Body language is the unspoken core element of communication that reveals our true feelings and emotions unconsciously. Our gestures, facial expressions and postures – as well as eye cues – make up to 60% of our communication. Even if we verbally send a different message, our body language will always shine through.
If we have the ability to understand and speak body language, we can use it to our advantage. For example, it can help us to clarify the message of what someone is trying to say to us and enhance our awareness of people perception to what we say and do.
We can also, or maybe more importantly, learn to adjust our body language if we are mindful of it and send the right message. If we speak body language, we cannot just APPEAR more engaging and confident, but we can BE more confident and engaging since the body sends signals not just outwardly but also inwardly.
Something that is taught in meditation over and over again is to listen to your body. Maybe even your mother said that back in the day. I know my mother was saying it all the time and keeps saying it to this day, probably without knowing exactly why. She just knows the body speaks and chooses to listens to her body language.
A good example of not listening to body language is binging on Netflix into the late hours of the night. We all know the feeling of being overtired, but we ignore the body’s message and watch three more episodes until we pass out. Don’t tell me you have not been there and done that!
Another great example of body language is when you are meant to speak on stage in public speaking or when you are going to an interview for a new job or even speaking up in meetings. Your heart rate accelerates, your palms get sweaty, your knees get a little weaker. Maybe you avoid eye contact and you may have the sudden urge to go to the restroom.
The body speaks all the time.
Picking up on your own body language helps you to identify what is truly alive in you and mindfulness can help you to centre yourself within your body, rather than become self-centred in your mind, and that makes a massive difference.
You can start listening to your own body language and pick up the signals it sends, so you become more versed in how your body speaks to you and others. Then you have the advantage! You can only change what you know, so put getting to know your body language on your to do list.
So what are some examples of reading the body language?
You recall the last time you were sitting depressed in the chair? Maybe your head and shoulders slump down, your core is not engaged and your eyes lack their sparkle. That’s your body telling you to do something!
In public speaking your hands might be fidgety and you break into a cold sweat, your heart rate is through the roof and most likely you are standing frozen on the spot or you are moving to the back of the stage or finding shelter behind the lectern.
In public speaking you want to keep your head up and have eye contact with your audience and use your hands to emphasise your point. Paying attention to your stance can be quite important too since your feet are the hardest to control. You must control your body or it will control you, it is that simple.
When you are fuming with anger your facial muscles are probably quite tense and your eyes have an intense penetrating stare. Your upper torso is erect like a rooster crowing in the morning hours. Maybe your hands become clenched fists or you use your hands in wild uncontrolled motions.
When you are not feeling confident, your body shrinks into itself, your eyes become filled with doubt. Your head will sink lower and take your shoulders with it until no neck is visible any more. So much for not sticking your neck out! You start to fiddle nervously or you start hugging yourself for comfort.
A interesting body language tell-tale sign of a friend of mine was he would rub his upper thigh to calm his legs down and he’d breathe slowly.
Being in difficult or defensive conversations, you might feel an array of emotional body language signals. If they go unchecked because you are not mindful of it, the body language might carry you away and you say things you wish you could take back as soon as they leave your mouth.
You can’t fake body language; the body is too fast. A conscious thought takes 300 milliseconds to form. An unconscious body language response takes 75 milliseconds. If it were a material thing, conscious thought would be the atom, something impossible to perceive with the naked eye. Meanwhile, the unconscious body language would be the nucleus and you just can’t see it unless you have the equipment. And that equipment is knowing your body language.
Becoming aware of your breathe and how to it connects your attention with your body is the first step. Follow your breath and discover your body’s true power when it communicates.
In summary, becoming mindful of your body language will not just allow you to be a more confident version of you but you can also read other people’s body language and understand what they are saying not with their words but with their true feelings and emotions.