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Body language is a term for communication using body movements or gestures instead of, or in addition to, sounds, verbal language or other communication. It forms part of the category of paralanguage, which describes all forms of human communication that are not verbal language. This includes the most subtle of movements that many people are not aware of, including winkingand slight movement of the eyebrows. In addition, body language can also incorporate the use of facial expressions.
One of the most basic and powerful body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest. This can indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. It can also indicate that the person’s arms are cold which would be clarified by rubbing the arms or huddling. When the overall situation is friendly, it can mean that a person is thinking deeply about what is being discussed. But in a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition. This is especially so if the person is leaning away from the speaker. A harsh or blank facial expression often indicates outright unfriendliness.
Consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn’t trust the speaker enough to “take his eyes off” the speaker. Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort. Eye contact is often a secondary and misleading gesture because we are taught from an early age to make eye contact when speaking. If a person is looking at you but is making the arms-across-chest signal, the eye contact could be indicative that something is bothering the person, and that he wants to talk about it. Or if while making direct eye contact a person is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it could indicate the attention is elsewhere.
Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. So is eyestrain, or itchiness. When a person is not being convinced by what someone is saying, the attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.
Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused. A head tilt may also indicate a sore neck, and unfocused eyes may indicate ocular problems in the listener.
Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact.
In BM English speaking Course each participant has to do Public speaking practise 20 times on various topics and a professional trainer corrects Grammar, pronunciation, Body Language, trains him/her to speak fluently with confidence.
How many of you have made your mind up about a speaker’s message without concerning yourself about the words, purely by observation and your intuition. And this is going on right now somewhere in the world. A business speaker has a good message but it’s being clouded by the way its presented. The purpose of this article is to remind you, convince you of some key steps to take to ensure your body doesn’t cloud the message next time you get up a speak.
As adults, we still have childish habits and one of them is to focus on the face of someone who is speaking to you. So get those expressions working for you and really exaggerate the meaning. Smile, frown, look angry, shocked, amazed – but please always be congruent with your message.
Next we have eye contact. This is probably the one skill, when mastered, that does the most to engage the audience and build trust and rapport with the audience. The rule is to hardly ever let go. Imagine you’re playing tennis or squash. You never let your eye off the ball otherwise you’ll miss a shot. Like wise, keep your eye contact on the audience at all times.
Careful with the lighthouse technique as well – this is where speakers sweep the audience in a repetitive swishing motion that does more to put people to sleep than engage.
Instead have a conversation with your audience with your eyes. Randomly contact with each audience member and give them 2 to 3 seconds of eye contact and move onto the next person. Maintain this random movement. Find those in the audience who like just a little more eye contact and be aware of those who want slightly less. When faced with a large audience – more than 25 or so people, adopt a similar habit but don’t give each person eye contact. That’ll take ages. Instead clump people into small groups and give these clumps the same eye contact as if they were one person. Because of the distance between you and a large audience, this gives people the impression that you are looking at them.
Now let’s go to the other extreme of your body. Your feet and legs. Now what do you do with these limbs. Not a lot really unless you are moving around your stage, that’s movement with a purpose, not aimless wandering that only distracts the audience.
Try to stand with both feet firmly on the ground pretty much the same distance apart as your shoulders. Keep them balanced so your body is not leaning to one side. Don’t look like a cat walk model or if you’re supping a pint at the bar of your local. Stand straight and look professional not a slouch.
Nerves…that’s a word than conjures up fear and dread every time people stand up and speak in public. And sure enough you’ll have nerves. Professionals call it adrenaline and you need that to do a really good job. If you don’t have nerves or adrenaline, you might as well not bother because you can’t be bothered. Sop welcome nerves, call them adrenaline and make them work for you. Nerves will show in the periphery of your body. The ends such as feet, hands, head. Keeping your feet still transfers this energy to the top part of your body where it should go.
You should stay rigid to the spot; that would be terrible for 20 minutes. Instead focus your attention on preventing aimless movement, pacing up and down, shifting from side to side.
Next we have the trunk. Not much you can do with the trunk apart from keeping it straight. Not like the sergeant Major on the parade ground but not slouched either. Relaxed and comfortable. The worse sin is to block the invisible mid line that runs from between your 2 feet and your head. Block it and you place a barrier with your audience. Just don’t block it – that’s the rule.
Hands and Arms
How many people I’ve spoken with who don’t know what to do with these very useful limbs. Shame really so they copy people on the TV especially weather girls. They grasp them together. It made me feel better and comfortable so much that as soon as I stood up to talk, my two hands came together. And when I got really nervous I used to rub them together too.
So what do you do with them? Behind your backs but that just reminds me of Prince Charles. In your pockets I hear you say. No, you’re hiding something, keeping back from the audience and besides, you’re missing out on a great weapon. No the answer is to use them to back up your message by gesturing.
We should gesture with audiences. Large dramatic gestures to help the audience understand what you’re saying. Broad gestures that welcome every person into your speech, building rapport. Think of your speech content and let your hands do the talking. Watch deaf people doing their sign language – it really is a very clever way of losing your gesture buttons.
And when not gesturing, or talking, maybe standing still to take questions from your audience, assume the assertive stance. Standing straight with your arms and hands down your sides in a relaxed assertive and confident manner.
Finally, body movement. Movement can be an enormously effective way of engaging the audience into your message. Clean your stage – remove obstacles, tape wires to the floor, so you don’t trip over them, place the screen to the side.
Once you have a clear space do move around with a purpose. I’ve used past, present and future by gradually moving along an imaginary line. The audience can see the time moving along as well as hear. I’ve used one side of the stage being advantages of an idea I’m promoting and the other side, the disadvantages. I’ve placed flipcharts at both sides of the room to mirror these place anchors.
Move forward towards your audience when you want to make a really big point. Move backwards when you want them to reflect on something. Move to your left or right to change the subject or pace of your delivery. Do move around your stage but with a distinct purpose.
The next time you’re observing and listening to a speaker, try and cut out the sound and focus entirely on the visual aspects. Try and interpret what he or she is saying just by the body language alone. You may not be right in your assumption of the meaning, but its the impression that everyone else is probably getting too. And first impressions last for ages.
In BM English Speaking in every session the participant has to do Public Speaking practice 20 times where the trainer will train the participant on body language- Eye contact, gestures, postures and facial expressions.