What Is A Person’s Baseline With Respect To Non-Verbal Communication?

Knowing a Person’s Baseline Is Critical To Understanding The Meaning of Their Non-Verbal Behavior

Because the use of non-verbals is far from universal, you can’t interpret the meaning of non-verbal communication without knowing what a specific person typically does. How an individual uses non-verbals typically, is called their baseline. It provides the context for interpretation.

The best way to understand this is via an example. You meet a person of the opposite sex at a bar. You have a great conversation, and the person touches you on the arm as you speak, makes frequent eye contact, and seems very “interested”. But what does that really mean? You really don’t know unless you know how they interact typically.

One person may be a typical “toucher”, habitually touching others during conversation. If the person you met is one of these, these actions don’t mean anything at all about how they view you. However, if the person typically does not touch others during conversations, but touches you that could very well indicate an interest in you as a prospective partner.

Of course, with strangers, you won’t know the baseline. Hence, it’s hard to interpret the signals properly, so embarrassment is avoided. The same principles apply to almost all non-verbal interpretations. No baseline — you’re throwing the dice.

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