January 1st, 2021 | Communication

Toes & Torso: What Your Body Positioning Tells Your Audience

how body positioning affects how your audience perceives your messaging

The home I lived in during high school in Bartlesville was beautiful. Bounding into big windows facing the street, the sun would glisten off Spanish tile floors and strike our large game table, illuminating a unique centerpiece — our West Highland Terrier, BJ!

BJ was a delightful pet, but sneaky. He never got on the forbidden game table while we were home, but was often seen lounging on it in the sunshine... per passerby’s reports.

As much as he loved sunning on the game table, he loved food more. Hearing the refrigerator open, he would begin clawing at the unresponsive floor, churning his legs, while his body went nowhere.

Finally, gaining speed as he neared the kitchen on his right, he soon faced another problem: The tile didn’t accommodate quick stops. So, BJ would shift his hips past the kitchen as his glide began, steering “left to go right” like Lightning McQueen.

"Solving issues presented to us is not always the goal. Simply listening shows care, especially through our body language." Chris Zervas Tweet

After all his effort, when we were ready to eat, so was he.

When we sat, he sat. Pointing his feet and body right at us, his eyes would lock in like laser beams. He was engaged in what people were doing, and his body language shouted it. He didn’t bark or whimper, but we all knew he was interested.

As this year’s 1st quarter business cycle begins, our customers and our employees need to “hear” the same attentive message. Being present, giving great eye contact, and choosing to listen more than we speak can help create peace in our homes and workplaces as we begin another season of uncertain transition.

Like BJ, aligning our toes and torso towards our colleagues affirms our interest level in a conversation. Pointing our toes and torso toward them during our interactions, subconsciously shows how much we care about them and their words.

Yet, our busy schedules often cause us to listen on the run, which communicates disinterest.

For example, by pointing our toes and torso to the door, our coworkers and employees subconsciously receive a louder message: “This conversation is almost over and I’m not engaged.” As a result, uncertainty can grow within the hearts and minds of our colleagues.

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BJ’s 100% eye contact was a little much — in fact, a lot much. That amount is creepy with work colleagues. Ideally, between 60 – 70% is best.

Also, great listeners make a choice to listen, not speak. They reserve judgment and allow those speaking to express themselves.

Solving issues presented to us is not always the goal. Simply listening shows we care, especially through our body language.

In the words of Egyptian Pharaoh Ptahhotep: “Those who listen to the pleas and cries of their people should do so patiently. Because the people want attention to what they say even more than the accomplishment of that for which they came.”

Making those around us feel valued can be easier through eye contact, listening more than speaking, and remembering “toes and torso.”