You’ve probably heard that body language is important when communicating.
How important? UCLA Professor Emeritus of Psychology Albert Mehrabian believes that non-verbal communication accounts for more than 50% of the success of getting your message across. (To be exact, Mehrabian believes that words account for 7%, tone of voice 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of a listener’s ability to warm up to you or your message.)
There are nearly twenty non-verbal cues that make the difference between bad and great body language for communicators. However, when I conduct communications training/coaching sessions, I typically don’t share that list at the beginning of a session.
Why? I’m a golfer.
What if a golf coach told you: “Feet still…shoulders start the swing back…hands over your back foot…hinge at your waist…swivel your back to the target…pause at the top…start the downswing with the hips…drop the arms to the inside…strike the ball with a descending blow…rotate the forearms…finish high with all of your weight on the front foot.” How well do you think you’d swing?
Instead, a good golf coach would give you a swing-thought – a simple key that would enable all the other things to happen. It might be: “Swing around your sternum and drop your arms inside.” (I’m currently working on this one now with the terrific Jason Sutton of the Dana Rader Golf School.)
So, here’s my one body-language swing-thought for anyone addressing a large group of people or conducting a media interview:
“Be a more confident version of yourself, even if you have to fake it.”
With this one tip, I typically find that people begin to naturally address most of the items on the body language checklist. This list includes:
- Adopting a more athletic and engaging posture
- Speaking more deliberately and impactfully
- Taking time to breathe and think
- Using your hands to punctuate and illustrate key points
- Making better eye-contact with the reporter/audience
- Moderating your vocal speed and volume
The tip isn’t a magic bullet, but I’d say it has a success rate of about 4 out of 5. When it doesn’t work, then I’ll begin to address a few of the finer points, or I’ll try to introduce a new swing thought, customized to address a person’s body-language faults.
I hope this tip helps you…almost as much as I hope to begin hitting a consistent draw.