You never know what you might be saying — without even opening your mouth! Read on for body language tips and make sure you are saying what you really mean to.
If you were asked to describe yourself, would your body language even be considered? In many cases the answer would most likely be, no. Yet, we go through our entire lives being judged or judging other people on their body language. The title question was presented to an audience of women at a workshop on the recent One Love Gospel Cruise by radio personality, P. Ann Price from Cincinnati. The question stirred up some thoughts within about how I have been perceived by others as well as how I have judged others based on their external language.
As I explained to a colleague during the workshop, I naturally walk with my head up and people have often labeled me as stuck up, particularly during my younger years. Because it is a natural function of my body, I rarely if ever notice it until someone points it out. From my perspective, walking with your head up eludes confidence, but it does not always tell the complete story. For example, I have a tendency to trip over cracks when walking on the sidewalk and people have labeled me clumsy. Therefore, body language would indicate that I am stuck up and clumsy and neither is true. My colleague said that she has a tendency to walk with her head down. I do not perceive her as lacking confidence and she probably does not trip as much as I do. However, people often associate walking with your head down as lacking confidence. There is no evidence to support any of these assumptions.
I have a teenage granddaughter who sometimes stands with her shoulders hunched over. I absolutely dislike this stance because I perceive it to be associated with a low self-esteem. When photographing her dressed for homecoming, I noticed her shoulders slouched and before taking another picture, I instructed her to straighten her shoulders. When viewing the two photographs, there was a distinct difference between the straight and the slouched shoulder photos. She actually looked prettier and her beauty was more prominent in the photo where she stood with shoulders straight. Does her self-esteem change because of her shoulders or is that how I perceived her body language based on my own assumption?
My daughter once complained about going to an event where the men tended to stand around and ignore most of the women with the exception of the one’s they apparently knew. This event was about the only social activity going on for young adults in the city where we lived in at the time. I suggested she change her attitude and walk with ownership when she entered the event. My exact words were “walk in the room like it’s a penthouse and you own it.” She came home that evening excited about the results she received from following those simple body language instructions. Was she a different person? No, but her body language and attitude caught the attention of a few gentlemen and she expressed she had a good time dancing and communicating. Because of her change in attitude and posture, I perceived her as having confidence.
Another misunderstood body language is facial expression. For instance, as women age, do they tend to frown more than smile? I was at a beauty salon last year sitting under the dryer when I noticed two women a bit older than myself reading. They both appeared to have frowns and my first thought was whether they were happy or not. When they peered up from the books and started talking, the frowns disappeared. In retrospect, as we age, our skin loses its elasticity particularly around the eyes and mouth area. Sometimes when we face downward, our skin may appear to sag. What I perceived as unhappy was a natural function of the body. Therefore, our body language can say things about us that are misunderstood.
P.Ann did a great exercise in the workshop where she asked several women to walk across the stage and the audience had to guess about their sex life based on the way they walked. The categories were something like, “Off the Chain, You Don’t Want to Know and Just Okay.” Over 50% of the time, the audience was incorrect. It is easy to place judgment on people by their visible language and actions because those are the things we see and perceive we understand. In reality, what we don’t visually see in people is more of who they are as opposed to what they are. Sometimes we should go beyond the surface and beneath the skin to really get to know a person? I truly believe we will be quite surprised at how we can misjudge people based on our own perceptions. As a colleague once told me some years ago, I thought you were stuck up when I first met you, but I have to confess “you are a treasure and a pleasure to work with.” We became really good friends during that time in my life.
Reprinted from More.com.
Good article. Body language can often be misinterpreted. Those that say body language is more telling than words should read your article. For instance I am very short and often an uncomfortable sitting so I fidget a lot trying to reposition myself for comfort. Others may interpret that as me not paying attention, not interested or maybe needing to go to the bathroom or something else altogether. All would be incorrect.
I agree body language is what we base our first impression on consciously or subconsciously. It's 55% of our communication, too! I agree that we need to be teaching our daughters and granddaughters about nonverbal language. Thanks for sharing!
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