Only a small percentage of communication is done through words. Most meaning is transmitted by the way we say things - inflection, tone - and through body language. Unfortunately, this body talk is a lot more open to interpretation, on both the sending and the receiving side and can get confusing if people come from different cultures. If somebody holds up his fingers in a V sign, he is signalling victory to some people, while being very rude to others.
There are those who have a natural knack for the subtleties of non-verbal communication, more instinctive than conscious, which gives them a distinct advantage on all social fronts, be it at home or at work. But by becoming more aware of how we carry ourselves and what signals we are sending and receiving, it is possible to be a little more suave and persuasive. Allen and Barbara Pease give their readers some useful pointers to this effect in their book The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others' Attitudes by Their Gestures.
It's a fast and funny read - though not always as funny as the authors intend it to be - and centres mostly on body language for business purposes. There are fascinating facts in here for everyone - though some might leave you a bit sceptical - and, as is often the case with reader-friendly social science books, sometimes things seem oversimplified. Also, the Peases suggest several practical and entertaining social experiments that I wouldn't advise trying on hapless friends, since you might end up real lonely, real fast.
The authors delight in pointing out the differences between men and women, the men turning out to be fairly deficient when it comes to reading body language. The emphasis on man vs. woman should come as no surprise, since they previously devoted a book to it:
Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps: How We're Different and What to Do about It. Both books provide information and entertainment in equal measure and just might improve your life.
By Allen + Barbara Pease:
The Definitive Book of Body Language, Orion Publishing
Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, Orion Publishing