Understanding the Role of Your Body in Communication


Are you aware of the role of your body in communication? Is your body language congruent with the words you speak, or is it telling a different story?

If you’ve ever listened to someone speak and had a funny feeling, felt disconnected, or couldn’t follow what they were saying, you may have been listening to someone who was not including their body in their communication. Learning how to be connected to your body while you communicate can help your message land more powerfully.

This is true even if you are on a phone call or in an online conference. Bodies have the ability to sense other bodies even when they don’t see them. So if you have the idea that just because people don’t see your body on the screen they don’t get the vibe of what’s going on, think again!

A vital part of my work as a vocal coach and public speaking trainer is getting people to work with their body instead of against it. Most of us have been taught out entire lives to control our bodies. We learn the right posture, how to breathe, how to move, what to say…in order to become the best at what we do.

What I find interesting in my sessions is that, when people start being more present, they become more relaxed and they actually achieve more, every single time. There is flow, fun, and ease in their presentation and they are able to do things they were never capable of before. Their body language becomes completely congruent, which makes it very pleasant as a listener and allows impressive change to happen. The moment they go into their head trying to figure out what is the right way, they lose their presence, words, and focus; they start forcing and the flow usually complete stops.

What if being present is the key to greater communication?

In order to be present you have to include your body in communication, which means you have to, first of all, connect to your body. The more ease you have with relating to your body without judgements and including your body in everything you do, the more ease you will have being and staying present. And the more generative your communication will be.

Here are 5 tips to start including your body in communication:

1. Connect To Your Body

Go for a walk and pay attention to everything around you.

Notice the wind/rain/sun on your skin, the earth under your feet, the flowers and the trees, the sounds of animals around you. Practice this even when you are walking through the city, from the subway to your office or on your way home. Notice the buildings, the people walking past you, the noises of traffic. Be present with everything you walk past.

Then connect to your breathing; are you breathing short or long? Deep or shallow? Just observe your body as it breathes on your walk.

The more you are willing to pay attention to everything, everywhere you are, the more present you will find yourself throughout the day.

“60% of all human communication is nonverbal body language; 30% is your tone, so that means 90% of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.” – Alex “Hitch” Hitchens

2. Bring Your Body To Work

You want to bring your body to work. When you are not totally present, people you are speaking with in a meeting or presentation will be more easily distracted. Bodies mirror other bodies. If the main speaker is not present, it is very hard to stay present as a listener.

How do you do it?

Put your feet on the ground and connect to the floor and, just as during the walk, connect to your breathing and to everything around you: the chair you’re sitting in, the people in front of you, everything in your environment.This only takes 30 seconds and invites every body in the room to be more relaxed.

If you have a hard time staying present while speaking, you can put one hand on your belly or touch your own leg to remind you to stay connected to your body during your talk.

3. Ask Your Body Questions

What does your body require of you at work to support you?

When you start feeling anxious behind your desk, what do you need? A walk, a drink, fresh air, a day off?

When you have to work long hours, does the chair you’re sitting in work for your body?

When you have a presentation in which you have to stand, which shoes can you wear that will make you look stunning and be comfortable that day?

When you listen to what your body has to say, your body will be more at ease and you will find yourself less distracted, which will allow you to communicate more effectively.

4. Eliminate Judgements

How much do you judge your body? How much is that holding you back from truly including your body in communication?

Judgement is the number one tool for destroying every relationship, including the one with your body. In order to judge you have to go into your head, which causes you to disconnect from your body. Are you willing to give that up?

Stop judging you, including what you said, how you said it, when you said it, and stop judging others for what they said, what they did, or how they looked. Most people aren’t aware of how much they are in judgement of themselves and their body. If you’d like to change your judgements, start being attentive to all your thoughts and every word you speak even when it is not out loud.

How do you stop judging?

The chocolate that comes with the coffee, how you look in the dress, how you looked in the pictures last week, your image in the mirror in the morning, how your colleagues or your boss might see you, what you just said to your co-workers and how you said it—what if all of those were just interesting points of view?

For every judgement that crosses your mind about you, what you said, what you did or anything or anyone around you, think interesting point of view I have that point of view.

Most people base their communication on the past. For example, perhaps you said something to someone and they leave suddenly with a strange look on their face. You start thinking you said something wrong and create a whole story around it. Then you go into your next meeting, still questioning and judging what you just said in your last conversation..

How much will that affect your meeting and everyone in the room and the communication between you and your listeners?

What if you would stop that story so it doesn’t impact your next interaction. Instead, you might wonder what just happened and ask the person later what caused their reaction. Perhaps you find out that they forgot to send an important message or you reminded them of an incomplete task.

When you start functioning from the place where everything is just an interesting point of view, you start being present all the time, with every word you speak.

This will allow you to see when something is going on in a meeting and will help you to address it with a question in the moment. So you will lead every meeting by inviting greater communication.

5. Embody Joy

What brings you and your body joy?

Can you think of the days you walk around after having done something that really brought you joy? How did all your conversations go? There was more ease and more got created out of it, right?

Imagine if you started doing one thing every single day that brings you and your body joy. Take yourself on a date, buy yourself that ice cream on Monday night, get your nails done, take that detour through the park, get yourself that amazing cappuccino around the corner. Just one thing a day that will spice up your life.

Most people like to be around people that embody joy and feel good with their body, because it makes them feel good even when they feel bad. Think of who you like to communicate with more, is that someone that feels good or someone that is primarily working hard and has little joy with the body? The first one usually brings more ease to communicate with, right?

What if you could leave most of the people you had a conversation or a meeting with feeling so good that they desired to create more and work harder?

What all of this ties back to is that the biggest part of communication is not about what you say, it’s about how present you are willing to be. Being present includes your body. Bodies tend to mirror each other in communication, so the more present you are the more you will invite the people you communicate with to also be present and connected.

Are you ready to have more flow, fun, ease in your communications and presentations? Connect to your body, bring it to work with you, ask your body questions, stop judging, and embody joy: these five tips will create a very pleasant space to be in as a listener and will allow impressive change in communication to happen.


A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.

Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.