Body language radiates powerful communication messages. These messages, however, are not always clear. For example, if you are telling someone a story and they nod their head, are they showing agreement or empathy?
There is a way, though, to convey and perceive emotions accurately and it is right at your fingertips. It’s touch.
A study conducted at DePauw University shows that the hands on approach is a reliable way to convey emotions such as: love, appreciation, discomfort, and sympathy.
The researchers recruited 246 volunteers who were given the task to use touch to communicate certain emotions to another volunteer. These people did not know each other and the touch recipient was blindfolded and couldn’t hear the person touching them.
Even though the communicators were able to use any style of touch they thought best, the recipients were still able to understand the target emotion radiated from certain gestures. In addition, they didn’t confuse gestures expressing sympathy, love, and gratitude.
Some Handy Tips
Ready to use the right touch to express your emotions? Try these handy tips.
Give a Squeeze to Express Appreciation
You have been struggling trying to use a new software package. A coworker offers to sit down with you during lunch to give you a tutorial. By the end of the session you’ve mastered the functions you need and have even started the project you need it for. How can you express your appreciation?
According to the study, people view the squeezing of one’s hand, forearm, or shoulder as a sign of gratitude.
Press Firmly to Express Discomfort
You and your partner are enjoying a sunny afternoon on a park bench when someone who you find annoying sits next to you. You try to let you partner know that you are ready to move on through code words and facial expressions, but they just aren’t getting it. What do you do?
The majority of the study’s participants said that they would get the message if you firmly pressed their thigh in a sitting situation. If you’re standing, press your thumb into your partner’s back.
Stroke to Express Love
You find your son on the computer and think that he is playing computer games. To your surprise and joy, he is studying for his test. Hugging him would be overkill, but he would see stroking his back for approximately 10 seconds or running your hand over his hair as an acceptable form of showing admiration.
The same holds true for your romantic partner whether you are out in public or hanging out at home.
Pat to Express Sympathy
A friend of yours whose husband died several years ago starts tearing up as she talks about him. You want to express your sympathy, but you don’t know what to say. What would the study’s participants suggest you do?
Pat your friend on the back moderately for about five seconds. This form of touch says, “I feel for you.”