Whether or not you are a certified life coach, understanding body language is critical to your Christian life coaching session. Here is part 3 of our discussion of this vital topic.
Legs and feet
Legs and feet body language is more difficult to control consciously or fake compared to other body language that involves arms, hands, and/or the face. Legs and feet can provide good clues to feelings and moods, if you know the signs.
Men and women sit differently, which needs to be considered when reading leg body language. Partly due to clothing and partly due to sexual differences, men naturally exhibit more open leg positions than women, which should be allowed for when interpreting signals.
Older women tend to adopt more modest closed leg positions than younger women, due to upbringing, social trends, equality and clothing. It is important to take into account of these influences when evaluating signals. Also consider that when people sit for half-an-hour or more they tend to change their leg positions, which can include leg crossing purely for comfort reasons.
Leg signals tend to be supported by corresponding arms signals. For example, crossed arms and crossed legs, which aside from comfort reasons, generally indicate detachment, disinterest, rejection or insecurity, etc., in your coachee.
When body language and speech characteristics are mirrored or synchronized in your Christian life coaching sessions between you and your coachee, this tends to assist creating and keeping rapport (a mutual feeling of empathy, understanding, trust), because it generates unconscious feelings of affirmation.
When you and your coachee display similar body language, you both unconsciously feel that “This person is like me and agrees with the way I am. I like this person because we are similar, and he/she likes me too.”
The converse effect applies. In a biblical coaching session, when your body language signals are different—not synchronized—with your coachee’s, or vice versa, there is less likelihood of connecting and the session can be less comfortable. You will both unconsciously sense a potential conflict arising from the mismatching of signals, because there is no affirmation happening. Instead, the mismatched signals translate into unconscious feelings of discord, discomfort, or even rejection. The unconscious mind thinks, “This person is not like me; he/she is different to me, I am not being affirmed, therefore I feel defensive.”
In Christian life coaching, you need to be aware of how you are or are not mirroring your coachee’s body language. This doesn’t mean you copy their body language exactly, but you do so in a way that conveys a positive message.
Speech pace is a good example. When you begin your spiritual life coach session, first match your coachee’s pace of speaking, then subtly change your pace, slower or faster, to see if your coachee follows you. Remember, you are not trying to control your coachee, but wanting to convey a positive message. Also, be aware of your coachee’s speech pace, and be sure to mirror it when you feel this is important.
In biblical coaching, you’ll note your coachee often becomes more peaceful and cooperative when there is a match in body language. To do otherwise can sometimes feel uncomfortable, even though we rarely think consciously about it.
For instance, if your coachee leans forward towards you, it okay to do the same. When he/she leans, your coachee is more relaxed and you can do the same. A word of caution: Don’t mirror your coachee immediately. Allow for a few moments to pass before mirroring their body language. Otherwise, your coachee will become suspicious of your intentions. Mirroring in a conscious sense is not simply copying or mimicking. It is effective when movements and gestures are reflected in a similar way so that the effect remains unconscious and subtle. Obvious copying would be regarded as strange or insulting.
Did you know that sales people and other professional communicators are widely taught to mirror all sorts of more subtle signals, as a means of creating trust and rapport with the other person, and to influence attitudes? Consider this next time you are purchasing a product with the help of an employee.
If you are a Christian life coach group, be aware that unnecessary friction is created due to ignorance and lack of thought about seating positions.
The “science” of where people sit in relation to each other, and on what and around what, is fascinating and offers opportunities for improving relationships, communications, cooperation and understanding.
You want your biblical life coaching group sessions to be a success, and here are some guidelines that will help you.
- Consider the rules about personal space. Do not place chairs so close together that personal space will be invaded. Conversely sitting too far apart will prevent building feelings of trust and private/personal discussion.
- Sitting opposite someone across a table or desk adds a barrier and can create a tension even when the relationship is amicable. As a Christian life coach, it’s easy to forget this and to find yourself sitting opposite someone when there are only two of you at the table. Sitting opposite across a table is at a restaurant, but doesn’t work well in Christian life coaching sessions.
- Having your coachee sit in a less expensive or lower chair can subconsciously increase defensiveness, and reinforce any feelings of insecurity or inferiority.
- Sitting at a diagonal angle of about 45 degrees to another person is a comfortable and cooperative arrangement. This is achieved naturally when you and your coachee sit at the same corner of a square table, which also allows you to take notes when needed.
- The same angle is appropriate for and easy-chairs around a coffee-table. A table is no longer a barrier when you and your coachee are sitting at a diagonal angle; instead, it becomes a common work surface for both of you.
Note: In a Christian life coaching session, sitting side by side on a couch is not a good arrangement. It threatens personal space, misconstrues communication, and can send inappropriate signals.
Round tables are better than square or oblong tables for individual or group coaching sessions. This works well because there is no head of the table, which promotes a feeling of comradery.
As a confident and competent spiritual life coach, do your best to avoid taking the head position. Instead to sit among your group, and you’ll be sure to create a cooperative atmosphere.
There you have it … a three-part series on understanding body language. Please let us know if this has been informative, and feel free to ask any questions.