I'm delighted to welcome our guest blogger today, Margie Lawson, psychologist, presenter, and writer. I've taken all of Margie's courses online over the last few years and can personally vouch for how they have helped me improve my writing.
Thank you for inviting me to guest blog on Title Magic. I'm pleased to spend the day with you all.
Body language rules. A whooping 93% of how you are perceived by others is conveyed through your body.
That’s huge – 93% of your communication is nonverbal. What a powerful communication tool.
I’ll explain Secret Weapon from the title. If the title read: Body Language: A Writer’s Secret Tool, not only does it sound dorky, but it has no power. And anyone who has taken my editing courses knows I’m all about adding power. ;-)))
Back to body language being a powerful weapon. It’s only powerful if you know how to load, aim, and fire.
Often – the way someone hopes to be perceived backfires. Their words are pitch-perfect, yet their body language discounts their words. When people are nervous, their nonverbals may interfere.
Body Language Backfire – Letting Your Anxiety Steal the Show
At times, we all get nervous. Psychologists call it Anticipatory Anxiety.
What makes writers nervous?
*Pitching to agents and editors
*Introducing themselves to the booksellers
*Introducing a speaker
*Being a panelist
*Presenting a workshop
*Doing a book signing
When does Anticipatory Anxiety morph into Debilitating Anxiety?
When people focus on their visceral responses – e.g., hammering heart, dry mouth, sweaty hands – instead of focusing on the things they can control. Those elevated visceral response sets are normal. They reflect the importance of the upcoming experience.
If you focus on your anxiety symptoms, your face, your posture, and your voice, will broadcast your discomfort. You’ll be distracted by your nervousness. When addressing your audience (agent, editor, or group), you’ll lose confidence and you may lose your thoughts.
Focus on things you can control: what you are telling yourself (positive self-talk) and your body language.
Body Language on Target
Most of us are aware of our facial expressions, but some people may not be tuned in to how their voice, posture, and mannerisms can influence others. Your nonverbals tell more than you know. Become a nonverbal communication expert.
Writers also need to be experts at body language so they can write fresh nonverbal communication for their characters and imbue their writing with psychological power.
Since a high percentage of writers are introverts, monitoring their nonverbals is crucial. When they step outside their comfort zone, their discomfort shows.
Displaying anxiety is not a good plan. Audience members are easily distracted by nonverbal indicators showing the speaker is ill at ease. They may be more focused on the speaker’s anxiety than on what they are saying.
Remember that hefty 93%? It’s all nonverbal. The words (without voice inflection) convey only 7% of a message. If words and your body language are incongruent, others believe the body language.
How can you use body language to present yourself as confident?
From the moment you enter a room: Walk with an easy stride. Make eye contact. Smile. Pretend like you are having a good time. Tell yourself positive things.
Posture: Stand tall. Head up. Shoulders back. Arms relaxed at your sides.
Beware: No fidgeting fingers. No clasping items to your chest as a psychological shield.
Handshakes: You all know this. Firm. Use your full hand. Make eye contact. People who are anxious often make their handshake too light, limp, partial hand, and retract too quickly.
Voice: Volume – With every word, speak up. Keep your voice steady and your volume strong. If you are soft-spoken in public, practice increasing your volume. Stand at one end of a large room (or hallway, or outdoors) and speak twice as loud. Place a hand on your diaphragm. Feel your diaphragm working when you speak. Project. Push yourself to speak louder and louder. I promise -- you will not speak too loudly in public.
People who speak softly are often perceived as tentative. Unsure. You want people to hear your words and consider you sure of yourself.
Voice: Rate of Speech – If you typically rush your words when you’re nervous, watch out! Some listeners will be put off with your rate of speech. Others won’t catch everything you’re saying. If you speak too slowly, others will lose interest. They’ll lose your message.
Voice: Tone and Inflection – Tone is an easy fix. When you increase your volume, your tone will improve. No airy, wispy voice tones when you have appropriate volume. Adding emphasis on some words with changing voice inflection keeps you from speaking in a monotone and keeps you from seeming monotonous.
Tips to improve your vocal cues: Tape record yourself. People usually hate hearing themselves speak on a tape. So? Do it anyway. :-)))
First recording: Read your Work In Progress. When you listen to it, you’ll catch echo words as well as areas that need to be tightened, expanded, tweaked . . . It’s a double win: a valuable exercise for your WIP and good speaking/taping practice too.
Second recording: No script this time. Pretend like you’re introducing yourself to one person. Play both roles.
Third recording: Present the opening of introducing a speaker, part of a panel, your workshop, or your book signing. Your opening lines are critical. When you have the first few minutes of speaking mastered, you will feel confident. You’ll command the room.
Review those recordings. Take notes. Record yourself again. And again. You’ll hear your um’s, er’s, and uh’s. You’ll decrease those stalling utterances every time you practice.
If you don’t have a micro-cassette recorder, treat yourself to one. You deserve another toy. You can use it to capture story gems too.
Mannerisms: This one is the toughest. It’s more about what not to do, than what to do. Everyone has idiosyncratic mannerisms – and doing a few of them while you speak is fine. Tuck your hair behind your ear. Adjust your glasses. Clear your throat. The challenge is to not repeat these mannerisms, ad nauseum. The higher the anxiety, the more frequently some mannerisms are repeated.
We’ve all seen speaker’s make presentation errors. What have you seen?
Have you noticed how many times they repeat a gesture or action? Is it distracting?
Beware: Self-touch Behaviors -- This isn’t what you think!
They are those little actions like touching your face (cheek, eyebrow, lips, nose, ear), or near your face (throat, jaw, back of neck, behind ear, hair), or hands and arms.
Self-touch behaviors function like polygraphs. They accelerate when anxiety is high. When in a job interview, the interviewee may touch their face 15 times in 30 minutes, totally unaware of their self-touch behavior.
When suspects are interrogated by police, self-touch behaviors sky-rocket.
When anyone is nervous in a social situation, self-touch behaviors escalate.
Keep this dynamic in mind for your characters too. ;-)))
Anxious speakers display a slew of self-touch behaviors. If you stop and think, you’ll probably identify some of yours.
Many of you know that I spend half my life (hyperbole!) presenting in front of groups.
I’m continually monitoring my body language and using it to put people at ease, to engage everyone in the group, to emphasize points, and to have fun. One of my goals is to have fun presenting. :;-)))
When I’m tired (yes, I do get tired!), by about 3PM in a full day master class, a few of my self-touch behaviors slip through. Self-touch behaviors are comforting. I tuck and retuck my hair behind my ear. I lightly touch the side of my neck. I lick my lips more frequently. I’m aware of my funky self-touch behaviors, and hopefully nix them before they get annoying.
I hope this blog motivates you to MONITOR and MODERATE your body language. It’s a powerful secret weapon.
What I shared here is a small slice of the world of body language. I’d need a couple hundred more pages to cover facial expressions, eye and lip messages, spatial relationships, the power of touch, ideomotoric shifts . . . I could write a book on nonverbal communication for writers (and I am!). Writers need to know the full range of body language and how to write it fresh for their characters.
NOTE: I teach Empowering Characters’ Emotions on-line in March. I cover how to write the full range of nonverbal communication in depth. :-)))
Thank you for joining me today. I appreciate you sharing part of your day with me. ;-)))
I’d love to hear your body language stories. Have there been times when you’ve used your body language to convey confidence you didn’t feel? How did it go? Did you feel more confident? Any positive spin-offs?
Chime in – I’ll respond as time allows during my work day. I’ll be on-line all evening.
Want to have a chance to WIN a Lecture Packet?
Anyone who posts a comment has a chance to win one of my LECTURE PACKETS (a $20 value):
1. Empowering Characters' Emotions
2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
3. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
Each Lecture Packet is power-packed with over 250 pages of lectures. They have the potential to change your writing world.
If you’re a reader, not a writer, my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors lectures apply to you too. ;-)))
THANK YOU again to Helen for inviting me to guest blog today. All of these writers are incredibly talented. I look forward to seeing all their novels in print!
Margie Lawson--psychologist, hypnotherapist, presenter, and writer--teaches writers how to edit to speak to the readers’ unconscious. She developed psychologically-anchored editing techniques and systems that add emotive power.
In 2008, Margie is presenting 15 full day master classes across the US and overseas, including Australia and New Zealand. Please visit her web site to see her live master class schedule: http://www.margielawson.com/
Margie teaches two editing courses on-line. Empowering Characters’ Emotions (ECE) is offered on-line in March. Writers will learn how to write the full range of nonverbal communication, how to write fresh, how to write the Four Levels of Powering Up Emotion, and how to use her EDITS System.
In May, Margie teaches her advanced editing course on-line: Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More. Writers will take the EDITS System deeper, learn her Five Question Scene Checklist, dig deep into more editing techniques, and explore 25 rhetorical devices to take their writing to a higher level.
Margie also developed Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, a power-packed on-line course and master class that helps writers defeat their self-defeating behaviors by accessing the writer’s strengths. Lectures from each of Margie’s on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from her web site. Please visit her web site for registration information: http://www.margielawson.com/ .