Posture as a way for nonverbal communication

Posture is the body’s position at a certain moment. Compared with other nonverbal channels, postures send us information which is both easier and harder to decode. Harder, because there is no social code for meaning attribution related to each posture. Easier, because postures are always visible and have more „weight” than other nonverbal channels; usually, we are not aware of posture we have and therefore, we do not try to control it.

Actually, in the animal word, where e-mail, facebook and twitter are lacking entirely, intentions are clearly communicated by postures (see photo).
nonverbal communication - cat posture

Photo 1 – Cat in an arched posture, ready to fight

Posture’s interpretation is multileveled; posture is sending in the same time information about a physiological state, a personality trait and a communication intention. Therefore, to analyze postures we will use several dimensions: openess-closure, domination-submission, tension-relaxation, attraction – rejection. Anyway, someone’s posture must be interpreted taking into account the social context and the type of activity that person is engaged to. There is no dictionary for postures, and interpretations like „crossed the arms, by consequence does not like me” are as true as guessing in the coffee.

Dimension opening-closure

This dimension evaluates how open or closed is one regarding the environment, how much does he want to communicate with others. An open posture is marked by legs and arms spread out. A closed posture means the opposite; arms and legs are closer to the body. The body closes, in a defensive posture. By the way, defensive does not mean always negative.

Photo 2 – Closed posture

nonverval communication-closed posture

Foto 3 – Open posture

nonverbal communication-open posture


Dimension domination-submission

In this case we are talking about using posture as a mean to express a dominant attitude (or submission). A dominant position is a high position; head is tilted, the back is straight. The body is trying fill up as much space as possible.
On the contrary, a submission position means to become smaller, head down, trying to occupy less space. In the animal world, through such postures social hierarchies are established. As we see in dog packs; there are alpha males and dogs with „tail between legs”, situated lower in the hierarchy.

Comunicare nonverbala - postura dominanta

Photo 4 – – Taking an educated guess, who is the boss and who is the employee?

Dimension tensioned-relaxation

Tensioned posture is marked by a general rigidity. Is the feeling that someone is stiffed, strained. Muscles are tensed, the person has something of a robot. Relaxed posture is like that; arms and legs are in asymmetrical positions, torso can be leaned lateral, hands are relaxed.

nonverbal communication - relaxed posture

Photo 5 -The guy in the left is quite relaxed, but look at the lady in the right! Seems pretty stiff, right?

Dimension attraction-rejection

We evaluate this dimension while we are communicationg interpersonal. Postures expressing attraction are marked by a general orientation of the body towards the person we are liking. Feets are particulary siginificant in this equation. When we like someone, we have the tendency to point one or both feets toward the person. The body is slightly bent towards the other, in order to reduce distance.

Dislike is expressed, in turn, by trying not to expose directly your body towards the other, to avoid contact face to face, to stay as far as possible from the object of your aversion. So the expression „turned his back on me” is non just metaphor. Sometimes, it really happens like that.
Certainly, when we try to analyze a posture, we can observe one or serveral dimension mentioned before; there are observational plans who intersect without exclusion. We still have to wait till this multiple angles of approach will be integrated integrated into a theory of posture as nonverbal communication form.

nonverbal communication - cute dog posture

Photo 6  – My posture says I am so cute!