Running a development course with corporate delegates, I am struck again by the impact of our physical bodies on the world around us. And how out of touch with that impact we are.
Discussing communication, we study Mehrabian’s theory of face to face interaction. It finds that a mere 7% of our understanding comes from the words spoken, 38% from the way they are said, and 55% from non-verbal communication – ie. body language.
As always, this sparks the discussion. ‘What can we do to change that?’ ‘We can beef up the logic of our arguments, add more complex facts, study our subject harder, use more impressive words but how on earth can we change what we physically are whilst staying natural and true to ourselves?’
Good questions indeed. Where does dynamic body language come from? In the Western world, we are disconnected to our physical beings on a day to day basis. We hunch over our computers, talk into mobiles when we walk, and eat whilst updating Facebook and catching up on texts. We stay indoors, rarely pulling our eyes from the screen, in an atmosphere heavy with electricity and second-hand air.
The more disconnected we become, the more lethargic, and the more difficult to break the pattern.
But we have all experienced that euphoric feeling of hitting the shower after a long run, stretching out at the end of a yoga session, breathing in the air on a cold afternoon walk. This is what changes our body language. This is what reconnects us to what we really are. We are animals with an animal instinct for movement and strength, and take pleasure in expressing our physical force. This is what puts us in touch with our personal power. This is what makes us feel our best. This is what makes us strong – literally – physically, mentally and externally – to those who we seek to influence and lead.
The way forward in training and development today is to integrate the power of the body with the power of the mind. The mind is the focus of so much of our education and training, yet as Mehrabian proves, our bodies speak far, far louder than words.
We owe it to ourselves to access their power and allow them to do more of the talking. Physical and intellectual training, combined, is the way we will make real differences to behaviour, resilience, health and personal power in the months and years to come.