When were assigned this project I wanted to take a different approach to language. One that we all speak universally, the body’s language. This essay really allowed me to focus more on the gestures and bodily movements we all express while or instead of communicating. I pulled together a couple different scenes of memory in my life where body language played helped me understand the other person better, which I am really proud of. Something I can improve on is descriptive language and transitioning. I can work on them to make it flow easier and more enjoyable for the reader. I hope you enjoy reading!
“You’re not allowed to touch the art little girl.” The guard looked at me condescendingly and touched his belt filled with many weapons. He didn’t appreciate a ten year old girl breaking the rules at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“I’m sorry I didn’t realize-”
“Oh I’m sure you didn’t.” He said with an annoyed look on his face.
I could tell he was striving to have some type of dominance over me. His body language said it all. The aggressive way he clinched his belt as he was looking down at me. His tone was loud and steady, it was just another way he proved that he had power over me. He was trying to establish that there were rules and I broke one. Also, the way he expressed this, not in a calm and slow paced manner, his actions were rushed and hostile. He wanted to be perceived as in control and a governing figure. We use our bodies all the time to express the emotions that words cannot.
For example, a first time teacher might be standing to the corner of a classroom since they’re not comfortable with so many eyes on the them, backing into a corner as if to hide from the judgemental eyes. A nervous student getting ready for an SAT test would be chewing their nails and bouncing their feet up and down as it hits the bottom of their desk and they wonder if the effects of mental pain from staring at a text book for eight hours straight will be on the test because they’d score a perfect 2400. Whether it be body movements or hand gestures, it all plays a key role in how we “speak” to each other.
We use our bodies to communicate every day which becomes a language on its own. Whether we use it to affirm our power or status, or to hide the amount of anxiety we have, it is apart of who we are. There are a millions of different languages spoken all over the world, but the language of the body reveals more than words could ever.
Another interaction was when a man was standing in line in behind me at the grocery store. He was clicking his keys against his fingernails and lightly tapping his foot on the ground, this was communicating that he was in a rush. He then started to widen his eyes when he realized that I had a tremendous amount of groceries yet to be scanned. His shoulders slumped, defeatedly, he was about to step out of line when I smiled slightly at him, apologetically. He then smiled back and slightly waved, embarrassed, nodded in return and stepped back in line. This conversation, even though it lacked words, still had the ability to express his annoyance for the wait, my apologies for the amount of groceries and his regret for being impolite. We were able to express the emotions running through our heads with just our bodies. We are able to recognize what certain gestures and bodily positions mean, no matter which verbal language we speak.
“Would that be all hun?” she asked as she drummed her lilac nails on the cash register whilst chewing her mango flavored gum. I could sense she was uninterested and wanted her inevitable shift to end.
“Umm, can I get a…” My voice trailed off as I frantically scanned the menu and blindly ordered.
“.. a number two.”
“One cheeseburger with extra pickles coming right up.”
Why did I order pickels? They were my least favorite food. Well, this was because of the impatient way she hit her nails on the cash register, begging me to hurry up. I picked the first thing I saw, her body suggested that she was irritated by me. The way she was leaning against the counter, made me realize she went through this everyday so the least I could do was hurry up the process.
I realize that I spend so much time observing others that I became accustomed in reading bodies before listening to their words. Noticing eye contact or lack of thereof can tell me a lot about how a person is feeling without them even realizing it. Or if someone interlaces fingers with their loved one, or grasps their hands forcefully, could speak to their relationship.
Just like my mother as she tightens her hands around mine before we cross the street, a motherly instinct adapted over millenniums, protecting their young ones. Or as she widens her eyes across the dinner table at a guests house for dinner, warning me of the inappropriate position of my elbows on the table and the repercussion I will face if I continue with this unwanted disobedience. My mother did not have to utter a word for me to understand her clearly. So I removed my elbows from the table and purse my lips tighter and lowered my head to communicate to her that I will not repeat this mistake again, lowering my head represents a slight apology to soften the blow. This interaction occurred silently, using only eye movements and bodily gestures for us two humans to have a full on conversation. Our bodies speak louder than “remove your elbows from the table” ever could. I understood her clearly, speaking the body’s language is something we are accustomed too, we speak this language long before we can ever verbally communicate.
On my way to school one day I scanned the trolley filled with people, it was for the most part quiet. A baby crying, music blasting from the kid with his hoodie pulled over his eyes. A girl starting her first day of highschool with her humongous book bag filled her new school supplies and humiliation. As she frantically looks at the trolley window, wondering if this is her stop. She was wide-eyed like a child whom had just discovered where their mother hides the stash of treats. I realized this was me last year my freshmen year, frantic on the first day of high school. I use body language as a way to communicate and understand people everyday. I rely on the body’s language more often than words.
As the great James Baldwin once said “Language, incontestably, reveals the speaker. Language, also, far more dubiously, is meant to define the other…” The power of speaking the body’s language is something underestimated and often overlooked. We rely on a person’s words to reveal their emotions. We use it to understand each other, and make assumptions on how they might be feeling. Whether we realize it or not, body language is one of the biggest factors on how we are perceived. It is one of the most spoken languages of the world. If you stand with your shoulders straight and head held high, you would be viewed as someone who has pride or confidence. Rather than, someone who has their shoulders slumped and hoodie covering their eyes, could be perceived as not wanting attention. Body language can give you an insight on the person and how their feeling, this is often revealed subconsciously. With every wave, smile or adjoining of hands we are speaking the body’s language, a language that does not need words to express our desires, fears and emotions.