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Learning How to Speak Without Words

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Have you ever wished you could read minds or speak without words?

Do you wonder what it would be like to know how your friends and loved ones were feeling automatically?

Were they being honest with you?

Is that person you had your eye on interested in you?

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While it may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel, recognizing the many ways we communicate using nonverbal cues allows you to catch a glimpse into the minds of the surrounding people.

Learning How to Speak Without Words

As a psychologist, I make my living talking to people.

However, it is often the information I receive through unspoken means, such as facial expressions, gestures, and body postures, that is most useful.

While I can’t teach you how to read minds, I can show you how to identify some common nonverbal cues and give you some tips to improve your awareness of nonverbal communication.

First, here are some ways we rely on nonverbal communication daily without even knowing it.

Expressing Emotion

While people may say that someone “wears their heart on their sleeve,” they’re much more likely to be wearing it on their face.

Many studies have shown that people can recognize emotions with a high level of accuracy just based on a brief glimpse at a person’s face.

The study participants consistently identified the following emotions:

  • happiness
  • anger
  • disgust
  • surprise
  • fear
  • sadness
  • contempt

They also conducted these studies worldwide and found the same results regardless of where the participants lived.

Recognizing Danger

One of the other things we assess automatically when meeting a new person is the potential for danger.

Our brains can determine almost instantly, even when looking at a photo of an unknown person, how dominant or submissive they are based solely on their posture and expression.

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We have honed these instincts over centuries to help keep us safe and to identify who we can trust.

Spotting Deception

Other nonverbal signals that are easy to spot are related to dishonesty.

Though we should note that there isn’t any way to be 100% certain that someone is lying based on a few nonverbal cues, it has been shown that people are more likely to do certain things when being deceptive.

For instance, a person will sometimes touch their face—usually touching their nose or briefly covering their mouth when telling a lie.

You might also notice someone shrugging his or her shoulders without realizing it when saying something untrue.

It’s also easy to determine if someone is genuinely enjoying him or herself by noticing if their smile reaches all the way to their eyes.

A fake smile only touches the mouth and doesn’t cause any of the telltale crinkles in the skin near the eyes.

You can also tell if the person you’re speaking to disagrees with you or disapproves of what you’re saying by noticing that they’re pursing their lips.

Identifying Attraction

Facial expressions can also be reliable indicators of whether someone is potentially interested in you.

You can look for them to do things like make good eye contact, appear invested in what you’re saying, and turn their body toward you during a conversation.

You might also notice that they’re unconsciously “mirroring” the gestures and motions that you’re making.

Last, pay close attention to their pupils, which will dilate in response to increased feelings of attraction and arousal.

Now that you know about some of the many ways nonverbal communication impacts your life, read on for tips on becoming more skilled at recognizing nonverbal cues.

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Becoming More Aware

Increasing your awareness of nonverbal communication is really quite simple! All it requires is paying a little extra attention when you’re having a conversation.

If you make a habit of noticing the expressions and gestures others make when talking to you, you’ll eventually recognize all how people express themselves without words without even thinking about it.

You will also likely notice your own unspoken cues.

This can help you ensure you don’t accidentally offend someone by reacting without realizing it.

Strengthening Relationships

Training yourself to recognize how your friends, co-workers, and family express themselves without words can make communication flow more easily.

In some ways, it’s just like practicing mindfulness because it forces you to become more deliberate in your interactions with the people in your life.

Increasing Intimacy

Practicing being more attuned to your partner’s nonverbal cues will force you to become a better listener.

We’ve all had the experience of being so distracted by our thoughts about what we’re going to say next that we miss what the other person is saying.

Focusing on what your significant other says aloud besides their expressions and gestures shows you value their input.

Research has shown a consistent connection between good communication (even nonverbal) and strong relationships.

Improving Empathy

Recognizing facial expressions and other nonverbal cues are important aspects of feeling empathy.

Increasing your capacity for empathy will enable you to understand your partner’s experiences better and see things from their perspective.

This increased understanding will help to forge a stronger, more trusting bond.

While learning more about how you communicate nonverbally can positively impact many aspects of your life, there are some pitfalls to remember.

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Forgetting to Listen

People are complex, and the only sure way to determine if you read their nonverbal cues properly is to talk to them about their feelings.

With things like deception and danger, it may not always be possible to confirm what you observe, but it’s important to understand that this is not a perfect science.

As with anything related to human interactions, it should be utilized within a larger context of communication.

Tuning Out

We’re all guilty of occasionally checking our phones during a conversation.

However, this form of nonverbal communication shows the other person that you’re not paying attention to them.

Habitually choosing to interact with your phone over your friend or partner will probably take a toll on your relationships.

Jumping to Conclusions

In some ways, we all have that “gut feeling” response when meeting new people, and they’re probably mostly judgments based on nonverbal signals.

Though these feelings may often be right and should be listened to, they are also subject to deeper biases and stereotypes that we may not even be aware we have.

Therefore, it’s important to recognize that you are making a snap judgment about someone (because we all do it!) and to at least attempt to understand how your beliefs might influence your reactions.

You’re now equipped to put some of these tips into action and watch how you speak without words!

If you pay a bit more attention to everything that the surrounding people are saying without making a sound, you’ll feel like a mind reader in no time.

Now tell me, what number am I thinking of?

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