Know Your Body Language!
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
While the key to success in speaking lies in your ability to communicate well, it’s not the words that you use but your non-verbal cues or “body language” that speak the loudest. Your facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact are powerful communication tools. They can put people at ease, build trust, and draw people’s attention towards you but they can also offend, confuse, and undermine what you’re trying to say. By improving how you understand and use non-verbal communication, you can express what you really mean in your speeches.
First of all, what is the definition of body language? Body language is the use of physical behavior, expressions, and mannerisms to communicate non-verbally, often done out of reflex rather than deliberately. Whether you’re aware of it or not, when you interact with others, you’re continuously giving and receiving wordless signals from other sources, such as your eyes or hand gestures. All of your non-verbal behaviors—the gestures that you make or how much eye contact you make—send strong messages towards your audience.
There are several types of body language that we should be aware of whenever we are presenting a speech:
1. Eye Contact
Eye contact is seen as one of the most important aspects of non-verbal communication. Steady eye contact often indicates paying attention to the person that he/she is talking to, as well as a willingness and sincerity to connect with that person. The lack of eye contact can be viewed as defensiveness, nervousness and/or shyness.
The way we sit down, stand up or even walk can also communicate a message towards others. For example, slumping in a chair is often considered as a sign of disrespect or laziness. Walking with one’s head and shoulders down can be interpreted as a sign of nervousness or low self-esteem. Puffing out one’s chest has been traditionally interpreted as feeling prideful.
3. Specific Movements
There are specific movements that have traditionally been associated with certain messages. For example, nodding generally means “yes”, a sign of assent or agreement. Raising clenched hands can be interpreted as a sign of anger or dissatisfaction. Stomping feet can be an indication of frustration.
4. Facial Expression
It is believed that there are universal facial expressions that can be understood by everyone in the world. For example, anger is often indicated by sharp stares, furrowed eyebrows and clenched teeth. Sadness, on the other hand, can be detected by teary eyes. Note though that the expression and perception of emotions tend to vary from culture to culture.
Our non-verbal communication can be influenced by many things, including past habits, life experiences and culture. Being made more aware of how body language influences our communication and learning how to control it can go a long way to reducing misunderstandings and feelings of stress whenever we communicate with others.