Body Language

Communication 1.13

     Performance Objective:

Client will be able to make socially appropriate responses to basic body language concepts.



Suggestions for instruction:

  1.  Begin  by asking the client if they know what is meant by “body language.” If  not, explain that the way we hold our body when we are standing or sitting  can tell other people about how we feel. Body language is a non-verbal form of communication.
  2.  For example, if you don’t want people to bother you when you don’t feel well,  what might you do? – you might sit with your back to other people. You might frown. You might fold your arms across your chest and turn away if  you are standing. Your posture – your body language - tells other people  that right now is not a good time to talk to you. When a person turns away and pulls their shoulders together or folds their arms, we say that their posture is “closed.” This is a signal that they want to be left alone.
  3.  If you do want to talk to other people, you might turn towards them and  lean in their direction if you are sitting. If you are standing, you might  face the person, look them in the eye, and smile at them. When a person faces you with their arms apart at their sides or reaching out towards you, we say that their posture is “open.” This is a signal that they want to interact with you.
  4.  It is  important to learn to "read” other people’s body language. If you invade  the personal space of someone who really doesn’t want to be bothered, besides annoying them, you could possibly get hit by them.
  5.  If someone’s back is to you and you want to talk to them, how do you know if  they don’t want to talk to you, or if maybe they can’t hear and don’t even know you are there? You might touch them lightly on the shoulder to let them know you are there. What would you do if they turned and saw you, but then turned away from you with a frown on their face? That’s probably a good time to back away and leave them alone. If they turn towards you and  smile, that’s a good time to talk to them.
  6.  Reading body language is sometimes our best guess at what a person is communicating. A person might smile at you to be polite even when they don’t want you to bother them. They might shake hands with you when meeting you to be polite, but they still might not want to talk to you. Watch their body language. Do  they turn away from you and “close” their body? What does that tell you? Do they face you and appear “open”?
  7.  If you suspect that someone doesn’t want to be bothered, but you aren’t sure, it  is always polite to ask – “Would you like to visit later?” or, “Is this a good time?” Generally, people will let you know if it is a good time. It is really important to pay attention to the body language of people who  cannot speak. Remember, their behavior, how they act, is a form of communication. What are they telling you?