ARE you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. This is a story about media and presentation delegates who are their own worst enemy – or rather, who let their bodies be their own worst enemy.
When we talk about body language in a Bluewood course, we don’t worry too much about the physical tics or ‘tells’ so beloved of pop psychology and shows about bad boys playing cards. Most people, journalists included, are rubbish at decoding body language and I have to include myself here – I used to tell delegates the basis of the phrase ‘a downright lie’ was because we tend to look down, and right, when telling a real whopper. Then I spoke to a behavioural psychologist while working on an article, and he said that actually it’s often a sign that the speaker is ‘building’ an answer, and the building could be that of a lie, or simply putting some bits of information together to make the answer.
What we’re much more concerned with is how your body language, and the things you do with your body, affects performance. Let me give you an example. When doing TV work, for a studio interview, while seated in a chair, we tell delegates to plant their feet firmly and have their knees at 90 degrees. One delegate who was told this, duly ignored it, crossed his feet at the ankles and tucked them up pointing back towards the base of the chair. Said chair was a swivel model. Within a few seconds, under stress from the lights and the camera and a moderately difficult question, his adrenaline kicked in and his feet got the message to either start running or fighting – the body’s response to adrenaline. They couldn’t do either, and were not grounded on the floor at least giving his fight-flight instinct some sense that he was in touch with the ground, and he started jiggling his knees. Then he started swivelling to and from in the chair. When he watched the playback, he was astonished at how much he moved. And he kept his feet anchored next time.
It’s the same with crossing your arms – but that’s another story…
Written by Matt Guarente – www.bluewoodtraining.com – June 2010.