The Center for Nonverbal Studies has a fascinating webpage called The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, and Body Language Cues. While coaching teams, I recently began to intentionally look for many of these gestures and it is interesting to see how often these gestures and cues reveal what people would really want to say or what they are feeling.
From the perspective of a Scrum Master, understanding what is really being communicated on their teams is a crucial element of their role. When people leave things unsaid or unresolved, small cracks in team relationships will begin to widen into chasms.
When nonverbal cues are noticed, a Scrum Master should be triggered to ask an appropriate probing or open-ended question. Nothing to call out the gesture directly but to prompt the person to re-engage with the team or with another individual. If emotions are high, this re-engagement may need to occur at a time in the future.
I would recommend scanning or reading all of the gestures listed in “The Nonverbal Dictionary” but here are a few to highlight:
Probing Point. This may be something as simple as lip purse, shoulder shrug, or hand behind the head but a probing point “presents a strategic opportunity to search beneath a subject’s spoken comment or oral response to the remarks of another.” http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/probe.htm
Flexion Withdrawal. This is typically a movement away from danger or an escape measure. In a team setting an example may be the”pulling the hands and arms backward, away from disliked speakers.” http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/withdraw.htm
Hand Behind Head. When someone puts one hand behind their head, this may be a sign of “uncertainty, conflict, disagreement, frustration, anger or disliking.” http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/handbehi.htm
Arms-crossed. This is quite often a defensive position but it could also be someone just relaxing their arms. If you notice this, assess the context of the situation and determine if they are being put in a situation to be defensive. http://center-for-nonverbal-studies.org/armcross.htm
David Givens and the Center for Nonverbal Studies