Non-verbal signs or indicators are ways we communicate non-verbally. Many of these signs are involuntary and may give away our underlying intentions. Some non-verbal indicators as related to self-defense are:
- Adam's Apple Jump. A conspicuous up-and-down motion of the Adam's apple such as when gulping or swallowing. It is an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress.
- Clinching Teeth. Clinching the jaws in frustration and anger. A manifestation of the biting defense mechanism.
- Hands-on-Hips. Enlarges or exaggerates the body's size to dominate, threaten, or bluff an opponent. Hands-on-hips shows that the body is prepared to "take steps."
- Cutoff. A form of gaze avoidance in which the head is turned fully away to one side. In a conversation, a sudden cutoff gesture may indicate disagreement with a speaker's remarks. Sustained cutoff may reveal shyness or disliking.
- Fist. A gesture made with the hand closed, the fingers flexed, and the tactile pads held firmly against the palm. Clenched fists signal an aroused emotional state, as in anger, excitement (to cheer on a team), or fear. In Pakistan, displaying a clenched fist toward another is a nonverbal sign used to display an "obscene insult."
- Hand Behind Head. Touching, scratching, or holding the back of the neck or head with the opened palm, or reaching a hand upward to scratch an ear, grasp an earlobe, or stimulate an ear canal, or touching, scratching, or rubbing the cheek or side of the neck. In a conversation, hand-behind-head may be read as a potential sign of uncertainty, conflict, disagreement, frustration, anger, or disliking. In the United Sates, leaning back and placing both hands behind the neck in the bilateral head clamp posture is a nonverbal sign of dominance.
- Lip Roll. A gesture produced by compressing, in-rolling, and narrowing the lips to a thin line. A position of the mouth in which the lips are visibly tightened and pressed together through contraction of the lip and jaw muscles. Lip and jaw tension clearly reflect anxious feelings, nervousness, emotional concerns, or anger. Thus a tense-mouth precisely marks the onset of a mood shift, a novel thought, or a sudden change of heart.
- Tone of Voice. The manner in which a verbal statement is presented, such as its rhythm, breathiness, hoarseness, or loudness. Tone of voice reflects psychological arousal, emotion, and mood. It may also carry social information, as in a sarcastic, superior, or submissive manner of speaking. The more threatened or aggressive a person becomes, the lower and harsher his or her voice turns, thus, the person seem bigger.
- Eye Contact. A visual connection made as one person gazes into the eyes of another. Gazing at another's eyes arouses strong emotions. Thus, eye contact rarely lasts longer than three seconds before one or both viewers experience a powerful urge to glance away. Breaking eye contact lowers stress levels. In Japan, listeners are taught to focus on a speaker's neck in order to avoid eye contact, while in the U.S., listeners are encouraged to gaze into a speaker's eyes.
- Blinking. A rapid closing and opening of the eyes. Our blink rate reflects psychological arousal in the manner of a polygraph test. The normal, resting blink rate of a human is 20 closures per minute, with the average blink lasting one quarter of a second. Significantly faster rates may reflect emotional stress.
- Raising Eyebrows. To lift the arch of short hairs above the eye, as in uncertainty, disbelief, surprise, or exasperation. Raising the eyebrows adds intensity to a facial expression. Brow-raising can strengthen a dominant stare, exaggerate a submissive pout, or boost the energy of a smile. In tandem with head-tilt-back, raising one or both eyebrows suggests a supercilious air of disdain, haughtiness, or pride.
- Lowering Eyebrows. To frown or scowl, as in anger, concentration, displeasure, or thought. To depress, knit, pucker, or wrinkle the brow. Lowering the eyebrows is a sensitive indicator of disagreement, doubt, or uncertainty.
- Down Gaze. Rotating the eyeballs in their sockets to a downward position, or bowing or tilting the head forward so that the eyes face the downward. May convey a defeated attitude, guilt, shame, or submissiveness. Gazing down while speaking shows that a speaker may not believe his or her own remarks. Blushing. Becoming red or rosy in the face from physical exercise, embarrassment, shyness, anger, or shame. Blushing is caused by sudden arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which dilates the small blood vessels of the face and body. Flushing, contrary to popular belief, is never seen in a purely aggressive individual; it is a sign of actual or possible defeat.
- Flashbulb Eyes. An involuntary and dramatic widening of the eyes, performed in situations of intense emotion, such as anger, surprise, and fear. When we are truly surprised, rather than feigning the emotion for effect, two involuntary visceral muscles in our eyelids, the superior and inferior tarsals, widen our eye slits to make the eyes appear noticeably rounder, larger, and whiter. As visceral signs, true flashbulb eyes are difficult to produce at will. Thus, they are all the more trustworthy as nonverbal cues, especially of terror or rage. In angry individuals, flashbulb eyes are a danger sign of imminent verbal aggression or physical attack.
- Blank Face. A neutral, relaxed, seemingly "expressionless" face, with the eyes open and lips closed. The deadpan face we adopt at home alone while resting, reading, and watching TV. Though "expressionless," the blank face sends a strong emotional message "Do Not Disturb." In shopping malls, elevators, or subways, we adopt neutral faces to distance ourselves from strangers. The blank face is a subtle sign used to keep others a polite distance away.
- Head Tilted Back. Lifting the chin and leaning the head backward. Lifting the chin and looking down the nose are used throughout the world as nonverbal signs of superiority, arrogance, and disdain. In Greece and Saudi Arabia, a sudden head-tilt-back movement means "No." In Ethiopia, the same gesture means "Yes."
- Bending Away. Flexing the spinal column sideward to increase the physical distance between two people to enlarge or exaggerate the body's size to dominate, threaten, or bluff an opponent.
- Decision Grip. A manner of grasping an object securely between the inner surfaces of the fingers and the palm. A clear indication of ownership.
- Disgust. A sickening feeling of revulsion, loathing, or nausea. Disgust shows in a curled upper lip, digestive vocalizations, narrowed eyes, lowered brows, backward head-jerks and side-to-side head-shakes, visible protrusions of the tongue, wrinkled nose, raised nostrils, and lowered inner corners of the eyebrows.
- Fear. A usually unpleasant, visceral feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or dread. Fear shows in an exaggerated angular distance, increase in breathing rate, trembling and chattering teeth, crouching, crying, faster eye-blank rate, the fear grin, widely opened flashbulb eyes, the hair-bristle, an accelerated heart rate, tightened muscle tension, screaming, squirming, staring eyes with enlarged pupils, sweaty palms, tense mouth, throat clear, tense voice, yawning, statue motionless and breathless, crouching down, violent heartbeat, pale skin, cold sweat, erect hair, trembling muscles, dry mouth, avoidance, hiding, wary watching, cowering, and clinging
- Uplifted Palms. A speaking or listening gesture made with the fingers extended and the hand(s) rotated to an upward position in an appealing, imploring, or "begging" position. Uplifted palms suggest a vulnerable or non aggressive pose which appeals to listeners as allies, rather than as rivals or foes. Throughout the world, palm-up cues reflect moods of congeniality, humility, and uncertainty.
- Palm Down Gesture. A speaking or listening cue made with the fingers extended and the hand(s) rotated to a downward position. A posture in which the hands and forearms assume the arm position used in a pushup. While speaking or listening to another's remarks, palm-down gestures show confidence, assertiveness, and dominance. When accompanied by aggressive, palm-down "beating" signs, remarks appear stronger and more convincing.
- Shoulder Shrug. To lift, raise, or flex forward one or both shoulders in response to another person's statement, question, or physical presence; or to one's own inner thoughts, feelings, and moods. The shoulder shrug is a universal sign of resignation, uncertainty, and submissiveness. Shrug cues may modify, counteract, or contradict verbal remarks. A shrug reveals misleading, ambiguous, or uncertain areas in dialogue.
- Clearing Throat. A nonverbal vibration of the vocal cords caused by a sudden, involuntary release of air pressure from the lungs. Suggests disagreement, anxiety, doubt, deception, or to announce one's physical presence in a room.
Givens, D. (2004). The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, and Body Language Cues. [Online]. Available: http://members.aol.com/nonverbal2/entries.htm#Entries [2004, July 1].