I attended a fascinating course last weekend about Body Language (or non-Verbal Communication to give the subject its more formal title), run by fellow hypnotherapist and former Police Officer, Andy Workman.
During the day, Andy capably demonstrated how much of our communication is at a sub-conscious level, and how little control we actually have over these automatic responses. The difference between what we say and what we are thinking can be striking, and after aeons of evolution, we have become incredibly adept at interpreting and responding to these sub-conscious messages from others.
We can, for instance, tell if a smile is genuine. We can get a sense of whether someone is upset, or excited or confused, even if consciously they are trying to hide their feelings. Andy gave us an insight into how to ‘read’ what is actually going on, so that, as therapists, we can respond appropriately to the non-verbal communication from our clients.
It is amazing, how dramatically our posture, facial expressions and even movement can be affected if we feel anxious. This is fine in the safety of our own homes or a therapy room, but not so good if we are trying to create a good impression at a job interview or when giving a talk to a large group.
So, what’s to be done?
Well, for a start, we can use a feature of the mind which means that it cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination. By repeatedly imagining how we want the interview or speech to go, we can actually replace the fear template with this more helpful response. So, because we are no longer fearful, there is no risk that our micro-expressions will let us down.
There’s another feature of the mind-body connection that we can tap into, too. As well as the impact our thoughts have on our physiology, the feedback from our body has an effect on our minds.
One of my favourite motivational speakers is Jack Canfield, who you may know as co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and many other books about positive thinking and success. I came across him in the early 90s when a friend introduced me to a set of self-esteem cassettes, recorded at a live seminar, that we played on our long journeys to our IT client’s premises until they wore out.
I remember one exercise that Jack had the audience try out. He asked everyone to hunch over in their chairs, making themselves as small as they could and say the words ‘I feel terrific’. Then he asked them to posture with their arms in the air, as if they had just won a gold medal at the Olympics, and say the words ‘I feel depressed’.
It caused great amusement, but made a very good point. Simply posturing like a champion makes you feel good.
This enjoyable talk from social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, demonstrates the tremendous impact just a few minutes of altering your posture can have on your performance. It’s very thought-provoking.
So in the words of that Val Doonican song, remember to:
‘Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye’.