“The most important thing in communication is hear what isn’t being said” – Peter Drucker
How can you tell what isn’t being said? By paying attention to body language.
Only 10% of all communication is achieved with words. What does that mean? To step up your game with students and colleagues, you must harness the power that is body language. What you taught in the classroom last year, can be fully communicated when married to the correct body language. Don’t rely on verbal communication alone. Really get your point across this coming academic year by reinforcing what you say with what you “do”.
What the Body is Really Saying
An article in Psychology Today reminds us that body language, like other aspects of human development over the ages, has evolved over time. In most cases body language is an automatic response to an outside stimuli. These types of ingrained reactions are controlled by the limbic system.
Needs, feelings, thoughts, and intentions are processed in the limbic brain and expressed in body language. For example, when a baby is fed something they do not like, they will automatically purse their lips and squeeze their eyes shut. When someone runs into someone they like, their eyebrows tend to arch (defying gravity) and their arms will begin to reach toward the person, if only a tiny bit, for a potential embrace. These are reactions hardwired by our brain to signal our needs, feelings, thoughts and intentions.
What this tells us is we must be aware of our physical response if we want to communicate fully with others. A good rule of thumb when interacting with students and colleagues is to ask yourself am I causing them comfort or discomfort? There are tried and true movements that can be harnessed and changed, if necessary, in order to marry your body language to convey a message in the classroom or during teacher team building with other teachers.
Signals to Students
Do you remember your favorite teacher? Think back, was it because it was your favorite subject or the fact that they didn’t give you that much homework? Probably not. The reason teachers become a “favorite teacher” has much more to do with how they make the student feel.
Reach back some more and remember, was your favorite teacher really present, meaning did you feel important, like they were truly listening? Chances are, your favorite teacher utilized positive body language to make you feel comfortable and important. Lets face it, students are more apt to listen to a lesson and retain the subject better when they “feel” the teacher is interested in the subject matter and they value student interaction.
Below are simple ways a teacher can build trust and harness student interest:
- Smile, simple, but very powerful
- Look your students in the eye, especially when making an important point
- Walking tall, to convey confidence in the lesson and establish yourself as a leader
- Adopt encouraging movements like nodding, leaning toward the student, opening your palms when conveying a point or to encourage feedback
Be mindful of the body language you convey when interacting with students. After all, the most fundamental way a teacher effectively reaches a student is through body language.
Signals to Teaching Peers
Most likely if you are a teacher in America today, you are part of a teaching team. What this means is how you communicate to your peers is positively or adversely dependent upon not what you are saying, but “how” you are saying it with body language.
According to Business News Daily, when interacting with colleagues, make sure to police what particular parts of your body is conveying by:
- Making sure your smile is genuine by ensuring your lips are turned up at the corners
- Relaxing your forehead; wrinkled indicates stress, unwrinkled indicates calm
- Opening your eyes; narrowed eyes indicates skepticism, wide indicates attentiveness, openness and interest
- Placing your hands comfortably away from the body; when held close it indicates a need for protection, away indicates openness, trust and approachability
- Pointing both feet forward; when one foot is placed facing away it indicates disengagement from the conversation and impending exit
Overall, be aware of your physical being when collaborating with a teaching partner. Nothing closes the door faster on meaningful conferences to discuss students and/or lesson planning meetings like negative body language.
Pay Attention to How Others React
When a teacher asks a student “Do you understand?”, how the student responds physically can be much more important than how they respond verbally. For example, if the student wrinkles their forehead and avoids eye contact, the chances are if they say “yes”, they are not telling the truth.
This is why HOW a student or coworker reacts to you is just as important as what they say. Don’t be so consumed by your own body language that you ignore the non-verbal signals being conveyed back to you. Pay particular attention to HOW someone reacts to something you say or do. If the verbal communication does not match the physical communication, this inconsistency may be the only way to uncover a hidden issue or problem.
Harness the Power of Body Language for Educators with Fun Team Building
I am Larry Lipman of Fun Team Building. I make sure to include body language skills whenever I plan staff development for teachers. I facilitate seminars that are interactive, learn-by-doing, and rich in content. Participants will learn life skills that they can apply in the classroom and at home. Call me today at 770-333-3303 and find out how I can customize a educator team building day specifically for teachers!