“Learning to assess body language can go a long way to showing your compassion and care of those you’re leading.”
I recently visited my first chiropractor. A peppy thirtysomething walked in the room and asked, “Are you ready to be adjusted?” with the enthusiasm of a male cheerleader.
To be honest, he scared me a little.
Not willing to back down, I responded, “You bet!” with equal energy.
This stranger, who I never met before, began snapping my neck in strange directions, thrusting his chest into my shoulder as he as announced, “You’re going to hear a popping sound!” and contorted my body in odd shapes resulting in snapping sounds in places in my body I’ve never heard them before.
I walked out of the office, slightly dazed, with an awareness that I really need to work on my posture. Everywhere. I. Go.
The experience made me think about our posture—not just with our shoulders or necks, but in ministry. Sometimes we don’t realize how much our physical posture affects how people respond to us. This is particularly true when leading a small group, church, or ministry.
1. Look in the mirror.
Though you probably already look in the mirror every morning, when was the last time examined your facial expressions? Take a few moments to really see yourself. When your face is relaxed, are the corners of your mouth pulling upward or downward? When you look at your own eyes in the mirror, do your brows tend to furrow or look hopeful? When you smile big, do you feel comfortable or vulnerable?
Practice making expressions that demonstrate warmth, joy, and accessibility by smiling wide, looking hopeful, and showing genuine compassion. The next time you’re leading a group practice using some specific expressions and watch how people respond.
2. Keep your hands apart.
Sometimes when someone starts speaking and you’re unsure of what they’re going to say (or you have a hunch it’s not what we want to hear), you may have an automatic physical response of bringing your hands together. This is a natural response to protect yourself. But before you realize it, your arms are crossed and you’re looking defensive. Or you may be tempted to hide your arms behind your back which can communicates that you’re trying to hide something like your emotions. Instead, keep your hands at your side or rest them on the arms of the chair you’re sitting in. This simple move will show you trust the other person—and invite everyone else in the room to do so, too.
3. Welcome questions with a smile.
Whether you’re meeting with someone one-on-one or leading a small group or staff, greet every question with a smile. This shows you’re open to discussion, concerns, and new ideas. Something as simple as responding with a smile communicates you’re comfortable and confident—and has the power to change the atmosphere of the room.
4. Maintain steady eye contact.
Most people know the importance of eye contact for good communication, but good eye contact isn’t just about looking at someone. It involves more than your eyes. Make sure your head isn’t tilted to one side when you’re looking at someone. This can communicate that you’re uncomfortable and trying to keep yourself in check. When possible, try to remove as many things as possible between you and those you’re meeting with or leading—including desks, podiums, and centerpieces on tables that can draw your eyes away from the other person.
Learning to assess body language—especially your own—can go a long way to showing your compassion and care of those you’re leading.
How have you learned to communicate better as a leader?