by Spencer Boehm, Student-Athlete at Washington University (St. Louis)
You walk into an auditorium to watch a classmate’s presentation. The classmate walks onto the stage with slumped shoulders. He addresses the audience and immediately crosses his arms. After a few minutes, he clutches the railing next to him with his hand.
Within the first five minutes, the audience’s perception of the presenter is distorted.
They interpret an unsure and timid presentation. Even though the presenter may not have said a single word, he has communicated with the audience through his body language. Let’s quickly analyze why this is.
- Slumped shoulders signal a lack of confidence. It makes you appear smaller and makes it known to others; you are not the most confident in the room.
- Crossed arms immediately show everyone around you that you are closed off. In a sense, you have a shell up that you are not willing to open for others.
- Clutching and holding onto any object near you shows that you are reaching for help. You are holding on to something that is grounded to ease your fears.
Body language is a form of communication that is often overlooked, yet it is often the first thing people notice. Most of the time, poor body language is an issue of not realizing your presence. If you can make a simple conscious decision to keep your posture and body language strong, it may do wonders.
Modern Day Body Language
While body language as a whole is imperative in any presentation setting, it is applicable almost anywhere: interviews, workshops, first impressions, meetings, etc. In today’s age where phones are being used 3+ hours a day and other screens for another 3+ hours, it is only natural to begin to slump over around your device. Again, if you can make a conscious decision to improve your body language, it may help you more than you know.
The amount of virtual communication during the COVID-19 quarantine has its own impact on body language.
Now that we have been in the midst of a global pandemic for almost ten months, everyone has to be adjusted to the Zoom world. In terms of having proper body language, Zoom is practically a cheat code. You only have to show your shoulders up and can turn off your camera on demand.
Yet, even in a Zoom world, body language is noticed. Because you can only see shoulders up on Zoom, it forces attention towards your face and eyes. Having a cheerful expression and making consistent eye contact are the two most important body language factors in our pandemic world today.
However you carry yourself, even virtually, people are noticing.
Something to Walk Away With
It is a lot to consider. However, it is important to be aware of how you present yourself and your body language when you walk into any room (even a Zoom-room). First impressions are followed immediately by first judgements. Body language is communication. We have to be constantly aware of it.
Note from the Good Athlete Project: When a coach throws his headset to the ground on the sideline after a bad call, but then tells his team to respect the referee, he is communicating conflicting values. Per the article, we should recognize that we are communicating physically as well as verbally – the “do as I say, not as I do” mantra does not work in practice.
So in the evaluation of one’s own communication, when it comes to body language, Does Your Behavior Match Your Goal?