Today I’m all about body language.
The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is superbly accurate. The words flow easily as you begin to describe what you see, the colors, shapes, and subjects. Eventually, you move into how you feel about it and what thoughts it brings up. Maybe it reminds you of a childhood experience or a story you once read. Regardless the words can come easily until they ebb off, and you’re ready to move to the next one.
The written word can be interpreted in countless ways. What someone types as sarcastic can be read as funny, hurtful, or angry. As you read, a myriad of emotions bubble up through the filters you employ. The lack of verbal intonation and inflection leaves much to your imagination. Not to mention the literal translation and meaning the writer meant to bring across.
Verbally we do a good job of expressing our thoughts and emotions. When we say, “You look really nice,” it’s most often in a kind and appreciative voice vs. yelling it in anger across a room. And yet, those closest to us can hear tiny differences and meanings through our tone of voice, which adds to the intended meaning.
I took ASL at the local community college, and I’ll tell ya, there are times when the movements, along with the facial cues and physical stance, expressed my feelings way better than any word in a dictionary ever could.
And that brings me to body language and how expressive we are without even thinking.
Have you ever watched two people deeply engaged in conversation together? They lean into each other; eyes are engaged, actively volleying the topic back and forth; maybe they even talk with their hands as they connect and illustrate together. Picture it for a moment and pay attention to what their body language says.
Now visualize another table with a couple of people. One is engaged in telling a story and leaning into their table partner. The other appears to be listening because they’re looking at the talker, but their arms are crossed, and they’re leaning back away from the table.
Picture a couple of people meeting up for the first time. They’re standing up and chatting. What does their body language say? Are they open to the other person and receptive to the meeting? Or are they a bit apprehensive? How do you know?
I love paying attention to this aspect of life. When I meet new people and find I’m standing with my arms crossed, I’ll consciously uncross them to be more open to the opportunity for connection. I may even analyze it later to ask why I felt closed off and protective of myself with the person. If I’m at a dinner and distracted from the people I’m with, I’ll check in to understand if I’m in need of something to bring me back to the moment.
You can apply this the other way around too. When you’re talking with someone, does their body language tell you they’re engaged or tuned out? Are they comfortable or insecure?
The beauty of understanding this concept is how you can apply it to your daily interactions. In business, social situations, family gatherings, and home life, body language can give you a ton of clues into how people are feeling.
Our body language can contradict what our words are saying or help reinforce our meaning and intention. There are countless books and resources you can tap into if you’d like to learn more and dive into the world of our unspoken communication.
Regardless, I hope you begin paying attention to your own feelings and how your body helps illustrate your inner world to those on the outside.