Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2015

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Body language is thought to be the earliest form of human communication, used long before spoken or written language developed. 1 Most people have some skill at reading others' body language, although they may not be aware of it. A listener's attentiveness to a speaker's body language can reinforce that what the speaker is saying is true, can alert the listener to an inconsistency between what the speaker says and truly feels, or can tell the listener that the speaker is not verbalizing something important. Imagine you are conducting a health intake interview with an elderly client who was brought to your office by a protective daughter. You ask the client if he is taking over-the-counter pain medications for his shoulder issues. He hesitates and crosses his arms over his chest, averts his eyes and says, "No." Something is up. What he's saying does not completely correspond with his body language. You decide to question him further about pain medications and find out that his daughter gets upset when he uses them regularly. You reassure him that his daughter will not see his health history forms and he uncrosses his arms, looks you in the eye, and says, "Then, yes. I have taken pain medication today." Your attunement to body language helped you realize that the situation needed further investigation that could protect this client from receiving techniques that are too deep for his tissue. Body language includes vocal cues like the pace and volume of words, facial expressions, body positions, and gestures. A person who speaks slowly, mumbles, or uses a low pitch and volume may be feeling sad. A person who speaks quickly and in a higher pitch is more likely to be excited or enthusiastic about something. Abrupt speech indicates that the speaker may feel defensive. Tense, rapid, loud speech indicates anger. Facial expressions are many and varied but certain patterns hold generally. A flushed face and misty eyes often indicate the person is experiencing a deep emotion. Annoyance or anger is generally expressed with narrowed eyes, tense features, and a flushed face. Widened eyes, a relaxed jaw, and a soft, open mouth indicate affection, enjoyment, enthusiasm, or receptiveness. Often a person's fleeting facial expressions tell others that the person is not openly expressing true feelings. For example, a person might listen to her colleague in a meeting with a fixed smile on her mouth and then roll her eyes without realizing it, thereby expressing her true annoyance or impatience with the topic. People who are angry may hold their body in a tense, highly alert posture, while people who are feeling sad cave in the F r e e S O A P n o t e s w i t h M a s s a g e B o o k f o r A B M P m e m b e r s : a b m p . u s / M a s s a g e b o o k 33 CLASSROOM TO CLIENT education Body Language Using Nonverbal Communication Skills in Your Practice By Anne Williams

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