On Engaging Communication Pt. 3 – Body Gestures

The next part of the installment is your body language. Body language can convey just as much, or might be even more telling than your spoken message. Easy example, imagine someone who is saying to the audience, “I’m not nervous to stand before all of you here”, but his legs are stiff as board, his fingers fidgeting, his gaze looks upwards, and he’s sweating profusely. Yeah, fat chance you’re gonna believe he’s not nervous.

Fact is, a lot of these body languages are hard to control. That’s because the way your body and face reacts are mostly based on reflex. You can train yourself so you can control it better, but I won’t delve too much into it at this post as I myself is still practicing it in every instance I can.

This post will focus on the 4 big components of body (I’ll include face) language that’ll impact your message. This is NOT rocket science, and you should already be familiar with the concepts here, this just reiterates where you need to focus on.

Appearance

First and foremost, are your appearance consistent with your message? Say you’re trying to convey a message that you are young and hip like your target demographic, don’t go on stage/on camera wearing suits you can wear to funerals! That contradicts your message!

Appearance extends not only to the clothes that you wear, but includes your hair, such as whether you wear pomade/wax, whether it’s long or short, whether it’s messy or neat, your shave (mostly for the guys, this relates to how much beard/moustache you sport), your glasses and other accessories (shoes, belt, jewellery, watches, etc).

Try to think about what enhances your message, what kind of person will make the best impact in delivering that message, and tailor your appearance to it.

Posture & body movement

Then assume you have perfect clothes and stuff, now you need to be careful with what you do with your body during the interaction! For example, you are saying to your partner, “What you are saying is interesting to me! Please continue!”, but you bend your body backwards, cross your arms, look at the clock every few minutes. I’d be surprised if your partner doesn’t get mad. Your words say that you’re interested, but your body says that you’re out of the conversation.

Simple guidelines for this part should suffice:

  • Conversational purposes:
    • Crossing arms, eyes wandering around, and body bending backwards in a conversation signals disinterest
    • Looking at the clock signals that the person needs to go soon. Please do ask whether they need to go or not.
    • Lowering your head signals humility or shame
    • No eye contact signals no confidence. Excessive eye contact might signal lies though, so be careful.
    • Shrinking your body signals no confidence
    • Putting your hands on the table signals confidence (Please don’t put your feet on the table in an effort to be doubly confident)
  • Stage purposes
    • Occasional walking around the stage and hand gestures signals confidence. Too much of it signals nervousness
    • Open arms signals confidence and openness to audience
    • Eye contact with audience, switching people to lock eye contact with regularly signals confidence and truthfulness
    • Lowering your head signals humility or shame
    • Having your hands inside your pockets signals that you have something to hide or you are going to show something

This list is not exhaustive, but should be sufficient for a headstart.

Tone

This is simply the tone you use to deliver your message. Remember, the key is being consistent with your message. Typically your tone should match your message. If you’re angry, a high tone is appropriate. Or if you’re responding to an angry customer outburst and you should cheerful, that will just irk the customer more as they don’t feel you understand what they’re going through.

Be mindful of the tone that you use in your conversations and occasionally ask your good friends how do you come off as during your conversation.

Rather than thinking too much about this, exercise more, be mindful and stop during conversations to think about the tone that you’re using. Be personable, and often times this will come to you naturally.

One suggestion is to stop the “professional” tone, it makes you feel boring and impersonal. Have a variety of tones during the conversation/speech. Imagine if you’re listening a speech with a flat tone, no rise nor fall in between, you’ll get bored within 5 minutes, I guarantee you. But please don’t change your tone for the sake of changing your tone. Change your tone to adjust to your message!

Facial expressions

Last but not least, is the facial expressions you show. This, for me is the number one hardest part to improve on. It’s very hard to stop your reflex as you react to something. Some people are blessed with poker face ability to not reflexively show what they think on their face, but alas, I’m not one of those people.

For me, even if I got this down, oftentimes, my micro expressions will probably still betray me. Read more on micro expressions here.

As with the tone, this is not an easy hurdle, but you’ll get better with practice. Remember, consistency with message is number one.

These 4 should give you a headstart and help you in improving your conversations/public speaking. The last part about the supporting media will be up in July!

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