By Samuel Lee

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Decoding Other People’s Body Language Article Summary

     “Decoding Other People’s Body Language,” by research expert and Forbes contributor, Nick Hobson (2017), introduces his article by revealing the impact of technology and its hinderance on our ability to effectively communicate verbally and nonverbally with each other. More so than ever among millennials and since the arrival of the internet and smart phones, society as a whole have become more disconnected, unplugged and very simulated in the way we interact. Simply put, we are “bad communicators” (Hobson, 2017). To give us a visual on this epidemic, Hobson (2017) presents us with the old aunty angle. In this scenario, we are at a family dinner table as we listen to the old ranting aunty badger the younger generation on their inability to carry a conversation as their eyes stay glued to their phones. Although technology is vital to the survival of capitalism and keeping daily tasks and businesses running smoothly, its by-product has completely changed our face to face interactions both negatively and positively. In the workplace however, being able to pick up on nonverbal cues is essential to professionally execute meetings and debriefings as well as persuasion when attempting to pitch a sale. Hobson (2017) brings up a great point in being able to tell whether or not your boss, client or co-workers are into your ideas or simply uninterested. In many situations we can often decipher a person’s interest through kinesics in which body movements and gestures as well as micro-expressions can shed light on a person’s true feelings. Hobson (2017) gives us a scenario where a person may express a genuine Duchenne smile which activates 17 facial muscles causing wrinkles around the outer rides of a person’s eyes. This type of smile indicates that a person is interested. Furthermore, Hobson (2017) describes that a person leaning more towards you during a conversation can also signal positive interest. Lastly, he mentions two types of behaviors called the approach or avoidance motivation. In an approach motivation situation, your brain is gaged in interest and seeks for a potential reward which in turn causes your body to lean closer towards the speaker as if your brain is craving for more information. On the flipside, an avoidance motivation will cause your body to keep some distance from the speaker because your brain is perceiving a possible clash in ideas that may lead to unwanted results.


The Relationship Between Social Status Motivation

and the Detection of Trustworthy and Affiliative Cues in Faces Article Summary

     Since the beginning of civilization, from pre-history to the world we live in today, social hierarchy among humans have proven to be an essential part of keeping order and even survival. Christopher J. Lustgraaf (2017), a graduate from The University of Southern Mississippi, dives in deep on societies adaptation to create social groups for the purpose of establishing hierarchy and order. However, during our quest to obtain high levels of status, or in the professional world, “boss status,” we have developed the ability to understand social cues in order to advance our level of status. One of these cues involves the use of facial and eye behaviors which can determine a person’s trustworthiness. To be able to differentiate a person’s trustworthiness by analyzing a person’s face is extremely vital when we think about the survival concept mentioned earlier. By detecting a person’s true motive nonverbally by examining their face can help us to determine whether or not he or she is a threat to our progress in climbing the corporate ladder. Furthermore, it allows us to avoid a situation that can hinder us from reaching a higher level of status, or on the flipside, if we were to determine an individual to be non-threatening to our status goals, we can make them allies instead which can ultimately assist our status goals as well. To demonstrate this phenomenon, (Lustgraaf, 2017) studied various live experiments while implementing some of his own as well. He hypothesized that when status motives are activated, men and women should demonstrate an enhanced ability to discriminate Duchenne from Non-Duchenne smiles (Lustgraaf, 2017). Participants in this study, both men and woman, were randomly assigned to a status goal condition which entailed them to imagine a scenario where they are an antagonist in two different stories which either activated a status motive or simply got them aroused. They were than shown faces of certain targets displaying a Duchenne smile and Non-Duchenne smile and were asked to differentiate between the two. The results however were somewhat ambiguous, but they’re were evidence that females were more sensitive in being able to detect trustworthiness in a person’s face. This claim is plausible if we are to think about the survival concept again such that females generally are conscious in examining men’s behaviors because of their need to mate and create offsprings.  


Nonverbal Communication in the Workplace Sets Leaders Apart Article Summary


     Most importantly, face to face interactions are necessary to properly communicate our intentions and to allow leaders to get a sense of whether or not his or her points are being fully communicated among employees. In certain cases when a face to face interaction is not possible, a virtual video conference can be utilized. Shockingly in this scenario, technology actually aids us in facilitating communication without the need to physically be present in a conference room. The workplace is a versatile location with constant encoding and decoding of information happening throughout the day. For this reason, various nonverbal communications such as kinesics, proxemics and time can be used for understanding social cues so that we can act accordingly. Madeleine E. Binsfrahm (2014), states that in the case of a boss to employee relationship, a boss can use nonverbal codes such as eye contact, head nodding and various facial expressions to either engage or disengage with an employee. In addition, an individual of higher status can use body gestures such as leg splay to demonstrate their show of power in that it displays territory of space. Unfortunately, this places women in a disadvantage because societal norms expect them to keep their legs closed with ankles crossed. Furthermore, proxemics is a visual show of power. The more space someone occupies the higher their status. For example, owning multiple cars taking up multiple spaces in a parking garage, or owning the biggest office space with a scenic view are clear demonstrations of superiority. However, with personal space, the amount of distance between two communicators can reveal signs of trustworthiness and whether or not we are comfortable or interested. Binsfrahm (2014) explains that when a person leans in too close to talk it can cause some uneasiness and an invasion of space. On the contrary, when there is too much distance, it can cause a bit of a disconnect and may hinder trustworthiness between two people.   


Final Analysis

     In examining the articles by both Christopher J. Lustgraaf and Madeleine E. Binsfrahm, I conclude that face to face interactions is indeed vital for coherent and successful communication in the workplace. However, while technology such as our smart phones have made us bad communicators, Binsfrahm (2014) brings up a good point in which virtual conferences can serve as a great alternative when face to face interactions aren’t possible. Unfortunately, paralinguistics can get altered in these cases such that vocal qualifiers may sound louder or lower depending on the software and signal strength that is being used to transmit the virtual conference. Also, certain gestures such as object adapters where an individual may conscientiously click his or her pen as a sign of disinterest and disrespect, can easily be done discretely away from the view of the boss who sits on the other side of the computer monitor. For this reason, aspects such as pitching a sale and persuasion tactics as Hobson’s article suggest can deem more challenging. Moreover, our competitive nature to obtain high statuses evidently goes hand in hand in the office space and the ability to distinguish between a Duchenne and Non-Duchenne Smile is essential Lustgraaf (2017). Lustgraaf explains that detecting a true Duchenne smile among your colleagues can be a show of trustworthiness that can help determine whether or not you want to create an alliance with that person. However, Hobson’s article only states that a Duchenne smile is evidence of positive interest. The relationship between interest and trustworthiness wasn’t made very clear. On the topic of proxemics however, there is some ambiguity between Hobson and Lustgraaf as well. While Hobson states that leaning in towards your conversational partner can show positive interest, Lustgraaf argues that leaning in too close can be an invasion of personal space. I find that both claims can be acceptable depending on the situation. Sometimes the identity of the violator as Moore, Hickson, & Stacks (2014) describes it, can influence how we react to a person leaning in too close. Generally, we prefer some distance when talking to a colleague versus a close friend, however it does not necessarily mean we aren’t interested in their topic.



     Overall, while there are general rules that are widely accepted as socially normal when conversating, we must still consider all nonverbal and verbal cues to successfully decipher situations. For example, smiling can serve as a sign of trust and that an individual is intrigued and engaged. However, smiling can also be manipulative and be used as a persuasive tactic to get what you want. In this case, smiling is being utilized in a deceptive way and not trustworthy. Because encoding and decoding communications is evidently complex and mind stimulating, all aspects of communication and nonverbal behaviors are important.


Hobson, N. (2017, December 5). Decoding Other People’s Language. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickhobson/2017/12/05/decoding-other-peoples-body-language/#3a31fc4b1aec


Binsfrahm, M. (2014). Nonverbal communication in the workplace sets leaders apart. The College of St. Scholastica, 1-26. Retrieved from http://proxy.lib.odu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/docview/1551763238?accountid=12967


Lustgraaf, C. J. (2017). The relationship between social status motivation and the detection of trustworthy and affiliative cues in faces. The University of Southern Mississippi, 11-13. Retrieved from http://proxy.lib.odu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/docview/1896107481?accountid=12967


(Hobson, 2017)

(Binsfrahm, 2014)

(Lustgraaf, 2017)