When we think of body language, we often picture a complex vocabulary of gestures intended to manipulate an audience.
We imagine a slick politician who's perfected a mix of hand movements, eye contact, 'honest' smiles, and frowns of concern. Or a cunning CEO who can command the compliance of his directors with one well-placed gesture.
It's like baking a cake, we assume. Just throw in a pinch of gently interlaced fingers, a helping of assured nodding, a modicum of subtly pursed lips and – voila – you look like a caring, engaged, and thoughtful speaker.
If you want a simple and authentic way to develop your body language skills, forget the tricks. Instead, develop natural and powerful body language with the help of these two personas.
The Lover just adores the audience. He wants to create energy and excitement around his topic.
He uses wide, energetic gestures. His hands and arms are usually open so that you can see his palms, and he is not afraid to raise them above the chest level.
Just like a good MC, he is a master in arousing the crowd's enthusiasm because he loves to use his energy in effervescent motion.
His eyes are beaming with eagerness, and he embraces the entire crowd with his gaze so nobody feels excluded.
His face is full of affection, produced by animated eyebrows and a hearty smile. His breathing is dominated by inhalation, which gives his voice urgency.
He prefers chest to belly breathing as this helps his excitement.
When to use
The Lover is great for arousing your audience's enthusiasm. He is great at opening a talk and raising the energy of the room at any moment. His captivating energy can also bring focus to a space that has been infected with boredom and dullness.
How to access your inner Lover
- Make your gestures open and wide.
- Don't be afraid to raise your arms above your belly and show your palms to the audience.
- Lean forward a little and imagine that you are holding your dear listeners in a huge embrace.
- Make your movements faster than usual and bigger than they would normally be.
- Don't be afraid to be grand, lovers are larger than life and this is how we all want them to be.
- Let your face and eyes express your enthusiasm more than you usually would.
- Breathe faster than usual and allow your chest to move. Start by putting your hand on your breast bone and try to move it fast with your breathing.
- Let your voice project this inspiration far and up.
The Bulldog is the exact opposite of the Lover. She's not afraid to deliver a difficult message.
Her slow, measured movements are testimony to her gravitas. Her hand gestures are steady and economical, usually limited to her forearms only. She rarely moves the whole of her shoulders when speaking.
The Bulldog's eyes and face seem unfazed even by the most intimidating crowds. Her posture is stable because she is well-rooted in her feet and rests her weight on her heels. Indeed, it is in her rooted legs that most of her unmovable power resides.
When to use
The Bulldog is excellent when you need to deliver unpopular news. Use her power to withhold a storm of criticism and respond with clarity and conviction. The bulldog is unmatched in a crisis because her body language is designed to arouse confidence.
How to access your inner bulldog
- Start with your posture. Make sure you can feel your feet touching the ground and let them grow deep imaginary roots.
- Then feel your back and the huge supportive space behind you.
- Look at your audience from somewhere deep and quiet inside. Allow your face and gestures to communicate this quiet certainty by keeping your expressions to a minimum.
- Inhale and exhale from the depths of your lower belly.
- Once you feel the characteristic weight of the Bulldog, begin to move and speak from that place. It may feel strange but its impact is guaranteed.
The most inspiring speakers are those who effortlessly explore the entire spectrum of their body language to bring their message across.
You don't need to spend hours learning the meaning of a particular hand gesture – it's so much easier to allow a gesture to be a spontaneous expression of your inner state.
Understanding your inner Lover and Bulldog will help you develop both inspiring and commanding body language – and provide access to the exciting spaces in between.
Luke Gregorczyk is a body language specialist at Rolfing London