Thank you for such a nice introduction. I’m Beth Stinson. Welcome to Beyond Your Body Speaks: The Silent Language of Toastmasters. I put this presentation together after reading this book: The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help or Hurt How You Lead by Carol Kinsey Goman. This book changed the way I interact with people. It also led to my own research on using body language to promote collaboration in my Toastmasters club and beyond. Today I am going to share my research with you and help you practice new leadership skills.[raise hand]How many of you have a CC?Then you must remember project 5 – Your Body Speaks!This is the only Toastmasters project that specifically targets body language as it’s main objective.[raise hand] How many of you are club officers?Managers at work?Members of a team?Family members? What do all of these roles have in common? Yes – other people.What else? Success depends on how well you communicate and collaborate!
Ever find yourself in a situation that looks like this? If not at a meeting at work, perhaps in a classroom, or around your dinner table.Did you know it might be your fault?! If your body gives off the wrong signals, it doesn’t matter what you say. I want your meetings to look more like this.
Totally different vib, right? So let’s get started!
Today I am going to talk about why non-verbal intelligence is so important to leaders today. Next, I am going to share how people read body language, dabbling a little in science (those of you who know me know I can’t resist interesting scientific data). Then we are going to have some fun with members of the audience as I show you how you can use body language to collaborate successfully with your Toastmasters club, your colleagues, your friends, and family.
Body language is the management of time, space, appearance, posture, gesture, vocal variety, touch, smell, facial expression and eye contact.While some of this is covered in Project 5 Your Body Speaks, the advice is for speakers. Make eye contact, gesture, move around, use vocal variety. Sound familiar? But as leaders, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Body language directly impacts your ability to collaborate. The latest scientific research in neuroscience and psychology has proven that body language is crucial to leadership effectiveness. Any time your body language and your words are out of alignment, people believe what they see and not what they hear you say. Just like that photo of the bad business meeting.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. I work in software development. To make better products, we test our software on different people and record their reactions. We watch them interact with the application. We interview them and fill out questionnaires. I was conducting a user test and asked the subject some questions. I asked if the software was easy to use. She said “Yes, yes it’s easy to use!” [shake head no]. I asked her if she understood what to do from the screen. She said, “Yes. I understand.” [shake head no]. Naturally I did not believe she was able to use the software easily, despite what she told me. I believed her shaking head. I marked the questionnaire negatively.
Building your non-verbal intelligence will help you pick up on the body language of others like I did, but it will also help you project the messages you want to project and make collaborating with others easier. It’s more important today that ever before. Why?
Everyone is on video. If you aren’t now, you will be! Getting your body language in line with your words is very important when you are on camera.YouTube,Video Conferencing,Webinars,Online courses,Telecommuting,iChat,SkypeThe thing about videos is that they are played over and over again, so a single bad gesture can haunt you every time the recording is played!
As the song says, it’s a small world. We live in a diverse landscape. Lots of body language is universal, but some is not. Making sure your body is in alignment with your words is especially important when collaborating with people who are different that you are. Differences can be based on gender – women typically stand closer together when communicating than men do. Or cultural - a thumbs up gesture to Americans means everything is ok, but to some people in the middle east it is equivalent to getting the middle finger here.Recently in the Washington Post there was a story about a handbook written by the Afghanistan military about forgiving American soldiers their cultural sins. Unknowingly, Americans insult Afghanis daily by patting them on the back or rump to acknowledge a good job, or by blowing their noses in public. Sometimes these unintended insults have deadly consequences!Why do we react so strongly to nonverbal communication?
Here comes the science part![Exercise 1]On the count of three, I want everyone to turn to their neighbor and smile!1, 2, 3! [click the slide]This is what your brain looks like right now!The science of brain imagery has given us some new insight into how our brains react to non-verbal communication. According to a study at Duke University, when people smile at us, the reward centers of our brains become very active. This activity causes us to like and remember the people who smile at us. What a simple yet powerful tool for leaders who want to collaborate! One of my first Toastmaster mentors told me to smile when giving my speeches. Another mentor told me to smile when I talked on the phone because even though no one could see me, they could still hear me smile.
In business, in the military, in our social lives, and in our Toastmasters clubs, emotions are the key drivers in decision making, not logic. Look no further than the bombardment of political ads we faced this fall. Emotional decisions are made without deliberation. They are made quickly in the limbic system of our brains – the middle part that makes value judgments. The limbic system plays a key role in nonverbal communication, both generating and interpreting body language. This in part explains why we react so strongly and why many, but not all body language signals are the same around the world.
Would you rather work with this person
Or this person?We are genetically programmed to look for nonverbal cues and understand them quickly. Many are universal, like a genuine smile, or the wide eyes of surprise. We instinctively distrust people who keep their hands out of site. Other nonverbal cues are learned at an early age from our culture and environment. The most important thing to keep in mind though is the meaning of body language is in the eye of the beholder. Interpreting happens fast and at an emotional level, so even though you hide your hands to cover the scratches your kitten gave you, it makes the other people in the room uncomfortable.So how can leaders use nonverbal signals to promote collaboration?
In a leadership situation, there are two important nonverbal signals you need to convey.The first is Warmth.A smile. A head nod, a handshake, or a shoulder touch convey warmth. This is in conjunction with a sincere inquiry about something personal – a sports team, movie, pet, hobby, maybe family.
The second non-verbal signal to convey is Authority. Project authority by eye contact. A firm handshake. An open stance. Visible hands.By projecting warmth and authority, you project “the look of leaders.”
So we have learned that people are hardwired to pick up on body language immediately and at an emotional level. Many nonverbal signals are universal, but some are not. The two most important messages to get across as a leader are warmth and authority. But in the end, nonverbal communication is in the eye of the beholder. And beholders make mistakes. Here are some mistakes people make you need to be aware of in your role as a leader.
You can’t make sense of nonverbal messages if you don’t understand the context in which they are made. Context is complex. It includes location, past relationships, time of day, and past experience. Depending on the context, nonverbal signals can have totally different meanings. Your team members and colleagues can’t possible know all the variables that create your actions. For example, if you yawn and stretch during a meeting, your team will think you are bored, but really it’s because you were up all night with a sick child. As a leader, provide the context.
Humans pay more attention to negative messages than positive ones. That limbic system in your brain again. What people unconsciously look for and react to the most, are signs you are in a bad mood. What this can mean is if you pass someone in the hallway and don’t make eye contact or if you frown during a meeting others will not approach you. Colleagues will think you didn’t like what you heard and they will keep their thoughts and ideas to themselves. If you make any nonverbal display of anger, irritability, or annoyance, people hold back their opinions, limit their comments, and shorten interactions. People find meaning in a single gesture. Be aware of what you are projecting, and provide context.
Everyone has personal bias. When you meet someone who instantly reminds you of someone else, you project those feelings onto that person, even though they are completely different. Sometimes this can work in your favor. Your new boss says you remind her of her younger sister. She sees you as likable and serious like her sister, so she overlooks mistakes. Biases can work against you too. What if instead your boss's younger sister was lazy and undependable? As a leader, be mindful of any personal bias you bring into collaborating with others.
Everyone has a cultural bias as well. Collaboration can be difficult when we fail to consider our cultural bias and the bias of people in our groups. As a leader you are judged by behaviors that may include how close you stand to others, how much or how little you touch others, and the amount of eye contact you give. Body language in one cultural may be right and in another wrong. Remember those Afghani troops who were so offended by a pat on the back.What did you first think when you saw this picture? In Arab culture people of the same sex often hold hands as a sign of friendship and trust; there is no sexuality conveyed in this gesture.
When I was working at Miami International University, I experienced some cultural bias, and boy oh boy did some signals get crossed! I was a brand new supervisor of a large team of employees who worked in many different locations. During my first week, I drove around the campus with the lock smith to test all the keys to all the offices I was in charge of. I talked with him and made plenty of eye contact. I was excited about my new job and wanted to make a good impression on a man that would provide security for my team! At the end of the day, I got out of the golf cart we drove around in and the locksmith patted me on the behind then gave me a huge grin. I was shocked speechless! Before storming off to HR to report sexual harassment, I asked my boss what happened. She laughed and told me that the locksmith thought I was interested in him. It was his way of showing his interest back! I said I never flirted with the man, and she said, oh yes, I did. All the eye contact and lively conversation in his culture meant I was interested and available.
We have seen why aligning your nonverbal language with your spoken word is so important to success and collaboration. We’ve also heard about different mistakes people make interpreting body language. So what is the body language of collaboration and how can you as leaders begin to practice it?
[Exercise 2]Everyone close their eyes for just a minute. Take a deep breath, and as you let it out think about a time you didn’t get invited to the big meeting, or the party. Or you didn’t get asked out on a date, or your kids didn’t want to hang around with you. It comes flooding back very quickly doesn’t it? Open your eyes.[click to show words]To understand the power of the need to collaborate, first we have to remember what it feels like to be excluded. When you feel rejected your brain is activated in the same regions that are involved with suffering pain. Hurting someone’s feelings or suffering a broken heart then are literally true as far as your brain is concerned.
As a leader you must work to include everyone in the group by being aware of mistakes people make and the biases we all bring into our interactions. Here are 4 more techniques you can use.
We have already seen what your brain looks like when you smile. On the outside, you need a genuine smile, that comes on slowly, crinkles your eyes, lights up your face and fades slowly. A polite smile comes on quickly and doesn’t reach the eyes. When you smile at someone they smile back. And they remember you in a positive light. Which smile is the genuine smile and which the polite smile?People always detect a “fake” smile and react negatively.
Collaboration depends on the participants’ willingness to speak and share. Your nonverbal signals can increase or decrease participation. When you are listening, tilt your head to the side. The next time you are in club meeting, or any time you’re listening and want to encourage someone to share, nod your head using clusters of three (this should be a natural thing for Toastmasters – threes are magical to us). These positive cues encourage people to continue speaking. These are great techniques when you are an evaluator!
We all know about eye contact. And you have also heard my story about having my eye contact interpreted through a cultural bias. As a leader in a collaboration situation, it’s important that you give out eye contact equally – this projects authority. Try and look at each person when they are speaking the same amount of time. This doesn’t mean you need to look at them the entire time they are speaking.
Face people directly. Even a quarter turn creates a “cold shoulder” barrier. Any type of barrier or obstruction shuts communication down making it impossible to collaborate. Take away anything that blocks your view of the group. Close your laptop, turn off your cell, take your purse or brief case off the table. Anything that appears in front of you signals a barrier. In a networking or social situation, even the way of holding a drink can create a barrier. The lower you hold your drink cup, the more collaboration you get.
We have heard that smiling, using your head, looking at people and removing barriers are all important techniques you can use as a leader to help people collaborate. Now it’s your turn to get more involved with this next section, using space. Proximity is the measurable space between two people. We keep different distances depending on the types of relationships we have with others. Proximity is also influenced by culture. For today’s demonstration I will be using North America is the cultural norm.I need 6 people as volunteers for our demonstration.
[Move two people this close: 0-18 inches]Do you know each other?How do you feel? You may move.Who is this space reserved for? Family, loved ones, very close friends. When someone infringes on your personal space, your response is immediate. Your heart rate goes up. You start to sweat. You can tell you have invaded someone’s space by the way they react – they take a step backwards, pull in their hands or turn a shoulder to you. They put up a barrier.
[Move people this distance apart: 18 inches – 2 feet]Do you know each other? How do you feel?You may move.Who do you think belongs in this space? Friends and trusted colleagues. Toastmasters friends you have known for a while.
[Move two people this far apart: 2-4 feet]Do you know each other?How do you feel?Who do you think belongs in this space? Team members and business colleagues. Toastmasters club members you have interacted with.
[Move three people in a triangle:4-12 feet]Do you know each other?How do you feel?This is the social zone. This is where we feel the most comfortable for the majority of our professional dealings and where we interact with new business acquaintances. A visitor to your club for the first time. People you meet at networking events and conferences.
[Arrange the 6 volunteers in a line across the front of the speaking area]The public zone is beyond 12 feet. This is used mostly for public speaking.There is no violation of personal space in this zone. When you are making a speech this is where you’ll most likely be.Let’s have a round of applause for our volunteers into space!
Seating space and position are just as important as personal space in meetings to inspire collaboration.Where you sit, as a leader, in relation to others can support collaboration or shut it down. I need three more volunteers from the Audience.
There are two power positions at any conference table. The dominant chair at the head of the table facing the door and the visually central seat in the middle of the row of chairs that faces the door.[Sit one volunteer at the head of the table and the others at each side at the further end]Sitting in this position is the most effective way for a leader to control the agenda or dominate the meeting. It also stifles collaboration. When a leader takes this spot, everyone talks to him or her and seeks approval. As a leader, to encourage collaboration take a different seat.
Picking seats at opposite sides of a table puts people in an adversarial position.[seat to volunteers opposite to each other]Groups can sit on opposite sides of a table, making us and them.[place third volunteer on one side]You can intentionally mix up seating arrangements, get a round table, or get rid of the table all together to discourage taking sides – which hurts collaboration.
Seating for collaboration is based on the size of the group. If it’s just two, sitting side-by side is best. Sitting at a right angle is good too.[move two volunteers to sit side-by-side and then adjacent]Round of applause for our volunteers. So we have seen that the position of where you stand and sit projects non-verbal cues and can influence collaboration.
Body language is part of our biology. Some body language, like a smile is universal and some, like a thumbs up, is cultural. The meaning of body language is in the eye of the beholder, so it’s important to be aware of what you are projecting and how it might be interpreted. It is critically important for leaders to develop their non-verbal intelligence, going beyond your body speaks and learning the silent language of Toastmasters.
Going Beyond Your Body Speaks: The Silent Language of Toastmasters
Beyond Your Body Speaks:The Silent Language ofToastmastersBeth MacNeil Stinson, DTM
ReferencesEmory University eScienceCommonsInternational Body LanguageLeadership CommunicationJournal of Clinical NeuroscienceBody Language and PromotionNew York TimesHow We Decide by Jonah Lehrer