Did you know body language – the positioning of your body, expression of your face, and movement of your limbs – communicates more of your intended meaning than your words?
It’s true and you’ve seen it before. You’ve seen someone walk into a bunk for the first time with a smile on their face. The concern in their eyes, shoulders, and arms, though, were screaming out. Our counselors are really good at seeing this and helping that camper get comfortable. Once they’ve built friendships, the camper opens up to who he or she really is.
The Power of Body Language
Your body language has a huge effect on how others judge you how you judge yourself. If you are open, friendly, and interested, you are more likely 1) to be judged as a friendly person, 2) more likely to have those around you mirror your actions, and 3) more likely to see yourself as a friendly person.
On the other hand, if your body language shows you as intimidating, uninterested, or rude, you’ll be marked as an unfriendly person to be avoided. And, just as in the above example, the people around you are likely to offer the same type communication to you or simply leave.
Now, we’ve all had moments in our lives when our bodies are giving off messages we don’t intend to show. We are really upset about something totally unrelated but make a friend feel we are mad at them. Or, we are deep in thought about something and don’t pay attention to those around us. It makes them feel ignored or left out.
(Aside: The middle school years for many of our kids are full of these moments. So much is being thrown at them in the forms of academic, social, and outside demands. It’s overloading their ability to manage. This creates interactions that adults sometimes view as… unpleasant. We are lucky that camp creates a community that mitigates most of those concerns. Instead, our campers get to drop everything and just be their happy selves.)
Those moments of negative body language are ok. One moment does not define you as a person. Rather, it’s the long arc of your actions that make the biggest impact. If you decide to consistently show yourself as a trust worthy friend, a person who is excited to see those around you, and polite to everyone you meet, a few moments of not-so-great body language will be forgiven or forgotten.
A Real World Lesson
Here’s the good part: what you say with your body is your choice. You get to decide in every situation. You simply have to 1) understand the power of your body to convey meaning and 2) learn how to manage that ‘language’ through practice.
I learned this lesson very early on in my camping career. At 27 years old and running a camp for the first time with over 250 girls, I was totally out of my depth. Masking my anxiety from the kids and parents had been working but it did not have the same effect with our staff.
One team member was brave enough to call me out on it. (Thankfully, Flick did it in a private and thoughtful way.) After spending some time monitoring myself and asking others, I realized she was completely right. So, I decided to change. Rather than seeing myself as a harried, in-over-his-head camp director, I started to act like I knew what I was doing and smiling a lot more for everyone.
It worked. I believe that lesson in body language has made me a better camp director, mentor, and father. It’s something I continually practice and ask our staff to do the same.
So, what are you saying to those around you? Are you friendly, open, and trustworthy to everyone? Do you help to light up a room when you enter with a smile, looking people in the eye? From what I’ve seen at camp, you are ALL able to be great at this. It’s your choice.
Have a great weekend.