Got up, dressed up, sat before the computer. Clicking Skype and switching the camera on, I started my first interview. However, when I saw myself on the screen, I felt uncomfortable and my confidence soon faded: where should I put my hands?
What happened to me? Why did a well-prepared person have no idea about where to put his or her hands? An interview should be easy, but many people are actually nervous like me. What happened to us? Why are our bodies not used to a simple interview?
Online chats, phone calls, and texting become popular recently. They do provide us convenience, but also a place to hide our bodies behind the screen. In the virtual world, people do not need their bodies and therefore ignore how their bodies tell. However, in reality, it is capable of conveying something words cannot tell.
Yes, your body tells us something.
IT SPEAKS KOREAN
After graduating from primary school, I went to travel in Korea, the first foreign country I had been to, with my mother. One night, after a short rest in the hotel, my mom suggested to go out for a walk and try some local food. We walked to a small restaurant with about ten or more people in it.
The waiter then introduced to us the dishes on the menu in Korean that I could not understand at all and showed the price with the calculator.
We patiently listened to his careful introduction and started looking around – a common strategy in a new restaurant to order the meal. Searching for something that other Koreans were also eating, we found the fried octopus.
“We want the octopus,” I told the waiter and pointed at the tank containing the octopus.
The waiter seemed to understand my English and spoke Korean that seemed to make sure we understood the price. Then, he ran back to the kitchen preparing the dishes.
The tea was fine. The appetizers were fine. But, when it came to the octopus, things went wrong. He came out with a plate of raw octopus, tentacles still moving as if their souls were still inside. To show his hospitality, he nipped one piece with chopsticks and sent to my mouth.
Oh my god! It is still moving. It is so disgusting that it might be the most difficult time in my life to swallow something.
“No! No! No! No!” I told the waiter. I pointed at the raw one and said “No”, telling him “Yes” and pointing at the fried one on the next table. However, the waiter did not understand at all and murmured something that seemed to argue that he was correct.
Without a translator, I had no idea about how to communicate with a Korean. I was so anxious that I started pacing back and forth, my forehead sweating, my hands pinching my sleeves. “What should I do?” I repeated asking myself for a thousand times but still got no answer.
At this moment, my mum had a try. She pointed to the raw octopus and shook her hand to show it was the wrong one. Then, she held the plate and walked a little toward the kitchen. Next, she put the plate back to the table and pretended to add some spices like a cook. My mother sometimes would look at him to know whether he understood and followed her. Finally, she pointed at the fried octopus on the next table and used magicians’ actions to show that she moved the dish to our table, directly in the plate that still contained the disgusting creature.
After watching my mum’s explanation, the waiter nodded his head and then ran back to the kitchen with the raw octopus. After fifteen minutes, we finally could enjoy the delicious fried octopus.
It was my first time to talk with a foreigner in a foreign country. I did not have a translator, but we understood each other with the help of our bodies. It was my first lesson about body language: our bodies are able to tell something.
IT SPEAKS ENGLISH
I was sitting in the bus passing through streets in Boston, heading for lobsters for that night. To provide me more enjoyment of the dinner, the traffic jam tried to make me more eager by making it a long way to the restaurant. Soon, it was about seven and my stomach started growling.
To distract myself from the hungry stomach, I looked at the street out of the window and tried not to think about the food. Soon, a homeless man attracted me by making an eye contact with me. After waving hands to each other to say “Hello,” we started our conversation.
Maybe because my face did not hide the pain of hunger, the man read my mind and tried to talk with me through the window. He waved his fist and pummeled in the air, looking at his front firmly, as if he was telling me, “You know what? I used to be a boxer. If I was not unlucky, I could even beat Tyson and win the gold belt.” Due to the far distance, I could not distinguish his muscles from the fat. However, the seriousness in his boxing skills and the confidence in his eyes made me choose to believe that he was rather fit than fat.
“Wow! Your boxing skills are really good,” my eyes with worship told him, showing my thumb to him as admiration.
“Ouch! It hurts!” he put a hand over his eye to pretend to be hit because he did not focus, and showed a painful expression just like he was hit in reality.
Then, he started to jump left and right so that his imaginative opponent would not make it to hit him another hard blow. Even though he was acting seriously, I still felt fun because the fat vibrated like waves and his body seemed to shake up and down.
“Ha-ha!” I laughed out. He then also started smiling, with satisfaction to finally see me happy again. We looked at each other and kept smiling, enjoying the silent happiness.
However, nothing gold can stay. The bus started moving and the distance between me and the unknown man became longer, so long that we could not see our waving hands to each other to say goodbye, so long that we lost each other in the crowd, so long that we only lived in each other’s memory.
It was my first time to silently communicate with someone in reality. We shared our emotions via our bodies, impressing me so much and vigorously that it lived long in my memory. It was my second lesson about body language: our bodies can speak emotionally.
IT SPEAKS CHINESE
When I was a child, my father was so busy working that he could only spend an afternoon with me each week. He used his efforts to provide me a good environment to grow up and believed in that love is best when silent. However, I was too young to understand him and thought in a naïve way that my father did not love me.
I was not able to understand his love until the soccer game we played together. When we finished the game, I lay on the field, so tired that the only thing I could do was breathing heavily. After a long time when I recovered a little, I tried to get up slowly, dragged myself to the bench, and changed my soaked clothes. When others came to greet me and give me encouragement, I kept the excitement on my face so that they would not worry about me.
However, I never knew that my father could notice me and read my actions. As usual, he waited for me on the bench and then watched me pack up the bag. Surprisingly, he then brought me a bottle of water, opened it, and handed it to me. When I looked at him, his eyes told me kindly, “Drink slowly, my boy.”
That night, lying on my bed, I finally understood the way in which my father expressed his love – his body.
Last year, my dad hurt his right foot and he could only play for 30 minutes every game. Once, I saw him squatting down, gasping for air and grimacing from pain. Immediately, I understood he was telling me, “I am too tired to continue the game. I need rest.”
So, I would choose to respond him in his unique way. I just simply walked him to the bench, opened the water bottle and handed it to him. Between us is not a conversation but a contact in our hearts. Then, I would make a considerate eye contact with him. “Drink slowly,” I used my eyes to tell him, “it might hurt your lungs.”
And he always returned me a smile that told me “thank you.”
The action was simple: passing water to each other when needed. However, it was meaningful. A simple action our bodies did can explain love while words we said may not describe sufficiently. It was my third lesson about body language: it is a good way to express an idea, sometimes even better than speaking or writing.
As I finished my interview, I walked out of the self-study room. When I saw one of my classmates, I raised my hand and waved to him. He immediately understood my words, and replied me, “Bye. Have a good day.”
On my way to home, I met one of my friends and smiled at her. She soon learned the confidence in my eyes, and told me, “you look good. Enjoy your day.”
When I got home, my parents saw my hunger through my expression. They called me to have a bowl of soup and handed me some snacks.
I did not say anything, but they all understood my mind. How could they do so? How could they read my mind just like having a superpower?
Oh, my body must be telling something.