By Lisa Karon Richardson
Don’t get me wrong. I love words. Words are to me what dance is to Dina. I need them. But experts say that as much as eighty-five percent of face-to-face human communication is done by body language. Are you with me on that? That means that only fifteen percent of our communication is accomplished by the words we’re saying. Even the sea witch, Ursula from The Little Mermaid recognized that body language can do what voice sometimes cannot. And who can forget her little shimmy with that poor benighted eel?
While preparing for a hefty rewrite of one of my first manuscripts, I’ve been doing a bit of research into personality types and the way we relate to one another. I found it fascinating that each of the personality categories also have characteristic gestures that they make when talking. And each of these gestures seem to pinpoint who they are at the core. For example, rationals tend to draw their fingers together as if they’re making the very finest point on their discussion that they can. While guardians might make a sharp chopping motion, indicating that a conversation is over.
All this got me to thinking about books. What are some of the commonest gestures we find in books? How do we interpret (or misinterpret) them?
The raised eyebrow-cynicism, a question or an embarrassing facial tic.
Tucking hair behind an ear-indicates that the person is just a little disheveled, i.e. endearingly human.
Nibbling a lower lip-the character is nervous, or incredibly hungry.
Folding hands in lap-points to the character being serene or demure.
Snapping fingers-shows impatience or possibly that they just can’t stop the beat.
Tapping foot-more impatience or maybe annoyance
Gritted teeth-great anguish of spirit
Stroking a moustache-evil intentions
Rubbing temples-a difficult decision to be made or a headache
Cracking knuckles-the fun and games are over and the beat down is about to begin.
I know there must be many more of the common physical reactions that I haven’t covered. What are your favorites and how do you interpret them?