The Importance of Body Language

What is Body Language?

Body language is the unspoken communication that goes on in every face-to-face encounter. It communicates a person’s true feelings and how well your words are being received. Research has shown that 60-80% of a verbal message is communicated through body language, while only 7-10% is attributed to the actual words of a conversation.  

The process of delivering a positive training experience will include words and body language. All young children are highly observant, which is why you hear them often referred to as sponges.  They are soaking up everything they hear and see.  Your body language can convey trust, safety and warmth.  When onboarding the 4-7 year old child, you will need to build trust in a very different way than a college level athlete.  

Using  “open” body language to connect with young children is a simple technique to use when greeting your Parisi Pee Wees.  Open body language is when your movements and posture are perceived as friendly, open to engagement and welcoming.  Avoid standing behind a desk or barrier.  An “open” gesture is to see them arrive and walk around from your desk, or be prepared at the front of your desk to greet them as they arrive.  Leave your arms open, high-five or fist bump as they walk in, avoid crossing your arms.  Young children are very aware of body language and can be one of the most effective teaching tools used during your training sessions.  Your positive  body language will  increase engagement, connection and confidence, ultimately helping you manage your classroom.

The ability to read and understand another person’s body language can mean the difference between making a great impression or a very bad one! Let’s draw upon a common experience. Every one of us has experienced instantly liking or disliking a person, without understanding the cause. We often refer to this as a hunch or gut feeling, which is our body’s physiological reaction. For better or worse, a person’s behavior influences our impression. Therefore, Parisi coaches must be confident and clear communicators of athletic movement both verbally and physically. In addition, coaches must learn how to read the body language of their peewees, athletes and parents. Observations like darting eyes, lack of eye contact, a person’s body weight shifting from one foot to another, their hand covering their mouth or fingers tugging at their ear can demonstrate a person’s lack of comfort or focus.

 All the clues are there. A skilled coach can subconsciously pick up on these often subtle observations, and decode them, giving the coach the ability to adjust their strategy while teaching a lesson or presenting to a parent. Through their training, Parisi coaches become experts in learning how to interpret the cues and signals of body language, as well as various methods of verbal and non-verbal communication. These skill sets develop well-rounded, motivating, and intelligent performance coaches.

Importance of Body Language for a Session

You have 10 to 20 seconds to make a favorable first impression when meeting someone for the first time. Reading an athlete’s body language requires the ability to interpret mostly non-verbal cues. Moreover, your students, parents, and colleagues are also reading you! As you grow comfortable with the Parisi training curriculum it is important to regularly analyze your own body language. Be honest with yourself and how your micro-expressions and innate body language can affect how your athletes learn.

For example, your body language is being processed alongside the words you say and your movement demonstration. Parisi’s best coaches are considered to be very passionate. The combination of this passion and their mastery of movement becomes a highly motivating and trusting interface with their young athletes, as well as their parents.

In the first 5 minutes of meeting a new athlete, coach, or parent, coaches must establish trust and exude confidence. This will lay the best foundation for a positive relationship. Research has shown that not only do we form our opinions over such a short period of time, but over 90% of our conclusions are drawn from non-verbal communication.

As coaches, we are the agents for athletic change. As each lesson progresses, your non-verbal communication will influence how quickly many of your students change, improve, and master the movements and mechanics in your class.

  • Use eye contact when addressing others. 
  • Give physical and verbal confirmation when others speak. 
  • Use positive gestures to validate an athlete’s efforts, successes, and mistakes. 
  • Display a genuine smile or grin when interacting with students and coaches. 
  • Demonstrate joy when teaching and greeting others.

Importance of Voice Intonation

All verbal communication is impacted by the rise and fall of the pitch of words. This is referred to as intonation and is another important part of body language that sends a message. By varying the tone of certain words, we change the meaning of our statements and questions.

The tone of one’s voice affects how a message is heard, received, and learned.  The tone of certain words results in different interpretations. Tone of voice is especially important in customer service. If you interact with customers frequently, you need to be aware of the message you’re conveying. Do you do everything possible to help customers? Or does your voice tell them to move on so you can help the next person?

An incoming or outgoing phone call from/to a prospect or client is not an interruption of your work. It is the reason you are here.

Parisi coaches rely heavily on voice intonation through the entire sales and customer service cycle. We have all heard that, what you say is as important as how you say it. Parisi coaches will find voice intonation to be particularly important when giving both positive and negative feedback to athletes.

As coaches, we are constantly mastering the art of giving feedback. Without corrections and constructive criticism, athletes will not receive the guidance needed to improve and excel. Intonation is also used to confirm an athlete’s effort and commend their results.

Listening to Body Language

Parisi coaches need to be good listeners. The key to this skill is making eye contact, smiling, nodding occasionally during a conversation, and tilting your head towards the speaker. While all of these actions may not be appropriate and natural to perform all at once, coaches need to find the right mix of engaging body language. If you shift your eyes and body, make eye contact less than 50% of the time, sigh, or fidget, you’ll seem as if you’re not paying attention.

If you want to be seen as a leader, you need to stand up straight, make eye contact, and smile. Those non-verbal signals project confidence and energy. On the other hand, if you walk with your shoulders slumped and head down, speak in a flat tone, and fidget often, you’ll likely be seen as indecisive, negative, or inexperienced.

Read the Signs

Body language is a crucial communication tool, yet few people understand how to read it accurately. Here’s a guide to interpreting basic  body language and their possible meanings. 

  • Clenched hands: The higher the hands go, the more frustrated the person is perceived.
  • Crossed arms and legs: This is viewed as defensive and protective. It doesn’t mean the person is tuning you out, but it can mean that he or she is filtering information.
  • Picking off imaginary lint: This action is viewed as the person disapproves of an attitude or opinion stated, yet feels constrained in offering his or her opinion.
  • Rubbing at eyes: This behavior is often a sign that the person thinks you are lying. When telling a big lie, females will tend to rub lightly and look at the ceiling; males will rub vigorously and look at the floor.
  • Scratching at the neck: This behavior is performed often when people suspect they’ll be caught in a lie.  They often scratch the back of their neck five times.
  • Placing of hand on cheek: This is an action of evaluation. Placing the hand on cheek with thumb under chin indicates genuine interest, but with some negative thoughts or doubts.
  • Nodding of head: This can be an action of confirmation.  Females often nod to say, “I am listening to you”; males tend to nod only when they agree with you.

10 Tips on How to Positively Use Your Body Language

  1. Eye Contact

 Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of dealing with others, especially people we’ve just met. Maintaining good eye contact shows respect and interest in what they have to say. This practice can also prevent other people from feeling self-conscious, as many young athletes might be nervous when meeting new people. Eye contact gives others a feeling of comfort.

  1. Posture 

Posture is another important element of non-verbal communication. Posture is generally categorized as open (standing up straight) and closed (slouching). As a performance coach, you must display an open posture when teaching and listening. As a listener and a presenter, an open posture will let others know you are confident, respectful, and attentive. While posture is not a facial expression, it can change the intensity of your communication or contradict what you are teaching.

Furthermore, posture makes you feel better when you’re having a hard day. Avoid slouching or rounding forward whether you’re standing, sitting, or kneeling. You will learn that a strong back is one of the Parisi focal points and key when displaying open posture. You will find a confident open posture woven into every lesson you teach. By always displaying open posture, you will be more successful in helping your students learn how to stand up straight.

  1. Head 

Position Head position is connected to your posture. If you are practicing proper open posture, your head position should be well aligned. When you want to feel confident and self-assured, keep your head level both horizontally and vertically. You can also use this straight head position when you want to be authoritative and ensure that you are being taken seriously. Conversely, when listening to others, your head position and how you tilt it can provide validation, making others feel as if you are receptive and supportive of what they are saying.

  1. Arms 

Arm position is an obvious clue that tells others how you are feeling. The position of your arms when teaching, watching, and listening to your athletes will impact learning. Coaches need to find a natural way of using their arms when presenting and listening to others. In general terms, Parisi coaches are recommended to be outgoing when coaching their athletes and respectful when it is their turn to listen. Try to strike a natural balance between confident posture, head position, eye contact, and arm movements.

  1. Legs 

Legs are the furthest point away from the brain, consequently they’re the hardest bits of our bodies to consciously control. They tend to move around a lot more than normal when we are nervous, stressed, or being deceptive. Tapping and nervous shuffling should be avoided. It is suggested to keep your legs still in most situations, especially during interviews or work meetings.

  1. Body Angle

Angle of the body in relation to others gives an indication of a person’s attitude and feeling towards others. It is common to angle towards people we find attractive, friendly, and interesting and angle ourselves away from those we do not. It’s that simple! Angles include leaning in or away from people.

For example, we often just tilt from the pelvis and lean sideways to someone to share a bit of conversation. Coaching young people presents a wide variety of situations. You will experience many where you need to lean your body in towards an athlete to provide corrections and feedback. Be mindful of respectful boundaries like leaning over towards or over another person.

  1. Hand Gestures

Hand gestures are closely tied to arm movements and facial expressions. There are numerous hand gestures, and they can be a distraction if they do not correlate to the verbal message or emotion behind what is being said. Usually, hand gestures are used when speaking to others and can become a clear way to emphasize a feeling or sentiment. However, using hand gestures while others are speaking can be perceived as disrespectful. One simple hand gesture to consider is palms up versus down. Palms slightly up and outward are seen as open and friendly. Palm down gestures are generally seen as dominant, and possibly aggressive, especially when there is no movement or bending between the wrist and forearm. Palm up, palm down is very important when it comes to handshaking and, where appropriate, we suggest you always offer a handshake upright and vertical, which should convey equality.

  1. Distance from Others

 Distance from others is crucial if you want to give off the right signals. Stand too close and you may be viewed as pushy. Stand or sit too far away and you may be considered standoffish. Neither are desirable. Therefore, coaches should observe a group before inserting themselves. Once you have assessed the general group dynamic it is easier to create the correct distance from others so that personal space is being respected by everyone.

  1. Ears

 Yes, your ears play a vital role in communication with others, even though in general terms most people can’t move them. However, you’ve got two ears and only one mouth, so try to use them in that order. If you listen twice as much as you speak, you will come across as a good communicator who offers the right balance in any conversation.

  1. Mouth

Mouth movements can give away all sorts of clues. It is common to purse the lips and sometimes twist them to the side when thinking. On another occasion we might use this movement to hold back an angry comment that we do not wish to reveal. Nevertheless, it will probably be spotted by other people and although they may not know the comment, they will get a feeling you were not pleased. Never underestimate a genuine smile. Smiling and displaying enjoyment can lift the spirits of others and communicate a passion for coaching.