Okay, so to continue the theme of the previous 2 blogs, today we will cover body language. Why? Because it goes directly along with HOW you say what you say and boy does it matter!
You can say “I really love your hair” to someone, which sounds like a compliment. However, if you say it in an insincere tone of voice and have your arms crossed and are looking away from them, then you sent a very different message. If you are looking at them directly, smiling and standing in an open posture, the message comes across as the true compliment you would expect it to be.
Why do I bring this up to you? Well, it’s because in this world where everyone has an 8 second attention span and is very distracted and mostly not actively listening, much less participating in the conversation genuinely, our bodies give that away for us. This is frustrating to us when trying to convey an important message and it is important to those who wish to convey something important to us.
Being a good communicator means using everything you have to work in conjunction to reach the other person and to let them know they have reached you. People do still value real live interaction with other people. They just receive much less of it these days.
Here is an example for you. If you are still stewing about something you read or heard when you begin your next conversation it will likely show up and redirect the conversation. Just like when you have that long hard day at work, walk in the door at home and are not yet ready to be happy and greet your family lovingly – it shows. It’s nobody’s fault, it just happens more frequently these days due to all of the rushing around that we do.
So, what can you do to fix this? Well, first you can be aware of it. Start paying attention to how other people stand, hold themselves and use their facial expressions to help express themselves. Is their face stuck in their phone when they are talking to you? Or, are they looking right at you? Are they looking at you or beyond you? Are they scanning the room and taking in all sorts of other things besides you?
Now, think about how you carry yourself. When you are frustrated, how does that show up on you? When you are calm and happy, how does that show up? When people are in meetings with you, how do the dynamics of the other participants vary during the conversations?
I have personally been in meetings where crowd reaction could turn something completely around. I had a colleague who was very funny and you never knew what would come out of her mouth. She was amusing and harmless and never intended to hurt anyone. You could tell by her open posture, animated face and gestures. She made meetings light and enjoyable.
A new staff person joined the team and the mood changed. She sat in the meetings arms crosses, downturned face and began to gasp at what the other person was saying. Her downtrodden mood and clearly expressed disapproval ended up changing the upliftingness of the fun person and over time began to sway the reaction of others in the room to react in the same negative stance to conversations. So, you see, how you act and react with your body language is very important.
Most importantly, how you react to how others react makes a difference. If you let their downtroddenness and negativity win you over you will become that way too. Conversely, if you keep your smile and put forth the “lighten up” attitude you may be able to pull them out of their funk and keep everyone up. At the very least you keep yourself up and that is a very good thing indeed!
Let’s face it, work can be difficult, challenging and stressful. It can also be purposeful, uplifting and rewarding. It all depends on your attitude and how you project yourself.
So, keeping your body “open” is a start. That means sitting with your arms and legs uncrossed. Turning your body toward whoever is speaking and actively looking at them and listening to them are all good things.
When you find yourself tucking in, stop and think about why that is. Why did I cross my arms in front of me? Was something said that angered me or that I disagree with? Did my mind wander off to something else?
Another thing to think about is – how aware of body language is the person that I am speaking with? Are they watching me and adjusting themselves? If so, am I positioning myself to deliver the message that I intend? Do I want to let them know that I am upset, disagree with them or am distracted by something else? Or, do I prefer to keep my personal feelings closer to the vest to move this transaction forward?
I know this seems like a lot to have to think about on top of everything else in your life. So what I suggest is that you simply start out by observing. Be the observer. See what is going on around you and how that affects other people and the direction of the conversation. Over time you will come to see what a valuable tool this is in both projecting the true message that you mean to convey and in seeing the truth in others as well.
If you’d like to share a story or some additional tips, feel free! I’d love to hear from you.
All my best,