How many of you pay attention to body language when you are meeting with someone? I tend to do so all the time, and I also try to be aware of my own body language.
Why you ask? Because everybody sends out very powerful messages with their body and being aware of it, will help you in your one-to-one communication on a daily basis.
One of the strongest signals is someone who has their arms crossed, it usually means they are not open to receiving or giving out information.
How about someone that won’t look you straight in the eyes, do you trust them?
At our office I walk around a lot, and I always pay attention to our staff’s body language. It usually will tell me who is stressed out, who is not feeling well, who is not happy. More often than not, I will have a chat or make a friendly remark to confirm my observation.
I am a great fan of a British writer called Desmond Morris. One of his earliest best sellers was called “The Naked Ape”. He has written many books since, including “The Human Zoo”, “Man Watching” and “Body Watching”, all about human behavior as it relates to physical communication.
Why is it important you ask? Well, what is the point of giving someone your best sales pitch, when they are signaling with their crossed arms that they are not ready to receive information? Are you ready to do business with someone, who is signaling with their eyes “don’t trust me”?
Because of my previous career in dance, I have always been interested professionally in how my body communicates through its posture or through gestures. Over the years I have actually tried to modify some of my own physical expressions in order to become a more effective communicator, or in some cases to avoid sending out the wrong message.
As an example, I learned years ago, that in Italy raising your hand with your palm facing outwards, is quite an insult. It is something I sometimes do in the heat of an argument, when I try and stop or change a conversation. So in Italy, I would likely escalate the argument, rather than stop it.
Here are a couple of quotes I pulled from Desmond Morris’ “Body Watching”:
- The main function of the eyebrows is to signal the changing moods of their owner.
- Walking with the hands behind the back is a posture of dominance.
- The opposite being, a body-cross posture signaling a defensive barrier
- The hand is the cutting-edge of the mind
- The shoulders are accentuated gender signals
A Daily Mirror review of Body Watching says in part: “Mr. Morris shows you how people express pleasure, disgust, fear and most emotions you can think of – just by the way they move”
Why have I chosen body language as an Education Moment for today? Well, because I believe all of us can become better communicators by paying attention to what we, ourselves, or others are trying to say with our bodies. Actively thinking about how we communicate with our body and express ourselves through gestures, will help improve our business and personal communication.
Many of you are probably thinking: “I knew that” or “that’s common sense” or “that feels right”. The reason is that all of us from the moment we are born, learn and practice body language as one of the most basic ways to communicate. What I am suggesting, is to be aware of it and to use it pro-actively, in order to become a better and stronger communicator.
So, let me finish with some non-verbal communication. (bow like a dancer) (and clasp and raise your hands during the applause)