Can Body Language Help World Leaders Communicate Better?
Although the spoken word is the easiest way to communicate, how can body language be used to work out or enhance what someone is trying to say?
What happens when you meet someone and there is no common language between the two of you? It can be frustrating trying to communicate when neither of you understand the simplest of phrases.
What happens if the two people who find themselves in this situation are world leaders who need to decide about current affairs that affect the global population? Beyond the aid of interpreters, one might hope the leaders or politicians can communicate their intentions through the use of body language even if they don’t have full use of spoken language. There is no doubt that body language can speak as loudly as words, but how can you control the message?
What Is “Body Language”?
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, which simply means individuals use their body or gestures to communicate instead of speaking. Also used to enhance verbal speech, body language is usually more noticeable and makes longer lasting impressions than the words themselves.
It’s not too difficult to sense when someone feels guilty, shameful, or embarrassed even if they do not tell you that they are experiencing these emotions. Facial expressions many times give away feelings of fear, anger, sadness, disgust, or happiness.
These are often called “micro expressions” because they are not always directly or consciously controlled by the one communicating. In essence, gestures or expressions typically reveal the internal state of the individual.
Politicians’ Body Language
No one can avoid using body language and even politicians when public speaking give not-so-subtle hints and social information about their intent, truthfulness, and state of mind. If a person knows what to look for, it can be relatively easy to figure out if a person is evasive, angry, or sincere whether you understand the spoken language or not.
A very distinct indicator is how the visibility of one’s teeth display emotions. For instance, when someone shows their lower teeth, it is highly likely that they are angry or threatening.
However, a person who makes their upper teeth visible is usually happy and confident. One can also determine truthfulness by the coordination or lack thereof between the muscles of the mouth and eyes.
Watching World Leaders
Paying attention to our world leaders, it is typically easy to tell if they are getting along in meetings or if tempers are becoming frayed. The movements a leader makes can tell everyone that he or she is happy and confident, or they can signal that the individual is agitated or lacking sincerity.
A smile by itself may not be genuine, but if leaders watch closely they will be able to tell if a smile is genuine or “put on” for the occasion. Hand gestures are also strong indicators of intent of an individual.
For instance, when one holds their hands far apart, they are signaling to others that they can be trusted and they are being open. Hands in the pockets or hidden from sight can indicate that the person is hiding something or not being forthright with their intentions.
The use of one’s fingers while they are speaking signals that they are tackling a very sensitive and intelligent topic. Be mindful however that using the hands and fingers while speaking can also come off in a didactic manner like you are trying to “teach” someone something.
Eye contact is also a very important feature to watch. At first, if someone scans over the crowd it might appear as if they are engaged with the audience. However, if the politician is just turning his head back and forth and fails to make eye contact with anyone, they are actually not engaging with their audience.
It’s very important to sustain eye contact with different individuals for the audience to take one seriously and feel that they are being dealt with honestly. World leaders are experts at reading the body language of others. In fact, it could most likely be considered a “second language” that takes time to develop.
Can Body Language Replace The Need To Learn A Foreign Language?
Although body language can tell us a lot about how someone is feeling, it is difficult to use that solely as a communication device. So how can we bring together both speech and body language to communicate more effectively?
According to experts, 55% of the way we communicate can be attributed to body language, 38% comes from the tone of your voice, and only 7% is based on the words you speak.
Knitting these three elements together will help you communicate with people of different nationalities, but the tricky part is getting that 7% of the words correct.
You may be relieved to hear the relationship between the three is closer than you may have first thought. It’s been proven that by using gestures and body language you can develop your language skills more effectively, eliminating the need to rely solely on body language and gestures.
For example, if you’re trying to learn the Spanish for “close the window,” you should try closing a window while reciting, “cerrar la ventana.”
Now think to yourself, how often have you used the global gesture for getting a check in a restaurant or bar? If you learned the relevant phrase in the language of your choice, you will be able to say it fluently and may never have to use that awkward gesture again.
Taking some tips from politicians, you can help teach yourself phrases relevant to your situation: for example, if addressing a crowd in a foreign language, you can use an open arm gesture to learn a welcome phrase. This demonstrates you are relaxed addressing the audience, and that you will be able to communicate in the local lingo.
There’s no denying the importance body language plays in connecting with any conversation partner, but learning a little of the language will always make communication easier and help you connect your gestures to new vocabulary.