Murderer, Widower, or Both?

“He’s cute,” said Penny. “Doesn’t that teardrop tattoo mean he murdered someone?” asked Bernadette. Canned laughter ensued. I was watching The Big Bang Theory, and that one statement was all I knew about teardrop tattoos. I have since researched teardrop tattoos and learned that, while the tattoo can have many criminal connotations, it may also simply signify the death of a loved one or some other tragedy the wearer has experienced. At the time, however, based on the information I had, teardrop tattoo equated to murderer; and this was further supported by my past experience of having a coworker with a teardrop tattoo, who, rumor had it, had been convicted of attempted murder.

Clearly, how we present ourselves matters, and in the workforce, it matters based not on what we mean to portray, but based on how we are viewed by those we are portraying ourselves to. Tattoos are an example of nonverbal communication, something that gives people an impression of us based on their own interpretations of how we look. A first impression is made in a matter of seconds, and, later, is very hard to overturn, which means that how we present ourselves can be our biggest weapon or our greatest downfall. Navigating the world of nonverbal communication is especially difficult when dealing with a workforce comprised of multiple generations.

A Harris research poll found that nearly half of millennials and a little over a third of Gen Xers have tattoos, while barely over 10% of Baby Boomers sport tattoos. In a workforce composed of at least these three generations, a tattoo will mean different things depending on the viewer. The fact that first impressions are made within the first few seconds of meeting someone means that, in an interview, a decision to NOT hire a candidate may be based on the nonverbal communication that occurs before a job applicant even has a chance to open his/her mouth.

As a millennial myself, I am not arguing that people should not express themselves via tattoos. I am simply urging readers to know their audience. An interview at a start-up begun by millennials like ourselves and an interview at a long established company with Baby Boomers in the positions of authority should be approached differently in regards to physical appearance. The same goes for actually working at these different establishments; being taken seriously at one may require a different appearance than being taking seriously at another. We can argue about the ‘injustice’ of the subconscious discrimination occurring or we can take control of the only aspect of it we are truly in charge of: ourselves. As Oscar Wilde says, “It’s the spectator, and not life, that art truly mirrors.” In other words, that teardrop tattoo can signify your heartache for your late wife all you want, but if the viewer thinks it means you murdered her…chances are…you won’t be hired.
By: Stephanie Baumgartner, Biology major at IUPUC

Discuss the importance of body language as an aspect of communication

Discuss the importance of body language as an aspect of communication

Blowing a kiss, waving, winking, giving an OK sign, thumbs up or thumbs down, giving the peace sign, and staring- all ways of communicating. Words weren’t spoken, but actions were noticed. These channels of communication are called body language or nonverbal communication. Everybody uses body language. As soon as we are in contact with others, we are communicating.

Body language is used when words are inadequate. We don’t tell each other that easily how we feel about each other, or how the words of a message need to be interpreted. In order to make the meaning of the words more clearly we use body language.

Body language is used to express feelings. It can be very difficult to lie or cover up through body language. People can give away their true feelings by not being aware of their body language. For instance, if we don’t like someone, it may be difficult to say that directly to the person. Instead, we can make it clear either intentionally or unintentionally through body language.

Kinesics is the study of motion and how people use them to communicate.

Kinesics follows into five categories:

  • Emblems– directly translate words or phrases. Examples are an OK sign, hitchhiker’s sign, and a “come here” wave.
  • Illustrators– cues that accompany and literally “illustrate” or add meaning to verbal messages. Examples are pointing when talking, hands far apart when talking of something large, and circular hand movements when talking of a circle.
  • Affect displays- facial expressions communicating emotions and feelings. Examples are pouting, winking, and eyebrow movement.
  • Regulators– cues that monitor, maintain, or control the speaking primarily of another. Examples are head nods and body shifts.
  • Adaptors– behaviors that satisfy some need and help you adapt to a situation. Examples are scratching your head, restless movements, and personal nervous actions.

The most revealing feature on your face is your eyes. The eyes are the “mirrors of the soul”. Smiling can give insight into how someone is feeling. A smile can have multiple meanings.

Physical appearance plays a role in our evaluations of others. Physical characteristics get noticed by other people. People might express themselves in terms of body language, like staring at an attractive person. Body artifacts, such as clothing, body piercings, make-up, and tattoos also get noticed by other people.

Haptics, or touch communication, is the most primitive form of human communication.

Touch can send different messages:

  • Positive emotion
  • Playfulness
  • Control
  • Ritualistic- which is a handshake to say hello or goodbye
  • Task function- a dentist or hair stylist
  • Hybrid function- to greet a person or show affection
  • Accidental- done without apparent intent

The elements of your environment can affect how a person feels and acts which contributes to body language. These elements include: sounds, smells, colors, temperature, architecture, designs, lighting, and furnishings. An example is the dentist office. The environment in the dentist office affects my body language. The elements of sound, smell, and furnishings affect the way I act and feel. I have a terrified and anxious look on my face until I leave the dentist office. While I am in the dentist chair, I tightly grip the chair arms. The dental assistants know from my body language how I feel about going to the dentist.

Body language is extremely influential in everyday life. It influences how relationships are established, maintained, and dissolved. It influences marital satisfaction and stability. Body language can help in the diagnosis of health-related problems, such as autism and how babies show emotional distress.

Body language can also by very distracting. When a person is communicating with another, they may tend to focus more on your nonverbal displays than on what you are saying. This will likely have the meaning to be unclear or little meaning will be exchanged in the interaction. Remember to keep in mind the relationship between verbal and nonverbal messages, “actions speak louder than words”.

Jill McClure, IUPUC student

Source:  West, Richard and Turner H. Lynn. Understanding Interpersonal Communication: Making choices in changing times. 2nd ed. Massachusetts: Wadsworth, 2006. Print.


Body Language in Different Cultures

What is body language? How can we use it? How is it used differently in other cultures?

Body language is ubiquitous!! defines body language; “nonverbal, usually unconscious, communication through the use of postures, gestures, facial expressions and the like.” Can you think of a time when you have used body language to get your point across? Are you sure sent the right message?

How can Body Language be used Effectively?

Body language can be more important than your actual words. What message are you really sending? For example; you would not want to have your arms folded during a job interview or you would not want to point at someone in a negative manner. Body language is a very powerful tool that should be put to good use. Be certain that you are sending the correct message verbally and physically. For example; sitting up-right during a job interview shows that you are interested. Be very clear and direct with your actions. Mixed signals can cause someone to be confused, offended and uncomfortable. Hand gestures can help express emphasis on the current topic. Facial expressions can show interest or disinterest.


How is Body Language used in Different Cultures?

In you culture, what is considered the social norm? As Hoosiers, we all share similar nonverbal communication messages. We tend to be more comfortable with certain situations than others. For example; we have our “boundary lines” and we do not like them to be crossed. By “boundary lines”, I am referring to our levels of comfort in certain situations. How close is too close? I know that I have what I like to call “my bubble.” I tend to get very uncomfortable when someone invades “my bubble” without warning. For example; when I am having a conversation with someone I like to keep at least 2 feet of distance between faces. However, someone from another culture might be offended if I keep distance from them during our conversation. Let’s use japan as an example. It is well known that Japan is a very over-populated country. Just how comfortable would you be working less than 5 feet from your co-workers every day? The Japanese have adapted to their population and are comfortable with the situation.



Typical American Office


Typical Japanese Office


In closing, I want to remind you that I have just touched this topic with a few examples. As I mentioned before, body language is ubiquitous.  I will leave you with a few things to think about. Body language is very powerful and effective. Always think about your actions. What message are you really sending with your nonverbal actions? Will I offend anyone with my actions? What is considered the social norm?


Works Cited

By Michael Ayers, Business Major at IUPUC