thank you for sharing about a situation where you were anxious. I bet everyone in that counseling session displayed a wealth of body lauguage–incuding the following:

    –Emblems
    –Affect Displays
    –Illustrators
    –Adaptors
    –Tells
    –Denial Flags

    Writers can learn how to write the full range of body language, learn how to use it to deepen characters, to add power to plot. Writers have more tools to psycholgically strengthen their writing and boost it onto a bestseller list. :-)))

  16. Hello Everyone!

    Several people who haven’t posted have e-mailed me privately, asking for more information about what I cover in my Empowering Characters’ Emotions course. Here’s the course description:

    Want to add a psychological punch to your writing and editing?

    Want to learn how to capture the full range of body language on the page?

    Want to turn your work into a page-turner by hooking the reader viscerally?

    If so – this is the course for you.

    Look forward to learning:

    –The EDITS System
    –The Four Levels of Powering Up Emotion
    –Backstory management
    –Kinesics, including understanding Emblems, Illustrators, Affect Displays, Tells, Adaptors, Denial Flags
    –Haptics and Proxemics
    –Facial expressions: Lips, Eyes, Full face, and Flicker Face Emotions
    –Paralanguage (vocal cues)
    –Motivation Reaction Units and Proprioceptive Stimuli
    –Writing the Recovery for your characters
    –Ideomotoric shifts
    –Mirroring, Communication Accommodation
    –Levels of intimacy, Love signals
    –Nonverbal gender differences
    –Emotional authenticity
    –Backloading
    –In-trancing the Reader
    –Writing fresh . . .
    –Projecting Emotion for a Non-POV character
    –Carrying a Nonverbal Image Forward

    I teach each of my on-line courses only once per year. I’m teaching Empowering Characters’ Emotions on-line in March.

    I’m teaching my advanced editing course on-line in May: Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More.

    Have fun with the Body Language Quiz. See how your spouses score. ;-)))

    Don’t be shy. Feel free to pop on the blog and share your score. I’ll be dropping by the blog for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The drawing for the free LECTURE PACKET is at 9PM Mountain Time.

    Thanks for listening. Enjoy your weekend.

  17. Paula —

    Thank you for joining us today — and for taking the quiz.

    Glad you enjoyed it. Keep in mind, the information in the blog gives you an idea of what’s covered in Empowering Characters’ Emotions. With over 250 pages of lectures in ECE, you learn how to empower your writing, big time. ;-))

  18. Hi Margie! Great post–I’m catching the tail end of The African Queen as I type (I’m a sucker for good movies) and it’s fascinating to see how much a pair of really good actors like Bogart and Hepburn do use nonverbals!

    So much for us writers to learn!!! Thanks, CJ

  19. I LOVE this type of stuff. I find it so interesting, not only in the way I can use it to strengthen my writing but in reading other people.

    Thanks Margie!!

    Ginger

  20. CJ —

    Good for you, watching a movie while you type. Stars like Bogart and Hepburn are the best at nonverbals. Great character studies!

    Thanks for dropping by today. ;-)))

  21. Ginger —

    You’re smart to ues body language to strengthen your scenes. So fun to use it not only to deepen characters, but to give the reader a fresh read, and to hook the reader viscerally.

    Like CJ said — So much for writers to learn and apply!

    Thanks for taking the time to post to the blog.
    Enjoy your weekend. :-)))

  22. Fun quiz! I better bone up on analyzing body language. I got number 7 and 9 wrong. :(
    I tend to think the ‘eyes are the windows of the soul’ and thought they would convey more but it stands to reason they’re only a small part of the whole picture. A question for you, Margie. How do you tell if various body movements are really conveying a person’s internal thoughts or are simply an unconscious habit/quirk? Inquiring minds want to know. :)

  23. I missed #7 and #9.

    Since this is the first time I’ve ever posted a comment on a blog, you should see how many times I’ve touched my face while I was considering it! I’m a poster child for #10! :-)

  24. Karen —

    Good question. Thanks for asking. ;)))

    Karen asked:

    Margie. How do you tell if various body movements are really conveying a person’s internal thoughts or are simply an unconscious habit/quirk?

    Movements often reflect an internal processing of emotion. We may not know what the movement, such as a flicker face emotion means, but we know that a comment struck home. In context, we may infer the meaning.

    Someone’s nose may itch, prompting them to scratch it. No big emotional message there.

    Yet, if a person exhibits a dozen self-touch behaviors in less than three minutes, I’d say they’re agitated and likely covering up something. Knowing the context, that they’re being questioned about a crime, gives interviewers clues to pursue the line of questions that triggered more self-touch behaviors.

    I hope this was helpful. It is a fascinating area. For most writers, the more they learn about the nuances of body language, the more they want to learn. ;-)))

    Thanks for joining us today!

    AND — Time for me to have the drawing to see who won the Lecture Packet!

  25. Hello Everyone!

    Our WINNER: Tessa McDermid!

    Tessa, Please e-mail me and let me know which Lecture Packet you’d like — Margie@MargieLawson.com

    1. Empowering Characters’ Emotions:
    Writers learn the full range of nonverbal communication, writing fresh, the Four Levels of Powering Up Emotion, and how to use her EDITS System.

    2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More:
    Writers take the EDITS System deeper, learn her Five Question Scene Checklist, dig deep into more editing techniques, and explore 25 rhetorical devices to take their writing to a higher level.

    3. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors:
    A power-packed on-line course and master class that helps writers defeat their self-defeating behaviors by accessing the writer’s strengths.

    THANK YOU AGAIN TO GLORIA HARCHAR AND JOAN RHINE for your work behind the scenes. I appreciate you!

    I enjoyed connecting with everyone who commented today, and look forward to seeing you on-line again.

    Have fun using body language to empower your writing. :-)))

  26. Betsy —

    You’re fun! Thanks for posting to your first blog. Wasn’t that easy?

    I bet you’ll be paying more attention to nuanced body language now, especially self-touch behaviors. Have fun strengthening your writing.

    Thanks again for chiming in. :-)))

    Betsy Gray Says:
    February 17, 2008 at 3:24 am
    I missed #7 and #9.

    Since this is the first time I’ve ever posted a comment on a blog, you should see how many times I’ve touched my face while I was considering it! I’m a poster child for #10!

  27. Hello Margie! I really enjoyed reading this post. It was very enlightening. I never thought about # 10 befroe, but how true it is! When I get anxious or nervous I run my hands through my hair. I never thought about applying this to my characters! Thank You!

  28. Pingback: What’s Your Body Language IQ? « Web Writing Wonders « The Unblocked Writer

  29. Hi Margie:

    The mirroring behavior is fascinating. Is it only with people who like each other? Is it instant or after a time period of being together? together? Thanks I’m learning so much.

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