B is for Body Language
What is body language?
Our body language is an important dimension in the way we express ourselves and communicate. We give off non-verbal signs through e.g. our facial expressions, our tone of voice, our body position and movements, the gestures we make with our hands etc
Why is body language important?
"Ariel: But without my voice, how can I…?
Ursula: You'll have your looks, your pretty face. And don't underestimate the importance of body language, ha! "
The Little Mermaid
Body language is a huge part of conscious, or more often subconscious, communication and this non verbal behaviour has an influence on our interactions with others; not only on how we are perceived by others but also whether we trigger reactions which cause others to shut down rather than respond to us openly.
"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." Ralph Waldo Emerson
As humans, studies show that we pay more attention to body language than the actual words spoken. According to a 1981 study by Albert Mehrabian (a body language expert), words account for just 7% of effective communication whereas body language is 55% and the tone of our voice accounts for 38%. This means that we pay more than 90% attention to body language and the tone in which something is said rather than the actual words themselves. The take-away from this is that if only 7% of our attention is verbal communication, then it is very important to reflect on the non verbal cues that we are transmitting, sub-consciously and consciously, when we communicate with others.
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. The art of reading between the lines is a lifelong quest of the wise.” Shannon L. Adler
As well as being an important tool for us when we are trying to express ourselves and communicate with others, our body language is an important tool in helping us understand and decode what others are saying to us. When there are no words being used, then a person’s body language can give us clues as to their mood, their emotions and general sense of well being.
"When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practised man relies on the language of the first." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Body language also helps us interpret how others are reacting to what we are saying and doing (or not saying and not doing!) and how we are saying or doing things
Can you deliberately change aspects of your body language to change your health/sense of well being?
"Your body language may shape who you are’." Amy Cuddy
It is generally accepted that our minds; the way we think etc can have an affect on our health and change our bodies but Amy Cuddy in her TED Talk asks the next question, I.e. Can our bodies change our minds in a meaningful way?
Studies show that posture can have an impact on our sense of well-being. If we sit up straight as opposed to being slouched, or if we make expansive, open movements with our body like holding or waving our arms high rather than being curled up tight in a ball, for at least two minutes, it sends a different message to our brains by increasing the hormone testosterone and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. These physical behaviours create immediate changes to our body’s chemistry and create new connections in our brain that combat negative thoughts and makes us think more positively and help us to feel more confident.
It is clear that body language is not only an important part of communication but it can have a direct impact on our well being.
To finish, here is a great reminder when communicating with others:
"Use non -verbal communication to SOFTEN the hard-line position of others:
S = Smile
O = Open Posture
F = Forward Lean
T = Touch
E = Eye Contact
N = Nod."