What is your body language telling others?

Posted 10/11/18

Donna Van Natten told attendees of her seminar during  the Women’s Council event held at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce that she was going to talk about their bodies.“If I hurt …

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What is your body language telling others?


Donna Van Natten told attendees of her seminar during  the Women’s Council event held at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce that she was going to talk about their bodies.

“If I hurt your feelings, I’m sorry,” Van Natten warned.

To be more specific, Van Natten wasn’t referring to body shapes, but nonverbal cues that are communicated through body language. She said 55 percent of how we communicate is through body language, with just 7 percent communicated verbally. Some 38 percent is communicated through the tone of our voices.

“We are visual creatures,” Van Natten said. “Our nonverbals scream so much information.”

Van Natten, CEO and founder of Accountability Measures LLC, is an expert on body language and has conducted research on non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and hand gestures. Her expertise in the area is highly valued by companies seeking to build better relationships among their employees, as well as training employees to communicate better with clients.

She is also a Fulbright Scholar and has been featured in many major magazines and newspapers. In addition, Van Atten holds several academic degrees, including a Ph.D. in educational leadership.

She’s also the author of “Image Scrimmage: 9 Ways Women Win with Body Language,” which is described on her website as a “how-to guide” that will help “assess and improve” nonverbal communication, as well as understand nonverbal communication.

Her presentation is often humorous, with plenty of anecdotes that kept her audience laughing and engaged. Van Atten, who is 6 feet tall and wears high heels, asked the audience a question.

“What was the first thing you noticed about me?” she asked. When someone answered that she was tall, without missing a beat, she quipped, “Beautiful,” drawing laughter.

There are many common body language signals, such as the placement of hands while sitting at a table, particularly during business meetings. Van Atten said people should be conscious of how body language, hand placement, for example, is interpreted by others.

“We as humans need to see them,” Van Natten said. “So, when you are sitting somewhere, and your hands are in your lap and disappear, it’s harder to read. When you are in meetings, put your hands on the table.”

In addition, hand gestures while speaking can be aggressive, especially when the palms are not exposed. When palms are closed or clenched, it signals they are uncomfortable. 

“Gestures are powerful.”

Leg placement while in a sitting position also communicates non-verbally. The ideal posture is when both feet are planted on the floor. Legs that are crossed at the ankle, near the floor, can signal age. In addition, legs that are intertwined with the legs of a chair signal weakness.

“Our bodies seek balance,” Van Natten said. “Keep both feet on the floor.”

Humans also will mirror each other’s mannerisms, according to Van Natten, because it builds rapport and puts others at ease.

“Mirroring has power ... it confirms agreement,” Van Natten said. “We are social animals.”

The pupils of our eyes also communicate non-verbally. 

“We read pupils,” Van Natten said.

For example, pupils dilate during emotional responses. Others will notice yellowed or bloodshot white portions of the eye, called sclera, which signal the health of an individual.

“We are an eye contact culture, so when we engage with people we are looking at their pupils and sclera,” Van Natten said.

While body language can be a learned behavior depending on cultural identity, Van Natten said our body language is mainly influenced by biology.

For more information, visit http://bodylanguagedr.com/.


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