Nonverbal Communication – What Your Body Says About You
It is generally accepted within the scientific community that nonverbal communication makes up much of what we say. Nonverbal communication, like communication of any other sort, takes many forms.
A common estimate is that 70% of information exchanged in a typical interaction is done so wordlessly through “body language.” Another substantial factor is the manner in which words are spoken, meaning ones rate of speech, pitch, tonality, etc.
A popular adage to express this concept is “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.”
Body language consists mainly of body composition, posture and mannerisms.
Body composition is the way one’s body is shaped; how much muscle and fat one possesses, etc. as well as how that muscle and fat is distributed. Posture is the alignment of the body and how it is carried. Mannerisms are physical inflections such as tapping feet or hand gestures.
Through specific physical training, at least two of these characteristics can be controlled: Posture and body composition. Mannerisms can be controlled somewhat as well via psychological development that occurs with certain types of training.
The Halo Effect
The psychological principle of the “Halo Effect” has documented that individuals thought to be more physically attractive are also automatically assumed to be more intelligent, honest and dependable. Often, the first and most prominent trait assessed about a person colors the manner in which all other traits are perceived. Physical appearance is one of the easiest things to quickly perceive in a person, and that perception will affect the way all subsequent perceptions are made. First impressions matter.
Your Body Vs. Your Wallet
Body composition has a substantial effect on daily and even economic life.
Economists have estimated that if nobody in America was overweight, the savings on fuel, clothing, health care expenses, lost productivity and food would equal 487 billion dollars, or enough to give every household over $4,000.
Research has shown that people who are not obese are paid higher salaries, are more likely to be married, sleep better, are promoted more often and have better sex lives. That’s right; it actually costs you money to be fat.
Men are more greatly affected by this effect when it comes to salary. One study found that as much as 40% of a man’s earnings can be contributed to physical attractiveness.
A common theory behind the connection between higher salaries/promotions and a lean body is the aforementioned halo effect. Employers judge an employee to be better at a wide variety of seemingly unrelated traits based on the initial impression made by the employee’s body.
Humans are social creatures by nature. An aspect of life is that societies function on the basis of hierarchies. This is true on a large scale, such as the status afforded to certain celebrities among the public, to the smallest interaction of two people. In any social exchange, there are individuals with greater status or authority than others. This is not a black and white effect, it is scaled. Every person has a specific place on a social hierarchy.
Many decisions in life are made implicitly, within the space of a second. For example, you come upon a car driving in a manner that doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps the car is moving slower than normal or weaving a bit, perhaps it’s occupied by a drunk driver, an angry person arguing with a spouse or a just someone distracted and talking on their cell phone. Regardless, you see this car and without seeing anything more than a split second of the way the car is moving, decide that it would be best to avoid it and give it space on the highway. You navigate roadways in this way almost daily and avoid countless potential accidents.
Consider what your eyes do the moment you walk into a room full of people you’ve never met. You quickly-and generally without even being aware that you are doing so-scan the room and check out the people in it. You easily identify the most dominant individuals; the men and women who seem to know the most people and garner the most respect and attention, and simultaneously notice the less dominant men and women who seem lower on the social ladder.
Harvard psychologist Dana Carney studied this effect in detail in her research in the field of “Rapid Social Judgment and Decision Making.” In a study titled Beliefs About the Nonverbal Expression of Social Power, Carney established the behaviors expressed by both socially low and high powered people.
Professor Carney covered several dozen different characteristics, but the ones that we are concerned about are the ones that can be immediately controlled through strength training and body composition changes. Carney specifically cited posture as having an effect on whether or not a person is perceived as being powerful or not. In particular, she looked at the effects of erect posture, open body language and an upward tilted head. All three of these aspects of posture can be developed through training and will positively affect the way in which a person’s level of social power is perceived.
Social power is not the only perception that can be affected by physical training. Body composition plays a primary role in perceptions of physical attractiveness.
In women, a waist to hip ratio of .7 is considered to be ideal for sexual attractiveness. It is correlated with health, youthfulness and fertility and has been linked to a reduced risk of major diseases and even increased intelligence of offspring.
Famously, a study conducted examining the waist to hip ratios of Playboy Centerfold models from 1978 to 1998 found an average hip to waist ratio among the models of almost exactly the .7 measure. (the actual average was .68)
In men, the ideal hip to waist ratio is roughly .09. This WHR ratio in men is found most attractive and is also correlated with better health and fertility and a reduced risk of prostate and testicular cancer.
The ratio of the waist to the shoulders is another factor which plays a crucial role in degree of perceived attractiveness in males. Men with wider shoulders and narrower hips are almost universally judged to be more physically attractive than men with more even ratios. A ratio of .75 has been found to be ideal. This, like an ideal waist to hip ratio can be attained through proper physical training and nutrition.
Posture also plays a strong role in attractiveness. This is especially true for men, as socioeconomic dominance is a major factor in the initial split-second judgment that a woman makes when assessing a man’s attractiveness. Social power and its associated confidence are easily displayed through one’s posture.
The shoulders, waist and hips can all easily be influenced by targeted training methods and nutritional strategies. The Barefoot Fitness report Why Situps Suck covers training and nutritional strategies for the development of the waist and hips in detail.
The majority of what you convey about yourself to the world is done so without any concern for your words. The course of your life will inevitably be affected by the impressions you make and how you are perceived, even subconsciously, by those around you. You don’t have to be a bystander to this process. Your posture, body composition and even state of mind can all be developed. You can take control.