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More than words can ever say. What our body language says, and how your actions might speak for you.

Updated on January 24, 2011

Look in the mirror, now what do you see?

Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky: Young Lady Looking into a Mirror, 1916. Courtesy Wiki Commons
Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky: Young Lady Looking into a Mirror, 1916. Courtesy Wiki Commons

It's not what we say, it's the way that we say it

Recently, on another hub, I came across a comment from someone who had been unemployed for a while. They were managing to get the occassional interview, but somehow failing to land a new job. Understandably, this person was becoming very dejected and despondent. It occurred to me as I read this tale of woe, that there are many people out there who do not always get the treatment and rewards that they so richly deserve, purely because their lips say one thing, and their body language says something else entirely.

The truth is, that unless we are accomplished actors, or consummate liars, or both, the chances are that every word we speak is revealing more about us than we realise. Try saying these three small words as an example:

 

“How are you?”

 

That’s right. Don’t be shy. Say them out loud.

Now ask yourself what they might have revealed about you. If you have an accent might they have given a clue as to where you come from? If you are pleased to see someone, might you put your emphasis on the middle word? Try pretending to be sad, then happy, then angry, and see how the stress on each word changes. You can see at once how we are constantly generating signals for others to receive.

The way we speak, and the way we choose our words, makes a huge difference to how people see us, and how we are treated. Presentation and body language are also important. Try saying these four words aloud:

 

“I am very successful!”

 

Did you sit up straight and look about you with your head held high? If not then try it again, with gusto.

Now try these four words:

 

“I am a failure!”

 

Makes you feel sad just to say those words. Perhaps your shoulders sagged and your head went down as you said them. It’s hard to say them chirpily. Think about how you might speak if you were delivering bad news, then contrast that with how you speak when you’re excited and pleased. The tone of our voice gives other people clues as to how they should respond, just as much, or more so, than the words we use.

Pretend you’re calling a pet dog, “Hey, Rover! Good boy! Good boy!” The dog probably recognises few, if any, human words, but he responds to your tone. He knows he’s expected to run up, all waggy tailed and panting.

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking to yourself, well all this is obvious, and where are we going with this? Or just maybe you’re thinking, how can I use this? Well the answer is that all this is obvious when you stop to think about it, but how many people are that self-aware? Changing your posture and the tone of your voice might just change your life!

 

Fake it to make it

 

You've probably heard those words before, and wondered what they might mean for you. Well the fact is that the physical actions of our bodies and our emotional response to those actions are closely interlinked. By 'acting' more confidently, you can begin to 'feel' more confident. Try smiling at yourself in the mirror, and notice how your mood begins to lift slightly. The smile was unprovoked, and yet you still feel slightly different. Try laughing now, and see if that has the same effect!

 

Too many of us are very down on ourselves. We would never dream of being overly critical to our friends, yet we are all to quick to say negative things about ourselves. A good exercise to help improve self-esteem is to look in the mirror and to literally admire your reflection. "Looking good!" you might say, or "Your hair is fabulous, and your eyes are so bright today!"

Remember, it's easy to be your own worst critic, but how much better to become your own best friend!

Paul McKenna talks about confidence issues

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  • profile image

    diogenes 7 years ago

    Well put Amanda! Imagine my body language as I said that to ya R

  • Elena. profile image

    Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

    Great topic, Amanda! It's actually pretty amazing, this effect a la chicken and egg, where one acts more confident and starts to feel more confident, and when one feels more confident then one acts naturally confident :-)

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Bob. I'm imagining your body language as I type! Hmmmmmm!

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Elena, for some reason I've been shy about publishing too much on hypnosis or NLP. I always suspect that it might come across as a bit preachy, but this is a great topic, and one that people need to know about, so I thought I'd take the plunge!

  • ethel smith profile image

    Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

    Interesting. I tend to pull myself down and sell my self short at times.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Ethel, I think we all have moments like that, but the trick is to catch yourself at it, then change that negative for a positive.

  • Storytellersrus profile image

    Barbara 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

    My son is studying acting. He can tell, after several classes on body language, exactly where a person is holding their tension and even what kind of emotional baggage they might carry. It's fascinating. I think this hub is a gift to all. Thanks!

    Hey, talk about body language... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMjsIVX8kWs

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Barb, the link is great, I just watched it with the kids, and they enjoyed it too! My daughter is taking Drama as one of her options, and hopes to go on to Drama school later.

  • profile image

    pgrundy 7 years ago

    Excellent hub Amanda, thank you for laying it out so well. I know this is true. I've read that if you have a phone interview for a job, it helps to dress as though it was an in-person interview and smile while you talk, because it makes your voice sound more confident and polished. I am guilty of negative thinking often. I'm lucky to have loved ones who remind me to snap out of it!

  • Amanda Severn profile image
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    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Pam, I have suffered from negative thinking myself in the past, but the training I had when I was studying hypnosis helped me overcome quite a lot of it. Of course every so often, I allow myself to have a good old wallow in some personal misery, then I catch myself at it, and think, now that's enough of that! Mind you, being relentlessly cheerful can be just as wearing, but I think there's a middle path. we just have to find it, and make sure we don't slip off it too often!

  • Helen Cater profile image

    Helen Cater 7 years ago from UK

    I think we all suffer from a little negetivity at some point in our lives. Postive attitude and feeling good about the way you look can have a massive effect on your actions. I agree if you look good you become a more confident person.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Helen, I agree that making an effort with one's appearance can help a lot, but true confidence comes from within. Having a positive attitude can win you success even if you don't fit into society's accepted norms.

  • free4india profile image

    free4india 7 years ago

    Yes body language is something very important especially during interviews. The interviewer will watch ones body language and all the degrees will be useless if the body language is poor. Thanks for providing such wonderful tips.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Well said, free4india. People need to really sell themselves to do well in today's competitive job market, and all the qualifications in the world will mean nothing without the personality to back it up.

  • BrianS profile image

    Brian Stephens 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

    Bit of a change for you Amanda but a very good hub, I really enjoyed it and agree with all your points. Video wouldn't work though and I really wanted to watch it, just have to come back later.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Brian, thanks for your comments. I trained as a hypnotherapist, and have done quite a lot of work with people who have confidence issues. Somehow though, when I get on HubPages, I'm more inspired to write about other things. If you can't get the video to work, check Paul McKenna out on YouTube. That whole series has been posted, and they're well worth watching.

  • Philipo profile image

    Philipo 7 years ago from Nigeria

    Action, they say speaks louder than voice. Our body language can indeed make or mar us. Thanks for writing this hub.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Philipo. Action very often does speak louder than words.

  • Shalini Kagal profile image

    Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

    Amanda I think many of us here forget that you are a trained hypnotherapist - what with all your wonderful art hubs! This is such a great hub and so essential for so many - we are taught to value others but we really can't do that well unless we value ourselves first, can we? Great hub - thumbs up Amanda!

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Shalini, I think I sometimes forget that I trained as a hypnotherapist too! Seriously though, this kind of information is so basic, and for many people, so instinctive, that I'm almost reluctant to write about it, and yet we all have our weak and woolly moments when life gets on top of us, and we forget that others judge us on how we present ourselves. It's a tough call, but sometimes putting on a happy face can be all that's needed to turn things around.

  • Sue Adams profile image

    Juliette Kando 7 years ago from Andalusia

    My grand daughter Layla never wants me to read her a bed time story. She much prefers me to tell her a made up one. I often surprise myself at the end of a successful story: "Wao! where did that come from?" and think that maybe I should write some of them down. But then I realise that what Layla loves most about my stories is the spontaneity of the bits that cannot be written, the acting and the body language.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Sue, you're absolutely right. We all learn with all our available senses, and young children seem to enjoy stories that are told in an expressive way, far more than the ones that they read for themselves from a book.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    Amanda, how true, we must remind ourselves of these facts continuously. As you said, even dogs can detect our moods just from our tones and postures. And so difficult to capture in our writing is the proper inflection that we intended. You've done it well here.

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi Peg, thanks for your positive comments. It's good to see you here.

  • Putz Ballard profile image

    Putz Ballard 7 years ago

    I love watching people and it is amazing what one can learn by observing body language. Great hub!

    Robert Ballard

  • enlightenedpsych2 profile image

    enlightenedpsych2 7 years ago from n.e. portion of U.S. on Planet earth

    I have always followed the motto 'actions speak louder than words' and 'our eyes are the windows to our soul'. I have learned much in the way of showing an emotion for what it truly is from the person rendering it. In having the best of both reactions to me, I find more sincerity is demonstrated not just spoken. Excellent piece, well, hub . . .

    sharing the light,

    miss erica hidvegi

    the Enlightenment Advisor

  • Amanda Severn profile image
    Author

    Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

    Hi enlightenedpsych2, certainly it's true that actions speak louder than words. Words are cheap, as they say.

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