Image: Laura Slingo
[Saskia Brüske | Contributing Writer]
On Wednesday 18 November, I attended the Introducing Forward Women conference hosted by The Guardian. It was titled as “a one-day conference to set you on the road to success” and there were lots of opportunities for us attendees – from talks to Q&A sessions, debates and different breakout sessions. The one breakout session I took part in was called “First impressions: building confidence through body awareness.” It was held by the winners of the 2013 Funny Women Awards: Nina Smith and Libby Northedge, also known as Twisted Loaf.
We started the breakout session by watching a video of the comedic duo’s winning performance to gain an insight into the things body language can display and achieve. Scientifically proven, body language accounts for 55 per cent of our conversation, which makes it more important than tone of voice (38 per cent) and actual literal meaning of the words we use (seven per cent).
After the video, we got to do things ourselves; we put our own body language into action. We learned about the “neutral position” you can put your body in by standing with your feet flat on the ground at hip width, knees bent just a little bit, the head held in an angle of about 90 degrees so your eyes can easily rest sort of above the horizon. Try to do it and you’ll probably feel your body (and mind) become more neutral and relaxed.
For another exercise, seven people – myself included – were selected. I was very nervous at first. Each of us were given a playing card and we were asked to act out the status of it, only using body language. Without talking, we then sorted ourselves by status, from high (king) to low (any number). I got the jack and I tried to show this by starting out appearing rather powerful, then slowly sinking into myself more and more with only my fists remaining clenched. I did this to indicate being somebody who might think higher of themselves – or would like to be of a higher status – than they might actually appear to others. Out of the seven people, I was the only one who got my position right, which was a nice way for me to end the workshop. I didn’t need to be nervous at all!
The workshop taught me that body language is highly important and indicates how others view us. Our body language is more likely to say more about us than we might notice. Since taking part in this workshop, I often catch myself slouching. I have to remind myself that my body language is capable of representing me in a way I might not necessarily want to be viewed. I don’t think my frequency of slouching has increased or decreased since participating in the workshop, but I’m definitely more aware of it now. As a result, I can actively change my body language for the better when I most need to – to reflect openness and confidence, for example.
I’d suggest you take a moment to think about your own body language and what it might tell people about yourself. Do you want to be viewed in the way you’re presenting yourself? If yes, that’s awesome! If not, try to be more aware of the effect of your appearance, i.e. the language your body speaks. It might help you in your everyday life for things such as job interviews, or when giving a presentation in front of a class, or even when just casually talking to people in the corridors.