The Power of a Wink

Posted by on Jul 6, 2016 in ComLead

The other day, while driving in the car, my boyfriend looked over and winked at me. It was elusive and comforting and in that moment I thought how crazy that one quick gesture, a nonverbal one none the less, could convey so much. It really got me thinking…why do we wink? Where did it originate and how many meanings can one gesture hold.

Unfortunately it seems that there is not much research on the origin of the wink and so its birth is still quite unclear. While we may not know where it began, we do know that somewhere along the way the wink became a symbol of multiple meanings and it enables us to communicate with others in subtle and unsaid ways.

In America a wink can substitute for a friendly hello, convey shared secret knowledge, act as a flirtation, be reassurance of a joke, express comfort or encouragement, or initiate a predetermined plan. Just as other nonverbal gestures have different meanings around the world, the wink is no exception. In Latin America it is a symbol for a sexual invitation. In Nigeria it is a parental signal to children to leave the room and some people in China find the wink to be rude.

The ability to convey so many different messages with one silent movement is a powerful thing. A wink is quick and something that many may miss if they are not paying attention to.

Often a wink can make the intended receiver feel special or as if they are sharing in something secret. However, all communication is subject to the same rules. In order to receive the desired effect, the wink sender must have a receptive source and achieve shared meaning. If you wink at someone to encourage them and they look offended then shared meaning was not achieved and the gesture was not successful.

I never thought twice about winking or the beauty of being able to exchange meaning without having to speak a single word. Sometimes we overlook the smallest things that can actually mean so much and forget all the wonderful ways we can communicate outside of using words. So my message to you is to smile more and wink often.

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