Clear Body Messaging

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.                      Maya Angelou


How do we create a sense of well being for others when we interact with them? We can speak comforting words and perform acts that indicate we care. However, it is the nonverbal communication that emanates directly from our body that truly sends our message.


As infants we learn to communicate with our parents and care-givers through gesture, movements and emotional energy. There is no need for words. In the best situations, parents and their babies have a telepathic bond. Thus a mother’s milk will “let down” just prior to the infant’s cry for nourishment. A father will know when his child is fearful by observing the visual and energetic cues the child is nonverbally expressing. In other words, before language there is the vocabulary of the body.


I remember, as a young elementary school student, an exchange I had with my second grade teacher. This teacher had control issues although I didn’t understand that at the time. She was not interested in her students expressing themselves creatively as individuals. Her habitual stance while teaching was locked kneed with her arms interlocked across her chest. She wanted to appear formidable and she did. Although I do not recall that the students were unruly, I definitely remember that the class atmosphere was not spontaneous, nor encouraging to the joyful and creative exuberant energy that most second graders embody. We were a controlled class and subdued.


Apparently even that was not enough for this particular teacher. Deeply embedded in my memory was the day she told me, in front of the whole class, that I should not use my hands or arms while I was speaking. I was to put my hands in my pockets or by my side. I was not to use my body to express my thoughts and opinions or when answering questions. Not surprisingly, I contributed very little to classroom discussions that year. By shutting down my body language, I found it difficult to communicate.


Our nonverbal communication is the foundation on which our spoken communication lies. We can speak untruths but the underlying honest message that our physical selves portray will contradict the words being spoken. If we speak sugary messages meant to convey something positive while our bodies demonstrate anger or frustration, most of us will react to the body’s message despite the spoken cover up.


Better to own the honest feelings and thoughts and allow the words to match the body’s language. This doesn’t remove the need for tact but by keeping the spoken message in line with the body’s illustration we can create consistency in our messaging and integrity in our interactions.


Trust is at the base of all authentic relationships. If our verbal and non-verbal languages are connected, then we project a true sense of who we are to others.  By being authentic, we can establish a basis for others to be similarly themselves. There is no need for pretense or dissemblance. What greater gift can we give to others than to allow them to feel comfortable being themselves in our presence without artifice?


© 2010 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.