Many people who experience difficulties in communication are not sending or receiving nonverbal cues correctly. They do not always understand that body gestures impart meaning by adding to a statement, emphasizing a thought, or supplying meaning on their own. Therefore, reading a simple shoulder shrug which indicates the meaning of “I don’t know” goes unidentified and is not acknowledged. When someone who is listening in a conversation uses a facial expression of “I don’t understand” it cues the speaker to clarify by restating what was said or asking if further information is needed. When body gestures and facial expressions are missed and not understood, then communication breakdown occurs. This may feel awkward and confusing to both the listener and speaker.
To help understand and identify body gestures and facial expressions try the following activities:
- Practice using gestures in a mirror to say:
Wait a minute
I don’t know
I am telling you…
This and that
The first thing
- Watch sitcoms on T.V. with the sound off.
Try to figure out what the characters are saying and feeling.
- Play charades.
- Cut out pictures of people from a magazine.
Try to figure out how they feel from their facial expressions and body postures.
- Observe people’s gestures.
- Match your facial expression to how you feel (use a mirror).