Body Language: Louder than Speech

I was in session with a client yesterday who was telling me that she felt her whole life had been one giant obstacle. “Nothing goes right for me,” she said tearfully. She wondered why the people in her life seemed to always take advantage of her or make her feel inferior to them.

As I listened, I took note of her body language. She was slumped down on the couch, holding a pillow on her lap and looking down at the floor as she spoke. She was obviously feeling dejected and defeated.

I asked her to become aware of her body language in that moment. She brought her awareness to the position of her body, noted the pillow on her lap (which she hadn’t realized was even there), and looked up as if a light had just turned on in her mind. “People know things about me before they even meet me, don’t they?” she asked. After I asked for clarification, she wisely replied that her slumped position indicated that she had given up and the pillow on her lap conveyed her general fear of the world (the pillow was protection) and her feelings of helplessness.

Whether we know it or not, body language is a huge part in human communication. You may find someone standoffish but not know why or be introduced to a new person and find them immediately annoying for no obvious reason. Many times, it’s our subconscious picking up and interpreting the other person’s body language.

If someone is standing with their arms folded in front of them, that can be interpreted as standoffish, aggressive and/or unapproachable. The person could be the nicest guy or girl in the world, but his/her posture unwittingly prevents anyone from wanting to get to know them.

As you go about your day, pay attention to your body language. What messages are you sending out to the world by the way you walk, sit, stand and talk? Head up, arms down to your sides in an open position and a straight, but relaxed posture, is more likely to attract the people you would like in your life and put those you already know at ease. If you need to adjust your body language, please practice – and also be on the lookout for the subtle messages you receive from the people around you. You may be surprised at how you interpret folks at first glance!