Body language is a significant element in our communication. Here’s a 3-point body language scan to help you optimize both how you are perceived and how you feel. Perhaps you’re not sure what to do with your hands? Or perhaps you catch yourself slouching and your mind is wandering. Think: “3-Point Body Language Scan!” Suddenly, you’re engaged, credible, and enthusiastic.
THE 3-POINT BODY LANGUAGE SCAN
BENEFITS of Optimizing Your Body Language
1. HOW YOU ARE PERCEIVED: Body language can reinforce and strengthen your message to others.
- Body language may account for over half of what we communicate.
- Our communication is more credible when our words, our tone, and our body language are congruent.
- People are scanning us for signals – our posture, hands, eyes,…
2. HOW YOU FEEL: Our brain believes our body language.
- Our own body language communicates implicitly to our brain! Our brain believes the way our body acts.
- Consider the calming effect of purposefully slowing your breathing
- Consider how strong you feel after you strike a powerful pose!
Image from Canva
The 3-Point BODY LANGUAGE Scan:
- Stand or sit up straight. Be expansive. Don’t cross your arms or your legs.
- If you’re sitting, don’t forget the 90-90-90
Image from Canva
- Keep your hands in view. We trust people more when we can see their hands.
- Use slow, purposeful movements. No flailing!
- If you don’t use your hands enough, keep them on top of the table, loosely clasped.
- If you use your hands too much, keep them on your lap during online meetings.
- Practice keeping your hand gestures inside the frame for online meetings.
Image from Canva
- Eye contact is key. We maintain eye contact longer with people whom we know and whom we like.
- Eye contact can be challenging in online meetings. RELAX. Try to focus on looking at the camera, particularly when you’re speaking, and particularly when you’re trying to emphasize a key point.
- Smile with your whole face, including your eyes.
- Watch those eyebrows!
Image from BlindSquirrelProps.com
When you think about communication, you probably focus on your words. But, it turns out that there’s a LOT more to communicating than just “spewing words.”
- There’s your facial expression, and those non-conscious micro expressions
- There’s proximity or proxemics
- There’s haptics or touch
- There’s hand gestures
- There’s your physical appearance (as in your body shape and size)
- There’s paralinguistics or vocal elements, such as your tone, volume, pitch, cadence and so on
- I SEE what you did there, Brian!
- and non-verbal communication even includes what you’re saying through your possessions and artifacts (BTW – I love this topic! Your possessions and artifacts include your clothing, your eye glasses, the brand of water or coffee you’re holding, everything we can see in your online meeting background, … It’s ALL saying something!)
I’m sure I’m missing several things in this list of non-verbal communication elements The point is that when it comes to non-verbal communication, there’s SO MUCH to consider. Where to start?
I got you, don’t worry. How about a simple but effective 3-point body language scan?
Welcome to Talk About Talk episode #96, focused on Body language. In this episode, you’re going to learn an easy-to-recall 3-point body language scan that you can use virtually anytime (and not just virtually)!
The GOAL with this 3-point body language scan is to leverage your body language, to improve it, so that the complete message you’re communicating is optimized. You’re communicating that you’re present and engaged, you’re enthusiastic, you’re focused, and you care.
And I care a lot, BTW. In case we haven’t met, I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!).
Are you an ambitious executive with a growth mindset, looking to advance your career? Well, you’re in the right place.
At Talk About Talk, we focus on communication skills topics like personal branding, confidence, networking, and yes, BODY LANGUAGE. This is the critically important stuff they don’t teach you in school. And if you check out the TalkAboutTalk.com website, you’ll find online corporate training, 1-on-1 coaching with me, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, and the free weekly communication-skills newsletter. I really hope you’ll go to the website and sign up for the free weekly communication skills training newsletter. But you can choose what works for you!
Welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 96. In this episode, you’re going to easily memorize the 3-point body scan, with specific insights and advice for what to do – and what NOT to do, for each of the 3 points.
I’m going to guess that for this episode you wont need to reference the show notes. It’s just 3 points. But like every single other episode we’ve recorded, I’m happy to supply you with summarized, easy-to-print show notes. If you go to talkabouttalk.com, Click on podcasts. And show notes. It’s all right there.
So as I always say, just keep doing whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re making dinner, going for a walk, exercising. Or just lying on the couch. You don’t need to lift a finger to take notes because I do that for you. You’re welcome. And Speaking of body language, I have a big smile on my face right now. Can you tell?
Let’s start with this.
There are two main reasons why body language is so significant. One of the reasons you can probably guess. And the other one might be something you hadn’t thought of before.
Here’s the first reason. We all know that body language is a critical component to our communication with others. People are constantly scanning the various nonverbal communication cues that we’re signalling. They hear our words, but they also watch our facial expression, they watch our gestures.
Have you ever heard of the 7-38-55 rule? Maybe? Let me remind you. Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus at UCLA coined the 7%-38%-55% rule. According to his research, 7% of our message is communicated through words, 38% through tone of voice, and 55% through… you guessed it, body language. These three elements need to be CONGRUENT. On other words, ideally your words, tone and body language are saying the same thing. And 55% is body language.
As always happens, and in fact as should happen, other academics have disputed his research. For example, does it apply to all contexts? Hmm?. What about for podcasts?
But the point is, Body Language is a SIGNIFICANT factor in our total communication. Perhaps even more than half of our message to others is communicated through our body language.
So that’s the first reason why body language is so significant. Body language comprises a significant proportion of our total communication to others. Probably not news to you right?
Here’s the second reason why body language is important. It’s something that you may not have considered. Your own body language is also communicating implicitly, to YOUR VERY OWN brain! More and more research is confirming the insight that our brain believes the way our body acts.
Our brain believes our body language.
Here are two simple examples of this that I often share when I’m coaching my clients: breathing and power posing. So in terms of breathing, imagine you’re getting ready to get up on stage, and you feel that rush of adrenaline. One thing you can do is slow down your breathing. And particularly slow-down your exhale. We’ve all heard that our body kicks into fight flight or freeze mode when we’re feeling anxious, stressed or threatened. This means we might start gasping for air to prepare our bodies to fight. But when we slow down our breathing, particularly our exhale, our brain interprets that signal as “oh everything must be OK.”
So again, our brain believes the way our body acts.
The second example of this is the power pose. I know that many many of you have watched Amy Cuddy’s TEDTalk on power posing. Millions of you, in fact. In case you haven’t seen it, Ill leave a link to it in the show notes. And while Professor Cuddys assertions are also not without controversy, No one I know has denied that when they strike a powerful pose, they end up feeling more powerful. Try it, Strike a powerful pose.
Do you feel that?
So our brain believes the way our body acts. Whether its breathing or power posing or whatever. And therefore, our body language is not just signalling messages to others, it’s also signalling to our own brain.
Cool insight, right?
So the next time you’re feeling disengaged in a meeting, or when you catch your mind wandering, say to yourself: 3point body language scan!
I do this all the time. And I can tell you : this body-language scan WORKS.
And what are the 3 points you ask?
It’s POSTURE, HANDS and EYES. Got it? POSTURE, HANDS and EYES.
Before we go any further, I want to clarify that this 3-pointy body language scan works for many different communication contexts. Perhaps even most. Unless I indicate otherwise, most of what I say applies whether the communication context is online or IRL, whether its formal or casual, and whether you’re sitting or standing.
Use the 3-point body language scan for ANY of these contexts, when you catch yourself feeling disengaged, maybe slouching, or your mind is wandering? Its POSTURE, HANDS and EYES.
Let me share a little bit of detail for each of the 3 points.
The first point is posture. As in sit or stand up straight. My mom used to stick her finger nail in my spine. Yah. Not pleasant at the time, but now I’m grateful for that. Thanks Mom. And I think of her nail in my back every time I catch myself slouching.
The ideal body language, (as in communicating that you’re engaged, you’re enthusiastic, you’re focused, and you care)… the ideal body language in terms of your posture is to be OPEN, not closed.
Open as in shoulders back. Take up lots of space. Try not to cross your legs and definitely don’t cross your arms.
If you’re sitting, sit straight. I tell people, try 90-90-90. Head up and back straight, 90’ to your thighs. Then 90’ to your lower legs. Then 90’ to your feet, which are sitting parallel and flat. 90-90-90.
That’s it for the first point in the 3-point body language scan! Posture. Sit or stand up straight. Be expansive. And try 90-90-90.
Hands are the 2nd point in your body language scan. Where are your hands? And What are you doing with your hands?
Two things to consider here:
1. Keep them in view.
2. Use slow, purposeful movements.
KEEP THEM IN VIEW. WHY?
Well, if your hands are in view you’re more likely to use them. And generally speaking, people prefer it when people use hand gestures. I read some research that concluded that the most popular TED Talkers used almost double the hand gestures versus the least popular TED Talkers.
The other reason to keep your hands in view is that we trust people when their hands are in full view.
It turns out we’re wired to look at people’s hands. If we can see my hands, you can trust that Im not gonna a stone at you. Or pull out a knife. Or… fire a gun! Gotcha.
Seriously, this is a thing. If you want to be trusted, show people your hands.
- If you’re standing up, keep your hands out of your pockets. Keep them in front of you. Possibly in the steeple position. But you’re definitely not hiding our hands.
- If you’re seated at a board room table, keep your hands in view, above the table top. Loosely clasping your hands is good. Avoid tightly clasping your hands though. Tightly clasped hands can implicitly communicate fear or anger.
- And if you’re in an online meeting, oh I have so much to share here!
First of all, your hands obviously wont be in the frame for the whole meeting, But you do want to gesture with your arms and your hands. For my clients who don’t use their hands enough, I suggest they keep them up on the table. That way, you’re much more likely to use them. If you gesture too much (and yes, that can a thing, and not a good thing – it can be distraction), I suggest they try to keep their hands on their lap.
SO you can regulate how much you use your hands by making it easier or harder to use your hands, depending on where you keep your hands as a home base. Make sense?
Secondly, for online meetings, when you’re using hand gestures, say counting the top 3 things (1,2, and then 3 fingers), or say, listing something (you could show levels a, b & c) or perhaps you’re using your hands to show emphasis, or surprise, or enthusiasm, if you’re using a hand gesture, keep your HANDS in the frame. It seems obvious, but if your hands are cut off, who knows what hand gesture you’re making, right?
One thing Ive done and encouraged others to do is to log on to an online meeting a few minutes early, look at yourself on your screen, and practice drawing out your frame – the boundary of where your hand gestures can be seen – with your hands.
My last point for hands. People with more power or who are more confident use slower, more purposeful gestures. Try it. Hold your hands up slowly and powerfully. Do you feel more confident and capable? Well, you LOOK more confident and capable!
So be slow and purposeful. No flailing. This is especially important if you’re in an online meeting. It’s almost like that frame puts a spotlight on you. Everything is exaggerated. So no flailing. No jerky movements. Slow, purposeful hand movements. Got it?
Now we’ve covered two of the 3 in our 3 point body language scan. We’ve covered POSTURE and HANDS. Now the last point – EYES.
I have a list of several things for you to consider WRT your eyes, starting with ….eye contact. Of course right?
We’re wired to appreciate eye contact. And if someone is avoiding eye contact, if they’re constantly looking away, we assume they’re “shifty” or they’re hiding something. They cant be trusted.
And trust ME, people are looking at your eyes. I read somewhere recently that our faces get more than their fair share of attention when it comes to interpersonal communication. It’s true! We’re look at each other’s faces to decipher expression and emotion. We look into each others EYES to gauge if we can trust the person.
And we look our friends and family in the eye longer than strangers. (Scientists suggest that if you’re communicating with a stranger, most people are comfortable with eye contact for a maximum of about 3.2 seconds at a time if you’re a stranger. And it goes up as we get to know each other.
Nowadays we cant talk about eye contact without talking about our laptop or desktop camera. It’s not easy to keep your eyes on that green light, is it? Well, I have a few thoughts:
The first is that when you’re talking, in a meeting, especially if it’s an important point you’re making, that’s when you should make an extra effort to look at that little green light. And make eye contact with the other meeting attendees.
Otherwise, glance at that green light whenever you can, but it’s a-ok to look around the screen. It’s also important for you to try to decipher other people’s body language, and you can only do that if you’re watching them on the screen right? SO look at the camera when you’re speaking and especially when you’re making a key point. Otherwise – maybe relax a little!
My other point here should also serve to help you relax a little WRT eye contact in online meetings. Ive noticed over the last few months that people seem to have become accustomed to us not looking at each other directly, – because of our technology. This is the thing – we humans are an incredibly adaptive species!
Two years ago I might’ve been completely distracted by someone who wasnt looking at me directly most of the time. Nowadays I totally get it. Their camera isn’t near their screen. So my point here, is relax. Of course, all else equal, eye contact is good, but we also adapt.
Speaking of adapting, how many times in the past few years have to tried to smile at someone while you’re wearing a face mask? So what do you do? You Smile with your eyes. Take that new skill – smiling with your eyes, and practice it whenever you can, whether you’re wearing mask or not. Turning up the corners of your mouth in a fake smile is one thing. Smiling with your whole face, and especially your eyes, is another.
One last thing WRT your eyes. Your eyebrows. There’s always something going on when eyebrows are raised. So use your eyebrows when you want to emphasize something. And watch other people’s eyebrows too!
So that’s the 3rd point – your eyes. Do your best to make eye contact, smile with your eyes, and watch the eyebrows.
And that my friend, is the 3 point body language scan.
Imagine you’re getting ready to take the stage. Or you’re in a meeting and you catch yourself slouching. Or maybe you’re feeling disengaged. What can you do in any of these contexts? Say to yourself: Three-point body language scan:
- Posture – stand or sit up straight. Be expansive. And if you’re sitting, don’t forget the 90-90-90
- Hands – Keep then in view, and use slow, purposeful movements. And practice keeping your hand gestures inside the frame for online meetings.
- Eyes – Eye contact is key. We maintain eye contact longer with people who we know and who we like. Maintaining eye contact, looking at that little green light, is definitely a challenge for online meetings. So try to focus on looking at the camera, particularly when you’re speaking, and particularly when you’re trying to emphasize a key point.
And don’t forget there are actually two huge benefits of optimizing your body language. The first is that OF COURSE, we can use our body language to reinforce and strengthen our message to others. The second benefit is that our own braiun is also interpreting what our body is doing.
So if your body is acting as if it’s alert, engaged, and enthusiastic, then everyone around you, including your own brain, will interpret that you are alert, engaged, and enthusiastic. It’s like our body language is contagious.
Guess what? That’s it! The 3 point body language scan. I use this all the time and I promise you it works.
I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Please email me anytime at [email protected].
Speaking of email, if you’d like to receive a weekly email from me with new podcast episode announcements and free communication skills coaching, you can sign up on the talkabouttalk.com website.
THANKS for LISTENING. Talk soon!
- Email: [email protected]