The body does not lie

Develop your body’s non-verbal communication by using archetypal movements to transmit a message, and use your communication style to overcome challenges that habitually set introverts and extroverts apart.

Our BSL Professor Vanya Loroch and his colleague, Anthony Hughes, teach an approach to understanding effective vocal and non-verbal communication with two objectives in mind: to make us aware of different body movements and sounds of the voice that transmit specific real messages, and to show that by deconstructing these movements, we can learn to apply the archetypes to communicate more effectively the way what we want. How does this work?

Each of our principal emotional patterns – love, fear, anger, sadness, indifference, curiosity, joy and confidence – are recognizable in archetypes of body movements as we speak.  The body cannot lie, even if in words we do not say what we really feel or know to be true. When we talk to someone, the way our body moves can be deconstructed to six archetypes of basic attitudes of movement.  These were first described by a German-Swiss therapist, Silvia Ostertag, in the 1990s as:

  1. The directional bow and arrow where a gesture or arm movement imitates a thought or intention going towards its goal;
  2. The receptive and welcoming flower most obviously shown when someone opens their arms to greet a friend or accept something;
  3. The wall where hands flattened out indicate that a limit has been reached, or where we set norms or abide by regulations;
  4. The void which is either silence and listening to others, or “wait and see” before taking action;
  5. The pulling back-and-forth of the rope between hesitation or eagerness, or between curiosity and fear, or courage and prudence;
  6. And finally, “being present”, expressed either in the form of ego-driven ambition, arrogance or willful self-imposition on one extreme side, or quiet self-confidence on one side.

When we talk, give a presentation to an audience or argue our point of view to a friend, we automatically move our hands, head and body in ways that reflect one or more of these attitudinal positions and movements. To a great extent, of course, the way we move our hands when we talk is a result of our individual socio-cultural learning, but all human beings have ways to express their feelings and emotions, and even in the most dry academic talk by a lecturer in front of a large audience of students, he or she will automatically use hand gestures or different tones of voice to express or emphasize his or her message. Each of the body movements can be related to the communication styles already studied and taught the world over, and which range from introvert to extrovert on one axis, and from goal-oriented to extreme process-oriented on the other axis. All our actions and our communication are thus composed of a style we adopt and the accompanying body language we show.

Learning to recognize how these six archetypes of basic communication movements overlap with emotive expressions was the most useful part of this workshop as it offered an innovative look at tools we can learn to use to communicate effectively and see (as well as hear) better what others say to us.

Author: Olivier Brenninkmeijer PhDOlivier Brenninkmeijer PhD
Associate Dean, BSL


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