BODY LANGUAGE: MORE POWERFUL THAN SOME WORDS! It’s often what you do, the gestures you use, that can make all the difference!

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“Jeff” stormed into my office, clearly infuriated with one of his college professors. And it was equally clear that he wanted me to tell him he was right! To tell him that he had good reason for telling that professor exactly what he thought of her! After all, she’d embarrassed him in class and seemed not to have understood the brilliant points he was trying to make. (Some details have been changed in the interest of maintaining confidentiality!)

And the reality was that he seemed to have a point. “Jeff” often sees what others don’t, thinks creatively, and is a pretty good problem-solver. It would have been nice if his teacher could have looked past his un-charming style and seen that his contributions were accurate and useful. But my guess is that his impatience, outsize gestures, eye rolls, and general stance were somewhat alienating, to put it mildly!

As you might have guessed, the reason “Jeff” was seeing me was to get help with his anger and with his communication style. One thing we both figured out was that Jeff’s style of problem solving was a little different and that “different” often turns off some folks. And that, if he really wanted to be heard, “Jeff”  was going to need to figure out how to translate his wisdom into words and body language that others could understand.

All his life, “Jeff” had been considered to be the difficult child – in school and at home. He’d been the one who had to be calmed down, silenced when his creative ideas were more than his peers (and teachers) could manage, and the one who started building up an intense anger that he was forbidden to express. And he thought this would never change – until a caring family friend convinced him to get some help.

It was quite a while before “Jeff” got up the courage to call me. But, when he finally made that call, he was ready to try something different. Over time, “Jeff” learned how to self-monitor, when his anxiety threatened to take charge. He learned the words to say that would actually help him be heard, help him get his needs met. And, he discovered the (for him!) startling notion that most people are put off when faced with all that outsized body language.

Sometimes, the challenge stares us right in the face! It was clear that “Jeff” had never learned that how he used his body could be even more important than how he used his words.

And – sometimes it just takes that “someone else,” that friend, boss, teacher, family member to instill a realization that change is  possible. And to point out that we don’t have to do it alone, and help is possible. What a shame it would have been for “Jeff,” if that friend hadn’t stepped in to give that extra push.

Comments

BODY LANGUAGE: MORE POWERFUL THAN SOME WORDS! It’s often what you do, the gestures you use, that can make all the difference! — 2 Comments

  1. Children also need to learn how to balance their emotions.
    It’s important to find outlets for a child’s other painful emotions.
    We respond with anger when we feel that we need to defend ourselves
    physically, our family members or our country, our property,
    our values and even our entitlements.

    • Hi Albertina,

      I totally agree with you. Adults who grew up in dysfunctional homes often find themselves challenged by impulsive and/or ineffective behaviors that impair their relationships, both personal and professional. When a child doesn’t have at least one adult who understands and can help regulate emotions, he uses whatever coping mechanisms work to keep him feeling safe and more balanced. “Jeff,” as a “difficult” child was really just doing whatever he could to stay afloat in his world. If only someone had taught him how to recognize and express his anger (and other feelings), perhaps he wouldn’t have needed to use his childhood coping strategies to solve adult challenges!