Can your body language make a difference to getting your message across? Absolutely. You can use your body to back up the message that you’re communicating with your words.
There’s an oft reported statistic that says that our body language is more effective in communicating our message than our words. This is clearly not true. If it were, it would mean that speakers of different languages would be able to communicate through body language alone – which we obviously can’t do.
But our body language can do something quite important. Our body language can support what our words and delivery are saying.
Mime artists do it all the time. Marcel Marceau built a career on not saying a word – and letting his body speak for him.
Default position for your body
The default position for our body is arms at the side, and our weight evenly distributed on both legs. From this position we can use our bodies to effectively support what we’re saying.
I’ve known some people who have real problems with their hands – and I mean real problems. They’ve had a repetitive hand gesture that has become firmly ingrained into their speaking over decades.
If you have problems returning your arms to your side, focus on touching your hands on the seams of your pants. If you’re wearing a dress or skirt, you might want to sew something into the material to remind you to return your hands to your sides.
This gives you something to focus on.
We can make dozens of different facial expressions. We can show anger, fear, confusion and a whole host of emotions without even speaking. The trick is to be congruent. We don’t tell the audience a tragic story – and laugh while we’re doing it. We also don’t tell people that we’re feeling really excited – and stand in a defeated manner wearing an expressionless face.
Yes, I have seen this! I’ve seen people telling audiences that they’ve just been on the holiday of their lives – and they’re wearing eulogy faces!
Our faces need to support our words!
Our bodies can be used to show symbols. For example, we can hold up a hand that says ‘stop’ or we can show numbers on our fingers to say, ‘She had 5 children.’
Using our whole body
We can use our entire body to show shape. For example, ‘The sign was shaped like this,’ or ‘pears are this shape.’
We can also show size. For example, ‘The fish was this big!’ and ‘He was this high.’ We can use the whole stage to express something really large, ‘My first car was this long, and sat this low to the ground.’
Next time you’re delivering a speech, have a think about what you want to communicate – and how. Why communicate only with your words when you have your entire body at your disposal?
Make your body work for you – and get your message across.