You’ll Never Fall for These Body Language Myths Again
I am a big believer in teaching by positive example- focusing on what you should do and not on what you should not do. I want to address what I consider to be the three big myths when it comes to body language in the workplace and body language in general.
The number one myth out there is, and I hear it every single week when I am conducting public speaking and media training workshops with clients, individuals, and groups all over the world, someone will bring this up. The issue is hands. What do you do with your hands when you are speaking, presenting, and briefing, or talking on Skype video? The big myth out there is that somehow it is distracting to move your hands and it is more professional to hold your hands down. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I monitor and test audiences all over the world. What I have found, regardless of the culture and the industry, is that people respond much more favourably to an individual in a business situation speaking, presenting, or talking, when that person moves his or her hands. The second you freeze your hands, you freeze your arms, body, and vocal cords and you are going to end up sounding nervous, stiff, and monotone. So all I can tell you is that, in the 30 years that I have trained thousands of people all over the globe from six continents, I have never yet had anyone wildly moving their hands too much. But every week, I have seen people stand up to give a presentation with frozen hands, looking stiff, uncomfortable, and nervous. So I want you to get rid of this notion, that somehow, you are not supposed to move your hands.
The second big myth out there is that there are certain poses you can take to make yourself more comfortable, confident, and commanding. One of these is floating around on the internet where the proponent says that if you just stand with your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman, you will be filled with so much confidence that it will help you in any presentation. This is complete nonsense in my professional view because if you do not have anything interesting to say then you are bound to tense up and get nervous. So, get rid of this notion as well and focus on the solution which is practicing speaking, presenting, and asking questions on video. It is not as popular as standing like Wonder Woman but it really does solve the problem.
The number one myth out there when it comes to body language is that somehow 93% of all communication is through your body language and that only seven percent through your words or your content. This has been going around for decades and has been widely debunked. If you hear any so-called public speaking expert talk about this, you know they are a complete fool. You can also search this up and see what I am talking about. Here is the ultimate test if you doubt me: if everything really is body language and your voice and content is only 7%, that means you could give a sales presentation to someone who doesn’t speak your language they could still understand 93% of what you are talking about. That is obviously absurd. They wouldn’t understand anything you are talking about if you are speaking to them in a language that they don’t understand.
Body language is important but I want you to keep things in perspective: it is not more important than your ideas and substance. It is always about both, style and substance. For example, I send in a job application to you with a beautiful cover letter but you look at my resume and find out that I have no relevant work experience in the industry- are you likely to hire me? Probably not. On the flip side, if I have a beautiful resume with everything you are looking for in a potential employee but I send you a cover letter filled with misspellings, typos, and poor grammar. What are you going to do? Chances are, you are going to throw my resume and cover letter in the trash.
If you really want to communicate, body language can help but without the substance and good messages, none of this will matter.
Eliminating the Source of Your Speaking Discomfort Once and For All
Quite often, when ums and ahhs and errs are coming out of your mouth, it is a sign that there is a problem. It is a sign that you are feeling uncomfortable.
One of the biggest reasons for being uncomfortable is the fear of not being interesting to your audience, the fear of being boring, the fear of not being understood. Well, guess what? That is a legitimate fear to have because so many people, when they give speeches, briefs, and talks are, in fact, boring. It makes complete sense that you are uncomfortable.
I want us to go even deeper, beyond the superficial clauses, and look at what is really causing us a problem. Sometimes the problem is that we have a boring speech. The solution is that you need to practice your speech. You need to practice a speech that you know is interesting and memorable. It should be a speech, a presentation, a talk, even a voicemail that you personally would want to listen to, would understand, and would remember.
If we solve that problem and get you to the point where you are confident, have a great message, with interesting ideas that the person you are speaking to will find interesting, understandable, and memorable, it is going to make you so much more relaxed. And when you are relaxed, you kind of forget to say ahs, ums, errs, and you knows, to begin with.