Most experts agree that between 70-90% of communication is nonverbal.
Just think about how hard you try to communicate effectively with your words, yet what is your body language communicating?
Understanding and displaying appropriate body language is an important soft skill to communicate effectively and send the kind of nonverbal messages you are intending to, without any unintentional body language messages!
There many different types of body language to consider.
One of the most obvious — and important — is your facial expressions. Facial expressions indicate so many distinctive and nuanced feelings, that sometimes words cannot convey. Beyond basic expressions of mad, happy, and sad, think of emotions such as disgust, excitement, frustration, confused, and worried. Sometimes even if your words sound polite and cheery, if your facial expression does not match those words, most people will trust the facial expression over the language!
Gestures put the “body” in the phrase “body language.” Have you ever met someone who bites their nails constantly, bounces their leg up and down, or paces while talking? Likely, you think of that individual as nervous or tense, based on their body gestures. If you witness two individuals with angry expressions on their faces with their arms crossed or pointing fingers at one another, you will likely think they are having an argument. Think about what you are doing with your actual body when talking, to be sure it is matching what your mouth is saying!
Proxemics have to do with the proximity to the speaker, also known as personal space. People like to have a ‘bubble’ of space they feel comfortable with between themselves and a speaker, and different individuals and cultures have different proxemics for levels of comfort. Make sure you respect others’ personal bubbles when speaking with them!
Soft skills, even communication skills, can be learned in an I Do – We Do – You Do format! We use this format at Superpowers Academy, where we guide you through how to team up with your kids and learn these life skills.
During the “I Do” part of the skill building, you as the parent/adult tell your child what the skill is that they are learning quite explicitly (“turn taking”), and model the skill. Talk to your child about the different kinds of body language, and model/show examples of how to display different feelings without talking.
During the “We Do” part of the skill building, play Feelings Charades with your child! Together, come up with a list of different Feelings or scenarios (just arrived at a surprised birthday party, your ice cream cone fell on the ground, you just drank sour milk, you stubbed your toe, etc.). Cut these items into individual strips, and put in a bowl. Take turns drawing from the bowl and acting out the emotion or scenario, asking the other person to guess. **Take it a step further, and ask your child what TYPE of body language helped them correctly guess the emotion!
During the “You Do” part of the skill building, look for opportunities during the week you are around strangers, or, watching a show with characters. Ask your child if they can recognize how an individual is feeling, based on that person’s body language. You can also point out your child’s feelings, and describe their own body language “I can tell you are excited right now because your eyes are big, you are smiling, and you are clapping!”
Body language is one of the most obvious soft skills, and yet hardest to master, because there are so many kinds of body language to consider! This is a great area to work on time and time again.