Whilst the text (what you say) is clearly vital for communication to happen, what you do whilst you are saying it (your body language) can have a really dramatic effect on the message that the other person receives.
Here we are talking about the difference between content and context.
The words and sentence construction is content.
How you say them and what you do while you say them is context.
The full context is everything other than the words that can be seen and heard (experienced) by all the people involved.
As we are looking at it we start to see that body language is only one part of that context.
Other parts are:
- Where you sit/stand
- Who else is in the room
- Time of day, week, year
- History of previous communications
The body language component can be divided roughly into three parts
The stuff you can do nothing about - your gender, race, age, height, etc
The stuff you can, with effort, change - your dress, hair, weight, etc
The stuff you already have that you can choose to use - gesture, eye contact, voice, etc.
The most powerful of these is eye contact. Just try and get a waiters attention without making eye contact and you'll see how strong the impact of not making eye contact can be.
There is no credible way of learning new body language gestures, as they always seem artificial or bolted on.
Your Body Language style
The way to approach modifying your body language is to think of it as 'style'
When you think of your dress, your accent, your gestures as your style, you can begin to deploy them at will.
You can choose:
- A particular suit
- To give or not give eye contact to certain people
- To play on or exaggerate your accent
- To make your gestures larger or smaller
In other words, you can begin to choose to turn parts of your body language style up or down for the effect it will have.
This way you have control over your body language that looks and feels natural but is also easy to change.
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