Becoming Aware of Your Own Body Language
Understanding body language, just like communications itself, involves two aspects: you want to understand your own body language and you want to read other people by observing their body language. We will work on both of these throughout this course.
Becoming aware of your own body language allows you to better control what you are telling others. As we mentioned previously, we have all been conditioned to use our words to express not necessarily our true emotions but rather the emotions and thoughts that we want to reveal to others. We censor what we say, acting pleased to see someone that we truly despise or expressing admiration for some prize possession of someone even though we think it is the ugliest thing on the planet.
We lie about our feelings every day, even when a clerk at the store casually asks “How are you today?” Most people, even if they are having the worst day of their life, will respond that they are fine, thank you.
Similarly, we have learned to monitor our facial expressions, at least to a large extent. We have all been told at some time, probably by our parents, to put on a smile. We smile when we greet people, even when we are not truly happy. We can hide disgust at food we are served, feign shock at a surprise party that we knew was coming, and pretend we are happy even under the most miserable of circumstances. Certainly professional actors are not the only people capable of this verbal and facial deception, though everyone has varying levels of skills and believability in this area.
The fact is that we can consciously choose what we say and, to a large extent, the facial expressions that we make.
So, what’s the big deal with body language? Too many people think of the face as the main part of the body to express emotion. Actually, this is far from true. Other areas of the body express far more than the face does. Our necks, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, legs and feet are all as expressive as our faces and our words, if not more so.
It may surprise you to know that you are communicating all of the time – even when you are still and silent. In fact, for humans it is impossible to not communicate – what we are thinking will manifest itself in our body language in some subtle way. If someone is speaking to you and you are totally silent, then you reach to pick a piece of lint off your jacket, you are demonstrating that you don’t care what this person is saying and that, in fact, you don’t even find it (and likely them) worthy of your time. Or, if a person is speaking to you and you simply look at them with a vacant expression, no smile or frown, no words, they will likely assume that you do not understand what they are saying, that you either do not comprehend their words or their meaning.
Even a lack of words and action speaks volumes.
Because you are always communicating with your body it is imperative that you learn how to use these communications. When you understand body language you can better control your own body language to ensure that you are sending off the signals that you want to send. In fact, you can use your own body language to reprogram your own brain and actually change the way you feel (like how forcing yourself to smile can actually make you feel happier). And, of course, you can better read the true thoughts, feelings and intentions of others.