Vary Your Body Language to Communicate Meaning

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Your body language, or non-verbal communication, is an important part of your communication skills. Body language includes elements such as eye contact, facial expression, voice, gestures, posture and movement. Humans have the ability to express a wide range of emotions and meanings merely by varying body language – but most of us only use a fraction of that variety.

Varying your body language can help you deliver your message effectively (and of course, before you think about body language, it's crucial that you actually DO have a message - something to say) and also help to keep your audience engaged, whether you're speaking to one, one hundred or one thousand people.

The best way to develop variety in your body language is to record yourself - preferably on video, or at least on audio – and then watch or listen to it.

Once you have established the baseline for your skills by observing yourself on video or listening to the audio, then you can work on developing your skills. A great way to practice is to say the following phrases out loud five or six times, and each time, completely change the meaning of the words by changing only your voice and body language. In essence, you're using your body language to provide the grammar and punctuation for the words.

For example, here are the variations on the phrase, "I'm sorry" –

• "I'm sorry" could mean: "I'm truly sorry…I can't believe I did that"

• "I'm sorry?" could mean: "Why should I be sorry – you're the one who should be sorry!"

• "I'm so---rry!!" could mean: "OK, OK, get over it already!"

• "….I'm….sorry…" could mean "This is really difficult for me to say to you… I'm truly sorry."

Here are other phrases that you can practice:

• "Give me a break"

• "How are you"

• "Get over it"

• "I don’t agree"

• "It's over"

• "That's good"

• "Let's go"

• "OK"

• "Hello"

• "It's nothing"

• "I'm happy"

• "What"

• "How are we going to do that"

• "Excuse me"

• "Are you kidding"

• "Why"

• "Thank you"

• "Have a nice day"

• "I don’t believe it"

• "I said so"

• "Good-bye"

• "Thanks"

(And for a fun, quick exercise, try this in a group)

(And if you're communicating over the phone, all you have is your voice, so it becomes even more important for you to vary your pitch, volume, emphasis, pausing and speed.)

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