Observation of Body Language

As we speak I’m in the middle of the NMIT canteen area. It’s about 11:00 so you can expect to see a large group of people around. There are about 20 people doing various things. It’s obvious who knows who due to their comfortability.

For example, there are four people in front of me talking to each other as a group. Their body language is relaxed and comfortable, each one fully invested in the conversation despite having food in front of them. It implies that not only are they very familiar with each other, but it also seems likely that they’ve known each other for a little while now — seeing as it’s only been a week since this semester started. Old friends maybe?

Then there are others that are more secluded. A woman by herself at a large table. She’s sitting in the middle of the table, which implies that she isn’t waiting for anyone. When someone leaves an open space, it’s pretty obvious that they’re expecting something or someone to be there. Especially since her bag is next to her and not on the floor.

On the other side of the room is a person about the same age as me judging from his clothing and face. He has sat at a single table for two people, occasionally checking his phone. He also has a coffee and a bag sitting on the table in front of him. I can guess that he’s waiting for someone due to the aforementioned points.

The food obviously isn’t for him, as he’s been there for several minutes and hasn’t touched them. The way he keeps looking back and forth from his phone is a giveaway also. There are periods of time where he stops looking and stares outside. The fact that he’s sitting at a single table implies that he’s only waiting for one person, likely a close friend. Close enough to warrant buying food for them.

There’s a woman at the front counter dressed in a long white jacket and jeans. It’s obvious she’s becoming impatient from her body language. Her hands are face down on the counter and she’s ever so slightly leaning into the kitchen. I can’t see her eyes, but from what I can see I assume she’s looking at the people inside due to the slight movements her head is making. She’s also tapping her foot quite fast, also implying impatience. After a worker came her tone of voice was abrupt, loud, and sharp.

There’s a group to my right composed of four people. However, It’s likely that due to their difference in attire and mannerisms they’re not from the same group. The fourth person is excluded from the conversation and is paying closer attention to their food and cellphone, they’re not making eye contact with anyone around them. While it doesn’t directly imply that she’s not a part of the group, she could just be shy, her own mannerisms are reserved and closed. Her body and feet orientation is forward, away from the group.

I confirmed this when she packed up and left shortly after my observations. If she were a part of the group she either would’ve said something to them, or at the very least, they would’ve said something to her. Not to mention they moved into her seat, taking up her original space.

Being in a less naturally chaotic place: the library makes for a completely different set of mannerisms. As being in certain environments affects the way you communicate.

For example, the canteen was a much smaller place and therefore was inherently more crowed and loud. Whereas in a library, quiet — or even complete silence is not only encouraged but preferred by the people inside.

There are people who use these grounds as a hangout, to which their mannerisms are open and suited to the conversation rather than study. Their legs and arms are more open, their voice is louder and more direct, their shoulders are looser and their posture slightly more erect. It implies that they’re comfortable with the people they’re around.

Others are studying, which in itself calls for distinct mannerisms. Due to their desire to study, communication to and from them is heavily discouraged. Their legs are crossed, and though their posture is relaxed, it’s not to invite conversation but to remain in one spot. More often than not, a slouched and relaxed posture would invite conversation, however, most if not all of the time, location and time influence the meaning. And in a library, a relaxed posture implies that they’re comfortable, not that they want to converse with someone.

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2 Comments on “Observation of Body Language

  1. Really great point about how context is important to body language.

  2. Great read. Lots of variety in the observations made.

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