In evolutionary terms, non-verbal signals were the communication medium for humans long before verbal communication ever evolved. And for almost all other animal species it remains their primary form of communication.
Body Language accounts for 60% – 80% of the impact of the messages you are communicating in face-to-face interactions, and people form up to 90% of their opinion about you – and their attitude toward you – in under 4 minutes. Body Language and facial expressions are simply an outward expression of emotions – they reveal how someone is feeling which can reveal a person’s attitude. When we smile, for example, our brain releases the ‘happy hormone’ Oxytocin, meaning that both the giver and receiver of the smile benefit from the interaction. But Covid-19 changed all that.
The Pandemic severed our evolutionary urge for physical touch and human Body Language interaction. With Covid-19, handshaking disappeared, and people became suspicious of each other. The fear of contracting a disease from our loved ones, friends or strangers – and isolation rules – starved people of touch and face-to-face connection with each other. People began to report feeling isolated, depressed, lonely and suicidal, and domestic violence incidents skyrocketed. The wearing of face masks limited our ability to communicate by making it impossible to decode facial expressions and other Body Language subtleties. Social distancing rules forced us to stand at a distance we would normally stand from strangers and people we don’t like. Consequently, rapport-building between people suffered seriously.
When Body Language reading first begins
For thousands of years, new-born babies and infants studied the faces of their parents and carers and learned how to read their facial cues. During the Pandemic, babies were born into a world where everyone wore masks. As a result, a new generation of children did not have the opportunity to learn to read the silent signals of facial Body Language. Adults also lost important face-to-face interactions with friends, colleagues and family which is the main factor of human communication. Primates are social animals. They need social connection and a sense of community to feel secure.
The research of Harry Harlow
In the 1950s, psychologist Harry Harlow conducted controversial experiments with monkeys where they demonstrated how lack of physical touch and emotional connection with others caused depression, withdrawal, isolation and psychological damage to primates. If we are feeling stressed, feeling unloved or ill, the physical touch from someone who loves us makes a dramatic difference to how well we recover. Harlow’s experiments highlighted what may have happened to baby humans during the Pandemic. As they grow into adulthood in the future, we will see the consequences of the stunted communication these babies have experienced.
See Harlow’s experiments:
During the Pandemic, we noticed people had stopped saying ‘Good morning’ to us as we took our daily morning walk. This was because the wearing of masks stopped any face-to-face acknowledgement of our presence. When the masks were dropped after Covid restrictions were eased however, the lack of acknowledgement to us by passers-by persisted.A negative habit of non-recognition had formed to replace the accepted social greetings.
A new form of Body Language reading has now evolved
For most people, online video calls have become the norm as a result of Covid-19 isolation. We now see each other on a screen. And we can now do things on-screen that we would never do in a real-life, face-to-face encounter – we can stare at the other person’s face and analyze every movement, blemish or spot while studying their screen background.
This has created a critical need to learn how to both present yourself credibly on screen and to read others’ Body Language attitudes by decoding cues that are largely limited to the upper body and face.
Studying and practicing Body Language can make you more persuasive, charismatic, and convincing onscreen as well as face-to-face. When you know how to make others feel relaxed around you they will become more co-operative and more open to your ideas. Not understanding how Body Language cues work means having difficulty in building rapport, making friends and being convincing.
Understanding non-verbal communication will help you discover how to reconnect with people, how to be a better Body Language reader and how to create a positive reaction with your own Body Language.