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How Our Gestures Can Connect or Repel

walkFor many years when I was growing up my parents took what some Brits call an evening constitutional – a walk. They strolled, often hand in hand, around the neighborhood – just the two of them. Sometimes, they talked.

Other evenings they said little, so I am told. Yet they always came home smiling. Since then I’ve discovered that motion evokes emotion, for good and for bad. Walking helped my parents re-connect at the end of each day.

Act As You Want to Feel and How You Want Others To Feel About Youtake a first move

How you turn, walk and gesture affects your emotions and how they feel about you. We are startled, for example, then wary when we see a quick, unexpected movement especially when caught out of the corner of the eye. Conversely we are more deeply drawn to a singer who sweeps her arms above her head as she belts out that exultant line in her song.

Sometimes we instinctively mimic an entertainer’s gestures. Whatever emotion an adept entertainer, speaker or other person emotes in front of us, we feel and sometimes imitate. That’s our mirror neurons at work, catching the emotions in the people around us just like we catch a cold.

Motion Intensifies Our Emotions, For Bad And For Good 

Body motions – yours and others – make emotions catch faster and more intensely.  When you smile I instinctively smile back – even if you are on TV and I am sitting on the couch. When we smile we tend to feel better too.

Some gestures attract and others repel us. Winning Body Language author, Mark Bowden studied the work of two remarkable men. One was a mime, physiotherapist and acting guru, Jacques Lecoq. The other was an Israeli spy, nuclear physicist and judo expert Moshé Feldenkrais whose insights into how our movements affect our thoughts and emotions were revelatory for me. Here are some of his main points:

Gesture to Get Along

  1. To appear honest, factual and sincere hold your hands at the height of your navel. That’s what Bowden dubs the TruthPlane.
  1. To avoid appearing disinterested or depressing do not gesture below your waist. That’s the GrotesquePlane.
  1. To convey excitement or that you are offering a big idea, bring your gestures up to chest level. That’s the PassionPlane.

Connect With Your Gestures And Your Voice

As well, build trust through congruence in your actions, I suggest. For example, practice feeling and looking comfortable with yourself to feel and to look more at easy and grounded and at ease with others by  moving and speaking lower, slower and less at first.

These three tips refer to the level of your gestures and their speed and amount of motion. Alternatively, for example, quick, jabbing finger gestures pushes others away. Think of your voice in the same way. Lower your voice.  Do not race through your sentences and say less to invite other into the conversation.

Get in Body Sync With Others to Get Along Better

Also whether you are around loved ones, strangers or colleagues, to connect better literally get in body sync with them:

  • Eating across the table from each other, while you wouldn’t want to replicate another’s exact movements you will instinctively become more alike with them in the speed and amount of movement of your body and your hands as you eat.
  • Take the opportunity to shake hands. You get in sync, in mirroring motion, with each other for a moment.
  • As you walk together you are more likely to match each other’s pace and arm movement and thus strongly mirror each other.  At a client company I suggested that teams have walking meetings – strolling together across the open, grassy quad at the center of their buildings. They adopted this approach and found that meeting were often shorter, more productive and convivial. As well, when they met inside, they noticed that they often accomplished more with another person or two, when walking, together, to or from a meeting — more than while in the meeting.
  • Want to discover over 300 ways to become more deeply connected? Read Mutuality Matters and the companion book, Mutuality Matters More.Mutuality Matters MoreMM


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