Decoding Body Language and Energy Shifts
Have you ever observed what is not being said in a conversation?
For instance: you walk into a meeting and notice an immediate, intense silence, as though all the air has been sucked out of the room.
Or you’re in a conversation with someone, and you feel there is a disconnect between what the person is saying and how they are acting. “I’m excited to tackle this new project,” says a colleague, but they avoid eye contact, shift nervously from side-to-side, repeatedly rub their brow.
Body language and energy shifts can provide clues that something is being left unsaid. Is the energy and body language aligned with the words being spoken? If not, there’s a good chance something else is happening under the surface. If you really want to know what the other person is thinking, you need to ask about the disconnect between what you are hearing and what you are seeing or feeling.
A disconnect between what is being said and what you are seeing in the other person’s body language can indicate a feeling that is not being expressed. Interpretations of body language may vary across cultures and individuals. A few popular interpretations include:
Signs of negative feelings (such as frustration or disappointment) can include folded arms, tension in the face, or little eye contact.
Signs of boredom or disengagement are often shown by slumped posture, staring into space, fidgeting, or doodling.
Smiling is nearly universally considered an indication of openness and positive feelings, as is an open posture.
An energy shift can be subtle or dramatic, and it is usually a clue to a change in thinking or feeling about what is under discussion. The energy is often not verbalized right away, but you can prompt a verbalization of the thought or feeling by vocalizing an observation about the energy shift, asking with curiosity what the person is thinking or feeling differently.
For example, to highlight the disconnect in what you observe and what you are hearing, you may ask:
- I notice that you don’t look very comfortable right now—is there something I can help clarify?
- I just said a lot, what does this bring up for you?
- You seem distracted, would you like to reschedule this for another time?
Getting curious about the other person’s body language and energy shifts can be a way to understand their thinking and feelings on a deeper level. Asking about a disconnect can be a way to show empathy and care or concern. When you pay attention to what is not being said, you ensure that the whole person is being heard and seen.
Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.
Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.
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