The Power of Body Language

We all instinctively know that body language plays a vital part in our communication with others, and I was starkly reminded of this recently while delivering a two-handed resilience workshop via Zoom. It was a joint affair, but my friend and colleague, John, was in the actual room, while I played my part online.

At the end, the feedback forms recorded that the attendees found the experience ‘informative, useful and fun’ and John was on a high, feeling that it had been a great success. But for me, it was a different story. I had no idea if the session had gone well or not. I felt exhausted, frustrated, flat and disappointed in my performance. The reason is not hard to guess: in our workshop, I had not been able to ‘read’ the individuals or the room, nor use my own body to express myself. In short, I had missed what we all take for granted – the power of body language. And, to some extent, we have all missed that experience since covid restricted our natural communication channels.

In theory, of course, we do not need anything more than carefully constructed language to get ideas and feelings across – think of radio programmes or the written word, especially poetry. But face-to face interactions inevitably introduce facial expressions and physical stances into the equation, thereby adding a valuable extra dimension, one that provides context and nuance that need no explanation.

And, in case you need convincing of the power of body language, consider the other end of the communications spectrum, the completely non-verbal medium of dance. As Mikhail Baryshnikov said, “Dance for me a minute, and I’ll tell you who you are.” I was recently in a discussion group, the subject of which was the power of dance, during which we enjoyed lively and amusing conversations about our experiences of dance and how magical it is to connect and communicate in this way.  However, we also talked about dance being seen as weird, embarrassing and frowned upon, and how many people learn only to hate their bodies because of media narratives that emphasise themes of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.

Ultimately, however, the lesson I have learnt is to remember that our bodies are amazing and that we should not take them for granted. They are joyful wonders, too precious to neglect or abuse. I am eternally grateful for mine.

And I look forward to using my physicality and reading yours when we meet up.  And, yes, I am looking forward to dancing with you too.