Become Fluent in Body Language


This week, work to become fluent in Body Language. When you're making first impressions, the majority of what you communicate is read through your body, not your words. Body Language is practically hard wired into the human species, so if the person you are interacting with is coming across in a way that's familiar to you, it's because you've probably felt that way too. Achieving Body Language Fluency is important for communication, but it can deeply impact your mindset as well. Let's get to know our bodies a little better on this week's episode of Ignition Point!

Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it may help. We designed this weekly podcast for ambitious Young Professionals and aspiring Leaders who want to stay motivated and keep moving forward. Throughout Season 1, we will be connecting fresh perspectives with practical strategies to help listeners feel empowered all week long. You can help us improve by joining our LinkedIn and Twitter Community by using #IgnitionPoint, submitting a review on Apple Podcasts, or emailing feedback to steven@decisiveleap.com.

SHOW NOTES

Welcome to Ignition Point – the show that’s here to help you take the leap, conquer your week, and achieve your goals. If you’re looking to amplify your mindset with a fresh perspective and spark your momentum – you’re in the right place.

Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller. Thanks for joining me for another Ignition Point – the show where we feature a reimagined motivational address or an exclusive Guest Keynote to help spark the momentum you need to empower another winning week. Last week, I got to meet with one of the guests you’ll hear from in an upcoming episode to test out how to best present their topic on the show. They normally speak for large audiences, so shifting to a single mic in a recording studio was a bit of a test. To our surprise, the delivery was staggeringly different when the guest was sitting down to talk about it versus when they stood up to present it like they do on stage. You may not see why that’s a big deal, but it’s kind of crazy. Their energy was totally different. Their confidence went through the roof and their authenticity really resonated. It was absolutely night and day. All because they changed their body language.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “how in the world can it make that much of a difference in the recording when you can’t hear what their body is doing?” That’s a great question – see me after the episode for a high five – but that’s the funniest part about body language. The way we incorporate body language influences the way we communicate verbally. It impacts our tone, the cadence with which we speak, and the presence we apply.

So, have you paid enough attention to how your body language effects the way you communicate? Think about it for a second. Even if you’ve given the topic some TLC, it’s something everybody can improve on. Well, everyone except for Justin Timberlake and Shakira.

In fact, Shakira’s developed a reputation for having hips that don’t lie, but have you considered that yours don’t either? They don’t, because your body language is always communicating your unspoken truth. If you’re in a bad mood, you communicate that by slouching. If you you’re having a great day, you’re more expressive and energetic in the way you move. You need to control your body language and use it to your advantage. So, with the help of this week’s monologue, let’s get to know our bodies a little better. Get your mind out of the gutter, and let’s get after it!

THE WEEKLY MONOLOGUE

I want to start by offering you a free life hack. Before I give this life hack away, I want to ask you to do a little audit of your body and what you're doing with it. Are you sort of making yourself smaller? Maybe you're hunching over or crossing your legs. Sometimes we hold onto our arms. Sometimes we spread out. I want you to pay attention to what you're doing right now. I'm hoping that if you learn to tweak this a little bit, it could significantly change the way your life unfolds.

This life hack is to change your posture for two minutes.

I’m really fascinated with body language, particularly other people's body language. You know, an awkward interaction, or a smile, or a contemptuous glance, or maybe a very awkward wink, or maybe something like a handshake.

A handshake – or the lack of a handshake – can have us talking for weeks. Obviously, when we think about nonverbal behavior, or body language – it is language, so we think about communication. When we think about communication, we think about our interactions.

When we think of nonverbal communication, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget the other audience that's influenced by our nonverbals, and that's ourselves. Our thoughts, feelings and physiologies are influenced by our nonverbal communication.

So, what nonverbals am I talking about? I’m especially interested in nonverbal expressions of power and dominance. Power Dynamics.

Okay, but what does that mean? Well, in the animal kingdom, these expressions materialize when animals make themselves bigger. Think of a bear standing up on their back legs and raising their arms. This is true across the animal kingdom and humans do the same thing. The human equivalent might be something like spreading out your belongings in a public space.

Here’s a great example. People who are born with sight and people who are blind celebrate the same way when they win a physical competition. When they cross the finish line and they've won a race, it doesn't matter if they've never seen anybody do it. They raise their arms up in a V and slightly lift their chin.

When we feel powerless, we do the exact opposite. We close up. We make ourselves small and we avoid physical contact. Both animals and humans do the same thing.

When you put a high-power person and a low-power person together, they tend to do the opposite of the other person’s actions. If someone is being really powerful with us, we don’t mirror them, instead we make ourselves smaller.

Here’s another example. You smile when you feel happy, but also, you’re forced to smile when you hold a pen in your teeth, and that actually makes you feel happy. It goes both ways. When it comes to power, it goes both ways too. So, it's possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you’re more likely to actually feel powerful.

I tested this out by having some people adopt, for two minutes, either a high-power pose or a low-power pose. I wanted them to be feeling power. So, for two minutes they’d stand in a pose where they’d flex their muscles or stand like a triumphant superhero. Then, I asked them about how powerful they felt. I found that when you’re in the high-power pose, 86 percent of the time you’d feel the confidence to take risks. When you're in the low-power pose, only 60 percent of the time you’d take a risk. That’s a really significant difference!

If you’re into the science that backs this up, the high-power people experienced about a 20-percent increase in testosterone while low-power people experienced about a 10-percent decrease. All it takes is two minutes. Two minutes led to these hormonal changes. Two minutes makes the difference between being assertive, confident and comfortable or really stressed out and feeling sort of shut down. So, our body language really does make a big difference in determining how we think and feel about ourselves, not just others.

The next question is, can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in meaningful ways and where can you apply it? I decided that a job interview was the most relatable place.

So, you’re probably saying, “Okay, strike a high-power pose when you go in for a job interview, right?

Well, that’s not exactly what I mean. This is not about you talking to other people. It's about you talking to yourself. Think about what you typically do before you go into the interview. You're sitting down. You're looking at your phone. You're looking at your notes, you're hunching over and making yourself small. Really, what you should be doing is the opposite, in private, right? Find two minutes and do that.

I tell people that our bodies change our minds, our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes. But some say to me, "that feels fake." I tell them all, “then fake it till you make it.” You don’t realize it, but what you say rarely gets you high marks. It’s how you say it. It’s about your presence. It’s about bringing your big ideas, but bringing your ideas in a way that’s authentic, confident, captivating, and comfortable.

Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. So, take two minutes. Before you go into your next stressful situation, for just two minutes, try a power pose. In the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That's what you want to do. Configure your brain to own that situation. Don't leave that situation feeling like, “oh, I didn't show them who I am.” Leave that situation feeling like, “I really feel like I got to show them who I am and I crushed it.”

Try power posing and share the science because it’s just that simple. Find two minutes and significantly change the outcomes in your life.

STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS

I was taught to be conscious of my body language when I was growing up, but I never considered that there might be a scientific component that might prove the importance. The data in the monologue shows there’s real value to controlling your body language, but don’t overlook the other person you interact with by focusing only on the way you communicate. By now, you’ve probably heard the expression “communication is a two-way street” from every member of your family and all your friends, but the age-old expression holds true with nonverbal communication too.

I’d even argue that its value is equal to or greater than learning a second language. In fact – at the time of this recording – Rosetta Stone, Babbel, and Duolingo don’t offer any e-courses in Body Language, so this week’s three action strategies are your exclusive crash course.

We’re going to begin the same way most language courses do; by laying a foundation. In body language, this starts with you thinking more actively about what you do when you’re communicating. Self-Awareness is the key, but it can be tricky to get the hang of it. If you can’t naturally tell what your body language is communicating, there are a couple of things you can try. If you’re at a point in your life where you’re giving lots of presentations, you can set up your phone in an empty room and record yourself presenting. Save the recording and review it after each take. If you’re not interacting or engaging with others too often, you can try taking phone calls with friends and family in front of a mirror. After a handful of calls, you’ll start to pick up on how your conversations effect your demeanor.

These applications probably seem super awkward, but they allow you to see what you’re doing when you’re communicating, and that’s what you’re aiming for. How’s your posture? What facial expressions are you making? What are you doing with your hands? Are your legs restless, crossed or firmly planted in place? You want to train your brain to pick up on what you’re doing so that you can align your speech with your physical expressions.

If you feel like you’re embarrassed trying to up your body language awareness, consider this example. When you’re making a first impression, the majority of what you communicate is read through your body, not your words. First impressions are something you need to get right, because when you create a negative first impression, it’s almost impossible to come back from. Don’t drop the ball just because you’re not willing to be aware of what your unspoken truth says about you. You need to be willing to understand how you’re coming across to ensure that your message is received by someone you’re meeting for the first time.

Once you have a better understanding of your own body language, you can then start to use it to your advantage and apply the lessons we covered in the monologue. If you’re headed into a tense conversation, strike up a power pose privately as mental preparation to increase your confidence and presence. If you’re having a rough day and need to turn your mindset around, maybe try holding a pen between your teeth for a while to force you to smile. When you’re aware of your body language, employing these tactics becomes easier to execute on, but it may also make you feel fake or inauthentic. So, let’s talk about that.

In the monologue, we said the way to overcome this is to “fake it till you make it,” but you probably don’t want to get to the place you want to be only to feel like you’re not supposed to be there. This concept is formally called Impostor Syndrome, or the untrue belief that you’re not good enough. To be upfront, I’m not a social psychologist – that’s not my area of expertise, but this seems to be a specific type of fear driven by the fact that we spend so much time making up a list of our own weaknesses. As I said in an earlier episode, F.E.A.R. stands for False Expectations Appearing Real. What you communicate doesn’t determine your value here. So, if you communicate effectively and get where you want to go in life, I want to remind you that it is because someone sees the strengths you possess, not the weaknesses you think you have. This is the moment that power posing can really help you. When you’re feeling down on yourself, change your posture, pull your shoulders back, and strike that power pose.

Now that you’re self-aware and have practiced using body language to improve your mindset, your final action item of the week is to turn your attention to whoever you are interacting with. Listen to the other person’s words, study their body language, and trust your intuition. What are they actually communicating? Try paying attention to their eye-contact and the way they position themselves while speaking with you. If you check in on these factors from time to time, you’ll be able to tell if they’re intimidated, withdrawn or overwhelmed; and you can then modify your own body language accordingly to put them at ease or make them feel comfortable. Remember, body language is practically hard wired into the human species, so if the person you’re interacting with is coming across in a way that’s familiar to you, it’s because you’ve felt that way too. Identify what the feeling is and use that clue for context when determining the course of the conversation.

Remember, the process of learning body language can be awkward at times, so be willing to laugh about it. When you feel like it’s getting really really weird, just embrace the lyrics that John Mayer made famous, “your body’s a wonderland.”

So, put your strategies for success into action and become fluent in body language. Start by becoming aware of your nonverbal communication, then strike a power pose to let your actions influence your mindset, and study the body language of the people you interact with most. You’ve got two ears, two eyes and one mouth for a reason, so observe and listen to those you communicate with two times more than you speak and make up for the missing half by tying in your body language.

Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it would help. Your feedback helps Ignition Point to keep moving forward, so send me an email to steven@decisiveleap.com or write a review for the show on Apple Podcasts to let me know what you think.

We hold out until the end of each show to share who inspired each week’s Ignition Point for two reasons. To keep you curious and remind you to focus on the motivation. This week’s Ignition Point was adapted from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk at TED Global 2012.

It doesn’t matter where you come from. Every day is a new opportunity to become a better version of yourself. Where you’re going is what matters.

So, stay motivated and keep moving forward. If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story. I’ll be looking forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.

Now get on out there, and win the week!