In Christian life coaching, it is important to understand that your coachee’s body language says more to you than their actual words. Facial expressions, body position, folding of hands and more tell you what is going on in your coachee’s mind. And it is up to you to catch these non-verbal communications, and ask him/her about what you are seeing.
Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements, most of which is entirely subconsciously.
Professionals state that communication consists of between at least 60% and some state as high as 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves. Researchers add that the human body is said to be capable of producing 700,000 different movements. Body language is a direct indicator of a person’s state of mind and attitude. For example, it may indicate aggression, attentiveness, boredom, relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, and intoxication. However, research shows that the most common emotions exhibited through body language are:
Pride in achievement
As a Christian life coach, it is important to understand that one of the most basic and powerful body-language signals is when a person crosses his or her arms across the chest. This can indicate that a person is putting up an unconscious barrier between themselves and others. It can also indicate that the person’s arms are cold, which would be clarified by rubbing the arms or huddling. When the overall situation is amicable, it can mean that a person is thinking deeply about what is being discussed. But in a serious or confrontational situation, it can mean that a person is expressing opposition. This is especially so if the person is leaning away from the speaker.
Certified life coaches can benefit from understand that consistent eye contact can indicate that a person is thinking positively of what the speaker is saying. It can also mean that the other person doesn’t trust the speaker enough to “take their eyes off” the speaker. Lack of eye contact can indicate negativity. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety disorders are often unable to make eye contact without discomfort. Eye contact can also be a secondary and misleading gesture because cultural norms about it vary widely. If your coachee is looking at you, but is making the arms-across-chest signal, the eye contact could be indicative that something is bothering the person, and that he wants to talk about it. Or, if while making direct eye contact, your coachee is fiddling with something, even while directly looking at you, it could indicate their attention is elsewhere. Also, there are three standard areas that your coachee will look which represent different states of being. If he/she looks from one eye to the other, then to the forehead, it is a sign that they are taking an authoritative position. If they move from one eye to the other, then to the nose, that signals they are engaging in what they consider to be a “level conversation” with neither party holding superiority. The last case is from one eye to the other and then down to the lips. This is a strong indication of romantic feelings—and something you must be careful of!
Disbelief is often indicated by averted gaze, or by touching the ear or scratching the chin. In biblical life coaching, when your coachee is not being convinced by what is being said, their attention invariably wanders, and the eyes will stare away for an extended period.
Boredom is indicated by the head tilting to one side, or by the eyes looking straight at the speaker but becoming slightly unfocused.
Interest can be indicated through posture or extended eye contact, such as standing and listening properly.
Deceit or the act of withholding information can sometimes be indicated by touching the face during conversation. Excessive blinking is a well-known indicator of someone who is lying. Recently, evidence has surfaced that the absence of blinking can also represent lying as a more reliable factor than excessive blinking.
Body Language – technically known as kinesics (pronounced ‘kineesicks’) – is a significant aspect of modern communications and relationships. Body Language is therefore very relevant to management and leadership, and to all aspects of work and business where communications can be seen and physically observed among people. It is also very relevant to relationships outside of work, for example in dating and mating, and in families and parenting.
Body language goes both ways:
Your own body language reveals your feelings and meanings to others.
Other people’s body language reveals their feelings and meanings to you.
The sending and receiving of body language signals happens on conscious and unconscious levels.
Body language is especially crucial when you meet your coachee for the first time. You form an opinion of that person the first time in just a few seconds, and this initial instinctual assessment is based far more on what you see and feel about the coachee than on the words they speak. On many occasions you form a strong view about your coachee before they speak a single word. Consequently, body language is very influential in forming impressions on your first meeting. As an ICF certified life coach, you must guard against making such judgements, and remain open to truly getting to know your coachee.
Body language Is More than Body Positions and Movements
Body language is not just about how we hold and move our bodies. It potentially (although not always, depending on the definition you choose to apply) encompasses:
how we position our bodies
our closeness to and the space between us and other people, and how this changes
our facial expressions
our eyes especially and how our eyes move and focus, etc
how we touch ourselves and others
how our bodies connect with other non-bodily things, for instance, pens, cigarettes, spectacles and clothing
our breathing, and other less noticeable physical effects, for example our heartbeat and perspiration
More obviously, our eyes are a vital aspect of our body language. Our reactions to other people’s eyes – movement, focus, expression, etc – and their reactions to our eyes – contribute greatly to mutual assessment and understanding, consciously and unconsciously. While ICF certification requirements do not include becoming experts in body language, it will greatly benefit your Christian life coaching skills to be competent in this area.
Our interpretation of body language, notably eyes and facial expressions, is instinctive. However, with a little thought and knowledge we can significantly increase our conscious awareness of these signals: both the signals we transmit, and the signals in others that we observe.
Kinesics – the study of the way in which certain body movements and gestures serve as a form of non-verbal communication.”
Body language – is the unconscious and conscious transmission and interpretation of feelings, attitudes, and moods, through:
body posture, movement, physical state, position and relationship to other bodies, objects and surroundings,
facial expression and eye movement, (and this transmission and interpretation can be quite different to the spoken words).”
Physiognomy is an obscure and related concept to body language. Physiognomy refers to facial features and expressions which were/are said indicate the person’s character or nature, or ethnic origin.
Proxemics is the technical term for the personal space aspect of body language.
Body language is partly genetic (inborn – ‘nature’) and partly environmental (conditioned/learned – ‘nurture’). However, the use and recognition of less fundamental physical gestures (hand movements for example, or the winking of an eye), and aspects of personal space distances, are now generally accepted to be environmentally determined (learned, rather than inherited), which is significantly dependent on society and cultures.
Some people artificially control their outward body language to give the impression they seek to create at the time. A confident firm handshake, or direct eye contact, are examples of signals which can be quite easily be ‘faked’ – usually temporarily, but sometimes more consistently. However, while a degree of faking is possible, it is not possible your coachee to control or suppress all outgoing signals. This is an additional reason to avoid superficial analysis based on isolated signals, and to seek as many indicators as possible, especially subtle clues when suspecting things might not be what they seem.
Looking for ‘micro gestures’ (pupils contract, an eyebrow lifts, corner of the mouth twitch) can help identify the true meaning and motive behind one or two strong and potentially false signals.
These micro gestures are very small, difficult to spot and are subconscious, but we cannot control them, hence their usefulness.
Boredom, Nervousness and Insecurity Signals
Many body language signals indicate negative feelings such as boredom, disinterest, anxiousness, insecurity, etc. The temptation on seeing such signals is to imagine a weakness on the part of the person exhibiting them. This can be so, however proper interpretation of body language should look beyond the person and the signal and consider the situation, especially if you are using body language within personal development or management.
As a spiritual life coach as yourself: What is causing the negative feelings giving rise to the negative signals? It is often the situation, not the coachee. Here are examples of circumstances which can produce negative feelings and signals in people, often even if they are strong and confident:
dominance of a boss or a teacher or other person perceived to be in authority
overloading a person with new knowledge or learning
stress caused by anything
cold weather or cold conditions
lack of food and drink
illness or disability
alcohol or drugs
being in a minority or feeling excluded
unfamiliarity – newness – change
Whether you’re determining how to become a life coach, or you are already a certified or credentialed coach, we trust that you’ve enjoyed this blog on body language We will continue this discussion on body language in Part Two.