Body language

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Body language is a form of non-verbal communication that is expressed in the form of gestures , facial expressions , posture , habitus and other conscious or unconscious expressions of the human body . Body language has a decisive influence on the reception (comprehensibility) of the actual spoken words / message as well as the effect the person has on their interlocutor.


Body language includes all forms of gestures, posture and body movement - from handshakes to sitting position and posture, posture of arms, legs and feet, playing with hands, fingers and objects, head posture and the different forms of eye contact and distance behavior. Distinction is made between macro and micro expressions (including macro and micro signals) discriminated. While the former can be seen with the naked eye, most people cannot consciously perceive microexpression of body language. Objectively, micro-expressions can only be made visible with technical aids such as slow-motion recordings or film replays.

Effect and meaning

Sabine Mühlisch, lecturer for non-verbal communication at the Konstanz University of Applied Sciences , speaks of the "unity of body, voice and word" as which people perceive one another. It is "practically impossible to lie with the body".

A study by the US psychology professor Albert Mehrabian came to the conclusion that words are only responsible for 7% of the overall impression that a person makes on the person they are speaking to. The tone of voice counts 38% and body language 55%. For meaningful and effective communication, all three forms of communication must be “congruent”. A general rule (“7-38-55 percent rule”) for interpersonal communication is often incorrectly derived from Mehrabian's results.

Types of body language

Unconscious signals from the body

A surprised child

Most body language signals represent unconscious gestures with which the body reacts to the conversation, the emotional world or the appearance of the other person. In the case of (honestly perceived) bad news, such as a resignation or the delivery of a death notice, a person will hardly be able to not reveal his concern through signals from his face or posture. In the opposite case, the same applies to pleasant surprises. Emotional states such as fear , boredom , tension or self-confidence can also be reflected in unconscious body language.

Conscious signals from the body

The conscious signals of the body include learned or trained skills, such as smiling, a targeted look, an expressionless " poker face ", a confident handshake in greeting, an upright posture e.g. B. in the job interview or reactions such as shaking the head and nodding. Everyone can draw conclusions from observing their own body language or observing other people's gestures and thereby influence their conscious body language.

Distance zones

In the literature on body language, there is often talk of distance zones ( proxemics ), which many people feel comfortable when adhered to or uncomfortable when they are hurt by the other person. However, the exact distances depend on the culture. The conscious or unconscious adherence to and violation of these distance zones is part of body language.

Body language training

The conscious use of elements of body language in non-verbal communication as well as the understanding of body language is taught in seminars. However, “body language trainer” is not a recognized training occupation.

According to Michael Rossié, there is no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of body language training for the free speaking of moderators and speakers . It couldn't exist either. "Because if it is true that the body cannot lie, any body language training is counterproductive."

The most prominent teacher of body language in acting training is the pantomime Samy Molcho , who teaches "Physical Design" at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna. His preoccupation with body language is based on personal experience.

Adaptation in film and art

  • Finding the truth and judging statements based on body language and micro-signals are the central themes in the American television series Lie to Me .
  • Mentalists such as Thorsten Havener ( I know what you think : Chapter 2 The body reveals our thoughts ) are precise observers of macro and micro expressions in body language. Through sometimes provocative conversations with people on stage, they are able to convert their reactions and unconscious behavior into "mind reading".
  • The artist Stephan von Huene took up body language theories of Raymond L. Birdwhistell and Albert E. Scheflen in his sound art works; For example, his sound sculpture table dancer is based on body gestures described by Birdwhistell and Sheflen.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Sabine Mühlisch: Questions of body language: Answers to non-verbal communication. Junfermann Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-87387-662-0 .
  2. ^ Albert Mehrabian: Silent Messages. 1st edition. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA 1971, ISBN 0-534-00910-7 .
  3. ^ Edward T. Hall : The Hidden Dimension . Garden City, New York 1969, ISBN 0-385-08476-5 ; German: The language of space. Düsseldorf 1976, ISBN 3-590-14228-6 .
  4. Michael Rossié: Speaking freely on radio, television and in front of an audience, A training for moderators and speakers , (journalistic practice). 4th edition. Springer VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-658-01754-5 , p. 54
  5. Julia Lohrmann: body language. Samy Molcho - from pantomime to teacher , in: Planet Wissen , November 12, 2019
  6. Alexis Ruccius: Sound Art as Embodiment. The kinetic sound sculptures Stephan von Huenes. Frankfurt am Main 2019, ISBN 978-3-96505-000-6 , pp. 171–177.