Body Language, Personal Interaction and Context
The interplay among body language, personal interaction, and context is both complex and comprehensive. These three elements fit together so well and so completely that for many years researchers had difficulty pulling them apart enough to reveal the role each plays with the others.
While the scientific knowledge in this area is by no means complete, we do know a great deal more than ever. This knowledge is not simply academic; it has practical applications everyone can learn and apply in their daily lives.
Practical Applications of These Three ElementsFor most people, practical applications of these three elements are most helpful when used within personal relationships and business relationships. Put more simply, we spend the largest portion of our lives at work and at home, so it only makes sense to learn all we can about how to make communication in those two environments as clear and easy as possible.
At HomeYou may interact with many different people as part of your home life. Your spouse or significant other, your child, your parents, your friends, and your neighbours are all examples of people with whom you likely interact regularly.
For instance, when you have a close and committed relationship with another person, the quality and accuracy of your communications are vital to the strength and happiness of the relationship. As you and your partner first got to know each other, you each gradually learned to read each other’s body language within your personal interactions and within different contexts. The longer the relationship lasts, the better you each become in this area – at least, theoretically.
What often happens, though, is that familiarity over time leads to less effort put into the relationship; more opportunities for miscommunication and conflict; and a generally falling off of the importance placed on communicating well with each other.
You can freshen up and improve your committed relationship by re-focusing attention on body language, personal interaction, and context. For instance, if you know your spouse is not a ‘morning person’ then take that into account as you interact at that time of the day. Or, if your spouse is uncomfortable in social situations, agree ahead of time on how the two of you will communicate when it’s time to take a break or head home. A wink of the eye, a gentle tug on the arm, or some other non-verbal cue may be all it takes to communicate a clear message.
At WorkDepending on your job, you may interact with a great number of people each day. This can include customers, the general public, co-workers, supervisors, managers, and such. Paying attention to and applying your knowledge of body language and context to these personal interactions can go a long way toward making them more productive and more pleasant.
For instance, when you interact with a customer it’s very helpful to pay attention to his or her body language. Do you sense anger? Unhappiness? Confusion? Or simply wanting to take care of a routine activity? Now consider the context. Is this a new customer? A long time customer? A harried mother or father trying to take care of errands during lunch? A customer who has waited in line a very long time?
These are all examples of factors that influence your approach to a personal interaction with that customer. A new customer who is confused about a new product requires a different style of interaction (friendly, helpful, reassuring) than a harried mother or father trying to get back to work on time (friendly, prompt, focused).
What about interacting with your boss? Or your co-workers? What aspects of body language, context, and personal interaction should you focus on and combine to find the best approach to that person? These are the kinds of questions you can ask yourself before, during, and after each interaction as a way of learning how to better manage all of those types of people and situations.
In The End….In the end, there is no magic formula for how body language, personal interaction, and context relate and combine together. There can be tremendous variation even with the same person and the same context, depending on the particular day or outside influences.
This is why continuing to study and learn about body language and its practical applications is such a great way to improve your ability to communicate. You certainly can’t control anyone else, but when you thoroughly prepare yourself with learning and information, you are in a much better position to manage all of your personal interactions and create productive communication.