This is a Funny Story About Body Language…
Body language is one of the only languages that you can’t see or hear yourself communicate. The conundrum with body language is that I can clearly see what your body communicates. You can clearly see what my body communicates but we are blind to the messages we give others.
I gave a speech the other day on the weight body language plays in our interactions with others. I told the group listening I was going to say two statements. For the first statement, I put my hands on my hips, spread my feet hip width apart, tilted my head high and said “I’m shy”. They laughed.
For the second statement, I slumped my shoulders, crossed my legs, bowed my head slightly, fidgeted with my fingers and said, “I’m confident!”
Then I asked my audience. Did they believe my message? Everyone shook their heads no. It was very clear that though my mouth said one thing. My body said another.
I further illustrated the point by retelling a true story about a good friend of mine. My friend, Nikki, is a captain in the military. She is typical military through and through. No nonsense, stone faced at times. She and I couldn’t be more different. Early in our relationship, she and I had a fairly deep conversation. The kind of conversation where you share a vulnerable truth in hopes you’ll be accepted. We extended trust to each other and both found a safe haven. We passed each other’s test. I wanted to punctuate this new level in our friendship with a physical gesture.
I asked, “Can I give you a hug?”
Nikki slowly stood up. Stiffened her body like a plank of wood. Closed her eyes. Looked away–then said, “Ok”.
It was a comical sight. Her words granted permission but her body did not. While I appreciated that she was willing to let her new “earthy” friend touch her. I didn’t. I wanted to show her that I respected her enough to not make her uncomfortable for my sake. When she was ready, she’d initiate a hug and I’d be more than willing to receive it. And was exactly what happened.
What you do speaks so loudly that I can’t not hear what you say.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, what do you do if the body language is leading you to believe the words aren’t the truth? Simple. Just ask for clarification. You don’t have to be stuck trying to interpret mixed messages. That causes frustration. Just ask
“You said “X” but your body language doesn’t seem to support that. Can you help me understand?”