More than Language


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The ability to translate one language into another is a wonderful  thing.  I can speak and read just enough German to get me confused, but I wish I had kept up my study of the language after college.  Same with Spanish. I had only one year, as a high school freshman, but many  things stay in my memory.

I have learned, however, that  there are more things than words that need to be translated. Body language is endlessly fascinating to me, partly because I’ve just always been a people watcher and partly because of the work I do.

So many little clues. In marital counseling, if a couple comes in and sit as far apart as possible on the sofa in my office, I know my work is going to be difficult. If they angle their bodies away from each other, there is much anger and distrust, and a whole lot of unforgiveness.

When the counseling is one-on-one, my first clue is how the person sits. If a person perches on the very edge of the sofa, legs clamped tightly together, keeping a tight grip on a handbag or wallet, there is high anxiety and possibly a strong feeling of guilt and fear.


If the person has a hard time raising her eyes to meet mine, she almost always thinks very poorly of herself. This observation leads me to wonder about possible abuse, either past or present, or both.

If the hands are trembling, there is a lot of nervous energy, possibly fear.  Breaking point is close, and I need to spend some time helping the person relax and trust me.

If someone sits down, eyes on the ground, shoulders slumped, body inert, hands clasped between the knees, I almost certainly have a case of depression to work with.

However–big however–I cannot assume that my translation of body language is 100% accurate. There can be so much more going on under the surface, and I have been surprised more than once about the real reason behind any particular posture or physical attitude.

It’s a fascinating job.


6 thoughts on “More than Language

  1. Really fascinating! I love this kind of stuff, like personality types. Just fascinated me! And if a person comes in and immediately tucks their legs up under them, do you know what that means? We’re really short and our feet don’t touch the floor! My PT just pointed this out to me that no matter where I am and where I’m sitting, it’s become my habit to automatically pull my legs up and tuck them and use them as almost a “booster seat” for myself. Thought that was funny. Such a habit I barely notice I do it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. handmadejewelryhaven

    Thank you for this facinating post! I too read into posture and sometimes it surprises people when I can tell that they are preoccupied as they have just asked me a question, then as I answer, their eyes start flitting away. I just stop and let them off the hook by saying, ‘you just go and take care of what you need to, we can catch up later’.
    They usually thank me and then make a point to visit me at a later time.

    Thanks for sharing!

    – Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s very kind of you to let them off the hook 🙂 I can’t do that, however, when they’ve come to my office for counseling help. I have to come up with a gentle pull to bring them back from wherever they’ve wandered !


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