"I speak two languages, Body and English."- Mae West

Whether you think you are an open book or not, you express yourself through an elaborate system of body postures, gestures, and poses. Your body is expressing or speaking what your mind is sensing or thinking. You may not know what signals you are sending, but others can read your nonverbal messages and get a lot of information about what's going on just by observing you.

Here is a story that explains how your thoughts are translated into body language: Imagine for a moment that you are a bank teller. It's been a pretty good day but you look up and here comes someone in a bad mood. You already know he's not a happy camper. His head is hanging down. He is scowling. He walks with heavy steps, and then stops at your window with his hands on his hips. He hands you a check to deposit and then pounds on your counter, points his finger at you, and raises his voice. In only a few moments you mumble to yourself, "This guy is a real jerk." After he completes his tantrum, you make the transaction and then he turns and storms out of the bank. Although this guy is gone the experience remains. The whole scene circles around and around in your head and you hear yourself repeat, "I can't believe what a jerk that person was!!!" until you are really bent out of shape.

At this point you feel the need for some sympathy so you lean over to the teller next to you. "Could you believe what a jerk that person was?" you whisper.
And she says, "Yeah." And so it is said, "Where two or more agree, then it must be true."

A couple of weeks go by. There you are at your window on another good day, and guess who walks in the door? And what do you suppose is the first thought that goes across your mind? That is right, "There is that jerk." You make a decision. "I am going to armor up, just in case that jerk comes to my window." And sure enough, the person comes to your window. Then you decide, "I am not going to take this crap." You prepare for a fight, hold yourself upright and stiff, and quietly put on your nonverbal boxing gloves.

Today, however, that person is in a fine mood. When he walks up to the window he almost smiles, but then senses you are uneasy. He notices your scowl and crossed arms and thinks, "This teller looks like she wants to pick a fight. I better be ready for it." Then he becomes defensive and rude. And when the transaction is done, you say to yourself, "What an uptight guy. I was right. He is a real jerk." You don't realize that it was your nonverbal signals that set up his reaction.

If you have negative thoughts about the other person before you begin talking, what can you expect out of the interaction? This person is unconsciously reading your nonverbal signals and responding to them. Who is setting up whom? Who is being the "jerk"? Whose nonverbal signals are being seen and misinterpreted? Is there any chance of having a positive interaction?

This story illustrates how your thoughts are transformed into your body language and behaviors that can set up the reactions of other people. Now think about someone you have a hard time with. What are some of the negative thoughts you have about them? Now step outside yourself and look at yourself through their eyes. What nonverbal expressions do they identify in you? Is your jaw clenched, are your shoulders tight, eyes narrowed? Is the tone of your voice implying, "You idiot" at the beginning or end of each sentence?

Can you even identify what your thoughts are that precede your negative, possibly contentious, nonverbal signals before you even open your mouth? Are you a fight waiting to happen? Do you have "kick me" written all over your forehead? Are you nonverbally dismissing the other person? It's time to Check Your Attitude at the Door. It's time to become aware and change. Malidome Some, a spiritual teacher, says that when you are on your true path in life you will experience great obstacles. He goes on to say that our spirits like to be clever and create a way to success when things seem impossible. When you are up to something great, you will have great challenges to overcome. True expertise and success always require a vision, hard work, a clear direction, and a conscious commitment to achieve excellence. You also need to include knowledge, solid tools, and practice, practice, practice.




© 2017 Jim Peal