Can nonverbal communication change who we are?

Most of you would have already heard about nonverbal communication (NVC). When we are saying something, there are many factors that also contribute to conveying the message if we eliminate words. For instance, the tone of voice, the way we use space or the position of our arms. Everything provides extra information about our message and scientists have dedicated a lot of time to study this topic.

nonverbalIn fact, it is quite famous what is known as the Mehrabian formula (1967). It states that only a 7% of communication is actually transmitted through our words, while a 38% is transmitted through the voice tone and an amazing 55% through our body language. This is not a scientific fact, only the result of an experiment, but many others experiments have been conducted since then and they show that the importance of NVC is much greater than we thought.

Therefore, NVC is now analyzed to know more about the person who is talking. Even some people are being trained to improve the way they communicate to hide their real feelings.

Nevertheless, I recently watched a video that made me reflect about this issue. It stated a simple question: What if it also works the other way? That means: we already know that our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us; but what if our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?

It may sound like a tongue-twister but the idea is quite simple. The speaker, Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist who has worked at Harvard University, explains the idea through an experiment they conducted. This experiment was based on the levels of testosterone (the hormone of dominance) and cortisol (the hormone of stress) of a group of individuals. If you force those individuals to stay in “powerful positions” such as opening their arms, their levels of testosterone increase and their levels of cortisol incredibly decreased.

Example of a powerful position

Example of a powerful position

This means that if you adopt those positions before a job interview, your body will automatically generate hormones that will make you feel more confident, positive and assertive, increasing your options to be hired. Incredible, isn’t it?

But even more interesting: it is not only about faking. If you fake about your attitude, it will get the moment that you really become who you are pretending to be. Your organism will react accordingly so it will change the way you actually behave!

Neuro-linguistic programming

Neuro-linguistic programming

All this can be seen as a part of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). This social-scientific approach claims that there is a connection between our brain, our linguistic and the behavior we have learnt through experience. It assumes that this link can be modified in order to achieve specific goals. Some people say there is no scientific evidence about it, but it has proved to be effective at certain situations.

No matter if you think it is a science or a social approach, I am quite confident we will talk more about this in future posts.

Dario Moreno
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