Mind your body, it says a lot about you

2009-07-28 00:00

I HAD always thought verbal expression was the best way of communicating as the other person can listen and understand my point of view. It worked for me on numerous occasions until mother of my six daughters found a movie ticket for two in one of my jersey pockets. The scary part was that it was dated Sunday, the day I was supposed to be working overtime in the office.

While giving her one of my recycled alibis which normally goes “let me explain, it’s not what you think it is …”, I was unknowingly avoiding her eyes while scratching the back of my head. She read that body language and instantly saw through it. It is then that I realised the importance of body language when expressing oneself, as it gives away as much, and at times more, than verbal expressions.

Think of your legs. They are the most difficult to control. They tend to move a lot more than normal when we are nervous, stressed or being deceptive and the interpretation can go either way, depending on the situation. Better to keep them steady in most situations, especially at interviews or work meetings. What of our lips? Well, they also have a story to tell, just like other parts of our bodies. Our lips tell a lot of things about us. We usually purse our lips or twist them when thinking. When we are angry and we don’t want people around us to know, we hold back by pursing our lips. However, people around us will still know that we are not too happy. Also, the smiles we pass or give to people tell a lot about the kind of mood we are in.

I have two ears that look similar to a generic television antenna. I am wondering whether there’s much that one can do about them? Well, you have got two ears and only one mouth; so try to use them in that order. Listen more than you speak as this gives an impression to the other person that you appreciate his or her opinion and you know how to strike up a balanced conversation. You are not an egotist.

When I get back home late at night and mother of my six daughters wants to challenge my recycled alibi, she always stands too close to me. That’s how I know she’s ready for a showdown. Distance from others is crucial if you want to give off the right signals. If you stand too close you will be taken as someone who is pushy or aggressive, while standing or sitting too far away gives an impression of someone who is aloof. Should you move closer to someone and the person backs away, you have probably passed into their comfort zone and hence should pull back a little.

At times, an indication of our attitude and feelings towards others is manifested by the angle of our bodies in relation to them. If we like a person we tend to incline towards them and incline away from those we don’t. Angles include leaning in or away from people, as we often just tilt from the pelvis and lean sideways to someone to share a bit of conversation.

Have you ever thought of how you carry yourself? When you sit with shoulders slouched and stomach buried in, you will feel depressed. Change the way you sit or stand and you can greatly boost your confidence, as well as give the right impression to those around you.

One also has to watch the arms, as they give away clues. Generally, the more outgoing you are, the more you tend to use your arms. On the contrary, you move your hands much less if you are a quieter person like me. Try to strike a balance by keeping your arm movements moderate. If you want to give the right impression to the people with whom you interact, crossing your arms is a big no-no as it could be interpreted as being a sign of disapproval or even a defensive posture.

What of eye contact? Good eye contact shows your respect and interest in those you interact with, while some eye contact is a show of guilt, shock, or is even intrusive as it makes the other person uneasy. And should you ask a question and the person avoids looking into your eyes, then you can be sure that the person is not telling the truth. No wonder, then, when I report late to the office and tell my boss that I was caught up in a heavy traffic jam, while scratching my forehead and looking down, that he always reminds me that he has heard that many times before and it is time for the birth of a new lame excuse.

• Tiema Haji Muindi is the editor of POLITICS Update magazine.

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