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Speak English with Body Language

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When we speak, we use much more than just words. We also use a kind of communication called "body language" or "non-verbal communication". Non-verbal communication not only includes how we move our body, but also hand gestures, facial expressions including eye contact, and how we use our voice. Psychologists estimate that between 60% and 80% of all of our communication with other people is non-verbal. We communicate a wide range of information non-verbally. We also show our feelings, attitudes, moods, hopes and wishes far better with non-verbal language than with words.

Not only is a large quantity of communication non-verbal in nature, but the quality is high as well. For example, if a person says something positive while his face looks negative, which are we more likely to believe? In most cases, we will believe the non-verbal facial expression. In the end, his words will not succeed in communicating his message. If we want to succeed in our everyday conversations, we really must learn to "speak" with our body well!

Let me begin by giving you some general advice. The main thing is to relax and be natural. Just allow your body language to naturally follow your words. If you say something positive, then your face, body and hands should show it too. If you are expressing a sad or worried feeling, then your face, body and hands should change with that feeling. As you think about it more and consider how you can use your body to communicate, you will become more and more natural.

More specifically, let's talk about hand gestures. Using our hands, we can emphasize our main points and let our listener know when we are changing topics. A dramatic movement of the hand or moving our hands wide apart can signal how important something is. To show very strong feeling we could clap our hands together loudly or make a fist and hit a desk. To show that we welcome someone, we can hold our hands out with the palms up, and maybe move them towards a chair to invite someone to sit next to us.

Facial expressions are a very common way that we use to communicate every day. When speaking English, it's generally good to smile at your listener, especially when he or she has made an interesting comment. Also nod your head up and down to show you are really interested. From time to time, you can add a sound of agreement, such as "Uh huh" or even just "mmmm", to show you are listening. Above all, it is important to maintain eye contact while listening. Sometimes it is okay to move your eyes away when you are speaking, because you do have to think about what you want to say. However the listener should almost always look at the speaker without moving the eyes away.

Besides all of the physical ways to communicate non-verbally, we have our voice. We use intonation, loudness and pitch to change our meaning. Combined with the words we use, our voice can be a very powerful way to express what we mean. A strong voice can communicate confidence while a quiet voice communicates intimacy or some secret message. A loud, high pitched voice can communicate nervousness or excitement, while a deep voice might mean we are tired or not enthusiastic.

Body language is one of the basic skills that all students need.

 

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