You Don’t Say – Body Language Vol 12 – by Ray Hudson

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Ray Hudson

This week I will start exploring the world of non-verbal communication, or as my father used to say, “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice!”

We spend a great deal of time choosing the right words to communicate as effectively as we can. But you also need to be aware that only about twenty percent of human communication is verbal. The rest is achieved through your eyes, your mouth position, the way you hold your head, where you put your hands, your posture and so many other body reactions that you have little or no control over.

Each week, we’ll review a few tips to help you achieve believability, sincerity, confidence and more by having your words and your physical being saying the same thing.

The eyes and the arms are key communicators. Few parents have had a problem understanding their children when the head tips up to the side and the arms cross tightly across the chest accompanied by an exaggerated sigh. Your (teenage) child may not say you’re an idiot, but is there any question about the meaning of the gesture?

Disarming posture: If you want to communicate that you are at ease with the person you’re speaking with, make certain that your arms are not blocking the front of your body.

Arms across the torso says I don’t trust you, I’m uncomfortable with you, I’m afraid of you, or strangely enough, I’m stronger or more authoritative than you. Arms across your body communicates a blocking, defensive, or even aggressive posture. The arm or arms interrupt the energy flow between people trying to communicate. The block says I’m (metaphorically) protecting the most vulnerable part of my body from you.

I’ve noticed a similar posture, adopted by teachers or lecturers who assume this posture while in teaching mode. This signals (to the class) that the instructor is talking and not listening, and likely not open to interruption. When you expose your body core, it signals that you are at ease, you trust the person across from you. If you want to enhance your next communication be aware of where your arms are and keep your core unobstructed.

Now a few real names and words: Occasionally I hear people, including some broadcasters, refer to Vancouver as Vang-koover. Wrong! It’s Van-koover. The other weird mispronunciation is Van-kyew-vur instead of Van-koo-vur. It’s peculiar but no less strange then those who pronounce noon as nyewn. Where does this come from? Oddly enough they don’t say spewn or mewn.

Here’s another name I heard some folks wrestling with this week – first problem, how to pronounce Hjorth as in Hjorth Road and Hjorth Park located in North Surrey. The name is Norwegian, from Hans Christian Hjorth, a fisherman who lived here in 1885. Local pronunciation is Jorth – “H” is silent. The other problem name, which seems straight forward, is that spire of rock just off the seawall in Stanley Park. I’m talking about Siwash Rock, pronounced SIGH-wash stress on first syllable.

Until next week, observe how many times you or your colleagues cross their arms or block their body core while talking with others. How does that communication seem to be going?