I hate to see people fold their arms when someone new speaks. Do you know why? Because it signifies that those folks have already prejudged what they are going to hear. Is that assessment always true? I doubt it–but it is a cue for me and to others on what you may think.
In between active listening and thoughtful responding comes the very necessary review of body language. Most people are oblivious to how their facial expressions, posture and nervous tics and twitches lend themselves to overall impressions. Well, I don’t know if anybody ever told you, but reading body language is considered a kind of science. Law enforcement officers use it; psychologists and psychiatrists use it; political analysts use it; parents use it; kids use it. As you can see, it’s an everyday kind of thing. So why do we fail to use it in important social and professional situations like conversations with our spouses or quarterly reviews at work?
I hate to say it, but it’s that preemptive thinking again. As you’re rehearsing what you’re going to say, your brain no longer controls your body–the two are working on different levels. You’re brain focuses in on coming up with clever ways to tell the other person just what you think about it all while your body responds by doing one of two things–defending you from the onslaught that you’re still subconsciously hearing OR mimicking what your brain is thinking. Either way, the nonverbal message the other person gets is not positive. If you’re not careful you can actually create a negative or combative atmosphere because the other person is provoked.
In the not too distant past, I have failed in this area–I am easily offended and my temper can manifest in my eyebrows lifting, my jaw clenching, my arms folding, my body turning and shifting, and my eyes piercing into the person. I have learned to be much more magnanimous-nodding agreeably and keeping a slight smile on my face while doing my best to control my eyebrows. It is difficult sometimes, but this always works out in my favor because I am able to diffuse a negative situation before it pops off.
If you don’t know how your body reacts when people are talking to you, I encourage you to figure it out. You can ask a friend to monitor you during your conversations or ask your parent (parents can always tell what level you’re on based on your body language from your teenage years). If you know that you don’t do well in controlling your body language during conversations, practice replacing old habits with new. Commit to sitting a certain way or figure out where your arms can go before hand.
God bless! Don’t forget that your feelings don’t have to written on your face! Practice positive posture!