W:You are giving a talk in front of a group of people. You’ve
assembled all the relevant facts. You’ve planned it well, and
your delivery is strong, but your audience doesn’t respond or,
even worse, they are giving you a negative response. What
went wrong? Well, it is probably not what you are saying out
loud that matters. The problem stems from what your body
says, or in other words, your body language. By body language
I mean things as simple as the way you stand, or, say, folding
your arms across your chest. Body language includes the gestures
and movements people make when they communicate. I can’t
stress enough how important this is. All too often, people just
don’t pay attention to their body language. If we go back to
our earlier scenario of giving a talk for a moment, you might
think you are communicating a clear message when you speak,
but if your body is sending a different message, well, then your
audience is just not going to react as you had hoped. You think
you are a competent speaker, but if they see you slouching, not
making eye contact, or pulling your earlobes, the audience will
not feel confident that they can trust what you are saying. They
may even stop listening.
You know, we start to read each other’s body language from a
very young age. Anytime we speak, the other person is checking
our gestures and movements to see if they match what we are
saying. You may not be aware of doing this, but we all do it. It
comes naturally and is something we learn to do very well over
time. If you think about your friends or your co-workers for
example, after a while, you get to know their moods just by
observing their body language or gestures. You know, your
boss has a certain facial expression when he or she is upset, or
maybe one of the guys in your office taps his fingers on his
desk when he is feeling irritable.
An effective communicator will use what he or she sees in
other people and take advantage of it. Even more important,
however, is knowing and understanding your own body language.
If you can exert a certain degree of control over the messages
given by your body, you will be able to manipulate the responses
of other people. You need to be aware of what your body is
saying if you hope to succeed. Let me ask you a question.
When we meet people and talk to them, they receive information
from us. What percentage of that information comes from
what we say, I mean the words we use when we speak? Any
M(1): Umm, maybe 75%?
W: Good guess, but I’m afraid not. Anyone else?
M(2): I’d say about 50%.
W: Wrong again. Would you believe that just 10% of the information
is in the words? That means that 90%, the vast majority of that
information, is in our gestures, our expressions, our tone of voice,
and --- well, all of the other stuff.
Now, I’d like to give you some examples of body language that
you might like to consider in your daily life. We don’t have much
time, so I’ll focus on just a few aspects. Remember, I’m just giving
you an introduction here. I’m sure you’ll recognize a lot of these
as things you often do yourself.
Eye contact. How do you feel when you are talking to
someone, and they make very little or no eye contact? You feel
they are disinterested, don’t you? Or what if they make too
much and they seem to be staring? Either way, you are not
going to form a very good impression of that person.
Most of us do it all the time, but folding your arms across your
body is very negative. It says “don’t approach me, don’t come
any closer.” That is not something you want to say at a job
interview. Hold your body upright, keep it open and relaxed,
and align yourself to place your body face to face with the
other person. Then, they’ll think you are honest and truthful.
So, make a mental note to check your body language to make
sure your body is saying the same thing as your mouth. With
practice, you can send the desired message every time.