Yesterday, we talked about body language which screamed, “I am not listening.” So, what body language does the listener employ?
Good Eye Contact
Even if your audience is not looking directly into your eyes, it should be watching your face or hands (if you are gesturing). Eye contact translates to “seeing eye-to-eye”.
When listeners sit or stand with their bodies facing directly toward you, they are being receptive to your message. Their standing posture will be comfortable, hands at sides (or in pockets) one knee bent for comfort. Horses stand with one foot slack to show trust and comfort…same theory.
The opposite of verbal limbo, your audience is trying to get closer to you. This posture means they are seeking what you are saying. The most comfortable lean-in is with the elbows on the knees. The most exaggerated cases are the hanging on the edge of the seat crowd.
Your audience is agreeing with you or learning something. This is the personification of the light bulb going off over their heads. In severe cases, it comes with three snaps up and a twist.
No foot fidgeting means they are not trying to flee. The feet are firmly planted on solid ground receiving your message.
Hands in Lap
Your audience is not threatened by your message. There is no need for a defensive posture, and they are unlikely to deflect your ideas. Unless taking notes or raising a hand for a question, their hands will remain immobile for the majority of what you say.
When the brain is engaged, people will often tilt their heads, signifying they are working your subject into their understanding of (the situation, the process, the ideal). It shows although your message is not the one they would have delivered, it is amenable.
Muscles in the face tighten when people are stressed, angry or disagreeable. A slack expression means the person has not yet formed an opinion of your topic and is still gathering information.
Nothing is better than a smile. The sign of agreement, happiness and excitement, a smile means your audience is engaged in your message and happy to be. Seek this type of body language with all of your messages.
Layered body language is when you are seeing more than one of the above. Like a parfait, it is sweet to see more layers of listening.
You need to remember, just because your audience is listening does not mean they understand what you meant. If you are getting all the receptive body signs, take the time to ask questions to gauge understanding. When they answer in concurrence, you will be the one with the smile.
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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