Tag Archive for Congruence

Summary – Chapter 2

In this second chapter we have solidified our nonverbal foundation with the five cardinal rules of body language. First we covered the five basic rules of body language: the rule-of-four, congruence, context, baselining and intuition and perception. The ‘rule-of-four’ says that we need at least four independent, but related signals to reliably read someone whereas congruence says that we should pay particular attention when verbal language and nonverbal language do not match. Context on the other hand, says that we must be mindful of where and how cues develop since they could be confused with other variables and might mean something totally different or nothing at all. Baselining refers to the need to measure a person over time and in different situations before we can accurately predict their nonverbal meaning with any accuracy. The final rule says that we need to be conscious about intuition and perception so we don’t project meaning onto situations based on pre-conceived beliefs. We also covered how the feet are the most honest part of the body, and that coupled with putting presidency on negative body language over positive body language, we will have a greater success rate in reading people accurately.

Aside from these rules we looked at the flow of silent speech, how body language can be less confusing than verbal language, the differences between men and women, how women intuitively read body language and how age affects body language. We also discussed the importance that alpha’s, or leaders play in our lives and how we are either creating social norms (leading) or we are following them, how posture portrays confidence, the importance of ‘haptics’ or touch, in addition to body language as it relates to energy displacement and finally the meaning of fashion and preening.

Silent Speech Has Flow

How is the flow of your body language?

How is the flow of your body language?

Body language is like verbal and written language; it has structure. Body language flows, it has its own rhythm, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation. Some gesture are single letters which join with others to form words right on up to formulate full sentences and phrases until we finally reach full ideas and meaning. Part of the way things come together is connected to congruence, meaning that the overall body of language comes together seamlessly. Just like someone might have poor written grammar, some people have poor nonverbal language, sometimes even dramatically so leading to even more drastic consequences.

We are all born understanding the basics of body language and have the minds to master it, but none of us are born ready emitting perfect body language. Instead we learn body language like we learn to speak, by observation and practice. ‘Naturals’, as it were, may only exist because instead of ignoring body language like most people do, they bring it to consciousness early on and follow successful example around them. Their minds are subconsciously prepared to imitate good postures and appear in control and confident. As we will see, good body language isn’t something you are either born with, or must be without forever. It can be learned.

I recall a time when my wife and I were visiting a fellow who was giving away a second hand washing machine which would I would use for a rental apartment. His body language made him appear inept and he came across as awkward. He’d cross his arms when I was talking and when I’d make a point, he would do his best to contradict me. He’d lean in too close and his body odor was overpowering. This person had no reason to be dishonest, he explained that he needed the space in his house for another project. We took the machine because at the time we needed it, however since he gave us such a negative impression we still don’t know, to this day, if the machine works or not. I’ve never hooked it up or used it! My wife and I got a terrible impression of the guy and the feeling attached itself to everything about him including his free washer. It didn’t affect us while we were there, but as soon as we left, we were able to verbalize reasons for storing, instead of using the machine. We simply didn’t trust that the machine would work properly despite his verbal assurances, and instead of taking the energy to move it into the basement to test it, we stored it in the garage and purchased a new set. His body language told us that something must be wrong with the washing machine, that perhaps it ruined clothing or leaked and he just wanted some sucker to help him dispose of the machine. Other people who aren’t studied in body language but finding themselves in a similar situation would have concluded that their ‘gut feeling’ was off. Since I could read his cues, it was obvious to me why I didn’t trust him, but I did have to explain to my wife why she felt so uneasy.

This story illustrates the point about the strength of nonverbal body language and how salient and important it is. Even though the result was at no cost to him (and little cost to me), if he had been a commissioned salesman, or salesman of any sort, he would have lost the deal with certainty.


Honest hands - palms up, but what happens next?

Honest hands – palms up, but what happens next?

Hands return to pockets indicate dishonesty and is incongruent with the intended meaning.

Hands return to pockets indicate dishonesty and is incongruent with the intended meaning.

The word congruence, as it relates to body language, refers to the degree to which body language cues in a person matches one another in terms of their meaning. If, for example, one is speaking honestly with the palms up (an honest gesture) we can say that the body language and verbal language are congruent. That is, honest words match up with honest body language. A child with their hands in their pockets (dishonest gesture) speaking about how they didn’t steal a cookie is incongruent since their body language does not match their verbal language.

We regularly place more importance on what words are used rather than how others gestures in their delivery, but this is a mistake. When we don’t have congruency and the verbal language doesn’t match the nonverbal gestures we should always place more importance on the nonverbal channel. Credence should almost always be given to nonverbal language over spoken words since the research tells us that it is often more accurate. When people plan lies they often rehearse the sentences and in what sequence they will deliver them, but they often ignore or disregard gestures that will accompany them. While we monitor our spoken words, our unconsciousness can leak unwanted information through our bodies. However, even if people were consciously aware that their body language gave them away, they would not know what to do since most people are completely unaware of the meaning their body conveys.

Politicians can leak information through congruency and this can give them away, although most politicians today are quite learned in body language. We should be suspicious of politicians, however, when they have their arms tightly folded against their chest while saying that they are open to change or to a door-to-door salesman that swears his life on a product but wipes downward with his hand as if to clear the lie. Another example is the cheating husband who tries to pass off a late meeting and then pulls at his neck tie, collar or scratch his neck indicating stress.

Sometimes however, knowledge about body language just comes off as less expressiveness. The body language thus tends to be much more controlled and subdued because it’s much easier to eliminate body language altogether then it is to add honest body language. However, even reduced expressiveness helps us read people because a relaxed and natural politician is more likely to be telling the truth. Therefore, even reserved body language can be a ‘tell’ to those who are in tune. Congruency therefore, is very important because it is a clear comparison between two communication channels, the verbal and nonverbal. When words are mismatched against the body language, we can be sure something dishonest is at play and these hints should instigate us, at minimum, to pay closer attention.

Introduction – Chapter 2

Mastery of anything begins by first learning the basics, and body language is no different. A solid structure can not be built without first forming and pouring a solid foundation. This chapter is aimed at accomplishing just that, as we tackle the basic, but very important rules of body language. It might seem as though reading body language is as easy and simple as just reading cues and postures, but it isn’t. At times it can be downright confusing, although the aim here is to simplify the language by breaking it apart then reassembling it, but not until the cues are first put through a strong filter. One of the filters we use is based on the five cardinal rules of body language which says that we need to use the rule of four. This rule tells us that we need at least four related cues to form a conclusion. We also need the cues to ‘jive’ called congruence, they must be taken in context, fit along some baseline of behaviour and finally must not be filter through a bias, meaning that they must be true rather than created fictitiously for an ulterior purpose. We will examine the five cardinal rules in detail in the pages to follow.

Just like regular spoken language or written language, silent speech or nonverbal communication also has what is called flow. Body language has rhythm, syntax and all the other nuances associated with general communication and ignoring this flow is akin to throwing away valuable information. We will also see that body language is much more reliable than spoken words because people generally pay little attention to it, and because of this, people will monitor it less readily allowing it to appear naturally and untainted. We will see that when body language and spoken language contradict one another, we should rely more heavily on what is happening non-verbally.

We will also cover the differences in body language reading ability between men and women, how age can influences reading, which may or may not be surprising and how leaders or alpha members of our society call the shots even when it comes to body language. We will touch a bit on good posture, how best to use touching, and how body language relieves pent up energy and displaces it. Finally we will touch briefly on the meaning of fashion and how it plays into nonverbal communication.