Meaning are in messages:
The reality is that meanings are in people, not messages. A message sent will not be exactly the same as a message received. Even words are somewhat ambiguous. Take the phase " there was a big cat blocking the way." The word cat would mean different things to different people. The cat could be a Maine coon, a bobcat, a tiger, slang for dude or man, or a Caterpillar tractor. Meanings are not inherently present in words, and they're certainly not present in the body language. Messages are vehicles that carry meaning, but meanings are in our minds, not in the messages themselves.
Men sometimes misinterpret women's friendly smiles as flirtation behaviors. Conversely, some women think men's blatant come-ons are mere friendliness. And you've probably met people who construe every comment with an obscure interpretation. There really isn't such a thing as a dirty word, only a dirty mind.
Context is vital for understanding all messages, but especially body language. Body language must always be interpreted in the culture, period, climate, environment, setting, situation, mood, and relationship that provide the context and tells us how to "take" the message. To make matters more complicated, body language provides the contexts for other messages. Eye contact with an angry facial expression is menacing, eye contact with a smile is engaging. Saying, "that really good" while rolling the eyes is sarcastic criticism, saying it with direct eye contact is a compliment. Messages are meaningful only in context, and messages provide context for other messages.
In your elementary school years they usually do a skit about hearing and how thing change from person to person. For example, the teacher writes a phrase down and has the room line-up (at least 5 feet apart). She tells the first student the phrase and has him/her tell the next person in line, then the next person has to repeat message to the next, so on and so on , until the room is complete. If by the time it gets around the room the message changes, they lose the inventive that was initially establish before contest starts. This set-up prevents students from initially misinterpreting the phrase. Still 80% comes out not as the phrase was intended.
Tags: Language , Body Expression , Interpretation , Messages
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