BODY-SHIFT

Nonverbal Cues

Postural cue. A slight or substantial change in body position, e.g., a. shifting one's weight in a chair, or b. angling one's torso to a new direction at a conference table (see ANGULAR DISTANCE).

Usage: A sudden body-shift may telegraph an unspoken feeling, mood, or opinion, and thus offer a probing point.

Salesmanship. One signal of a prospect's skepticism: "A sudden shift in posture" (Delmar 1984:46).

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "Slight postural shifts and the direction of visual focus are [in monkeys] two extremely subtle movements that communicate a potentially changing emotional state and an awareness of surrounding activity or tension" (Dolhinow 1972:231). 2. "Gross changes in body position, such as shifting in the chair, may show negative feelings toward the person one is talking to" (Mehrabian 1974:90).

Neuro-notes. Because they are supplied by segmental spinal nerves directly--rather than by the more elaborate nerve plexuses which govern limb movements--trunk-bending and body-shifting represent a simpler, more straightforward venue for the expression of emotion. This is because, unlike our arm's tangled brachial-nerve plexus (an intricate, evolutionary add-on designed to coordinate the arm's dexterity and movement), our segmental spinal nerves have retained their more primitive role in the control of posture. Thus, governed by paleocircuits of the basal ganglia and brain stem, gross body-shifts may reveal anger, disagreement, and disliking more directly.

See also BODY-BEND, BODY WALL.

Copyright 1999 - 2013 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)
Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman))