We so very often make the mistake of thinking that our communication is limited to our words. Nothing could be further from the truth! Even with our shoulders we communicate.One of the biggest challenges for people speaking a second language is having a telephone conversation. There they only have their limited vocabulary and iffy grammar to rely on. If they talk to someone face to face, a lot of misunderstandings are eliminated by gestures and other nonverbal cues. And where their vocabulary fails them, a few hand movements usually get the message across.
So what do we reveal with our shoulders?
- LIES! Yup, when a liar’s pants are on fire, often they will give a modified shrug. Why? Well, they’re not sure about what they are saying. Usually that shrug looks a bit off. It is often described as a half-shrug, modified because the shrugger is not committed to what he or she is saying.
- HIGH DISCOMFORT. That is when both shoulders are raised so high they almost touch the shrugger’s ears. It is also called the ‘turtle effect’ – we’ve all felt like that at times, pulling back into your shell. This generally communicates weakness, a negative emotional state and insecurity.
- I DON’T KNOW! Ask me how many players in an American Football team and both my shoulders will rise sharply and equally. Combined with that you will see a stunned look. Yup, I don’t know. There is nothing wrong with not knowing an answer and raising both shoulders fast and at the same time will support your words.
Watch out for the half-shrug. That usually means the shrugger’s brain, the limbic part to be exact, is not committed to their statement, or they are avoiding the answer, or they’re outright lying.
A test: What is your reaction if I ask you if you know how many etudes Mozart composed? If you were facing me, you would most likely be raising both shoulders, right? And if your sensitive mother asks if you enjoyed the new chicken recipe she tried out? It’s easy to imagine kindly answering that question positively with one shoulder slightly lifting!
Interesting, isn’t it?