Friday, February 1, 2008

Body Language: A Writer's Secret Weapon

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.

Wrapping Up

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:

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: .


Helen Scott Taylor said...


Thank you so much for being with us. This is a facinating subject. To think 93% of what we communicate is other than words is scary. I try to be aware of my body language but when I'm nervous I tend to forget. I know I touch my face a lot. I do try to stand straight and give a firm handshake--the obvious things--but I'm sure I show all sorts of other nonverbal signals that give me away.

Judythe Morgan said...

Hey, Margie.
Glad you're here today. I love picking up your pearls of wisdom.

I use your body language tips in my writing, but I never considered using my body language as a secret weapon for personal appearances. I'm always too nervous. What fun I'm going to have now.

Can't wait to have a refresh on EDITS when you come to West Houston.

Jennifer Faye said...

Good morning Margie. I find the subject of body language in writing very interesting.

To be truthful in real life I only ever notice my body language when I'm in a professional situation and I make sure not to fidget and I try to make the appropriate amount of eye contact.

The place that I find where my body language different is when I'm in my 'mom' role vs. just being me. I'm a lot more confident and capable of speaking up when I am taking care of my kids. I guess it's that mother lion lurking inside of me. LOL.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Hey Margie,

Fascinating. I'm so glad I signed up for the March ECE class since I'm always looking for ways that characters can display their inner turmoils.


Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Margie. You seem to pop up everywhere. :)

Very interesting subject.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the tips! I used to do a lot of public speaking, but since I became a full-time writer, I hardly ever present. Except in my critique group. Now I wonder, when I read my current work, how much non-verbal anxiety gets translated into negative reviews? Next week, I'm going to force myself to slow down and project! Of course, I want honest and reliable feedback--but I wonder if my presentation could create cranky comments?

Dana Marton said...

Thank you so much for bringing this great topic to us. I found your post very insightful and now will research this topic further.


glasshut said...

Hi Margie,

Thanks for the tips. I read my WIP out loud all the time, but never thought about recording them. Now I'm off to find my digitial recorder and put it to use. As far as my body language - I'm a hair tucker. It's short now, so I can't do it anymore. I'm also an eye roller. It's just ever so slight, but I really have to be careful with that one.

Ginger said...

Hi Margie. Great blog!

I try very hard to use body language in my writing but I know I'm missing a TON of nuances I could be using. Hurry up and publish your book about this. :)

When I'm nervous or uncomfortable, I tend to play with a ring I wear on my thumb. I'm also a hair-tucker.

What I find interesting is having complete control over my body language when inside I'm a mess. I find this a powerful tool at certain times. I was in a situation once where someone was quite upset with me (totally unjustified of course) and he was freaking out. I was getting not only angry but closer and closer to tears. My heart was hammering, body trembling, etc. I had this orange I had just peeled and the more upset I felt, the slower I made myself breathe. I leaned back in my chair, put my feet up on a desk and very slowly ate that orange, savoring each wedge. The poor guy was coming unglued that he wasn't making me fight back. LOL Course, as soon as he stormed out, I cried hysterically.

Thanks again for such great tips. I'm going to apply them to my writing.



Anonymous said...

Hey Margie!

This is such a great topic. Body language fascinates me (yes, I am a geek!). And yes, I do try and use it - as someone else mentioned - more in professional situations. At conference tables I'll sit straight, and lean forward if I want to stress my point. Similarly, I'll sit back into my chair if there seems to be antagonism brewing, to take some of the tension out of my body and hopefully out of the conversation.

But! The other day someone stopped by my desk with a procedural question. I was not 100% sure of the answer... and I became conscious of holding my fingers over my lips as I played for time. I'm going to have to watch for that one. The good news is, I don't wring my hands (much) anymore!

thanks for sharing all your wisdom!!

~Jen McA

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. I'd be interested to know if you have any favorite book on learning all the body language cues.
I wonder if anyone else noticed, when they were showing the last interview with Heath Ledger, how he rubbed his eyes and then rubbed his chin - his hands were constantly touching his face. I found it fascinating and would have loved to know what experts thought that meant.

Cheers from Jax.

Jax Bubis
writing as Jaxine Danies

annie parnell said...

Morning Margie! As a 6th grader (years ago) I had to do a report on a Revolutionary War subject. Our English class was reading Johnny Tremain. No one would partner with me so I had to go solo.

What a disaster! I wrote such a darn good report my teacher asked me to read it to the class. Gahh! I can still remember my anxiety and my fidgets. By the end of the reading I had lost my voice.

These days I work to put those feelings and behaviors into my writing and a long the way I learned a helpful aphorism, "act as if. . ." You are a wise woman. Thanks for helping all of us write more captivating characters.

Mel Hiers said...

Hi Margie! Glad to have you at Title Magic!

Your tips are invaluable! I'm fairly confident when it comes to my day job - I talk to people all day long and have even gotten the hang of dealing with the angry people who used to make me nervous.

When it comes to social situations with strangers, talking to the press, or anything related to the writing business? The nerves take over with a vengeance and I turn into squeaky fast-talking limp handshake girl.

I hope I'll get an opportunity to hear you speak sometime!

Melissa Mayhue said...

Hi, Margie!

Whenever I know you're blogging, I always make a point to drop by...initially thinking I'd just say 'hi' and lend some moral support...

But it never fails that I'm drawn in by the subject matter. You always make me think!!!

Thanks for another interesting read!

~ Melissa

Leanna said...

Hi, Margie! Good to 'see' you here. I always learn good things from you. I have a funny story. The first time I spoke to writers some 15 years ago, maybe even more, I was so nervous! Now, I'm not the type of person that burps very much (at least then way before I had children, something about pregnancy adds to that). Anyhoo, I kept feeling little tiny burps bubbling up during the entire speech. Thankfully, no one else noticed. But believe me I was focused on that!

Flash forward all these years, and I'm relatively used to speaking in public and don't get that nervous. But a couple of weeks ago I was going to be on the radio for the first time. I was nervous! But the whole week before, I took those nervous thoughts captive and replaced them with, "You're going to have fun!" "It's going to go great!" "Just enjoy yourself!" And even though I was a tiny bit nervous, I did have a great time!

Toni Anderson said...

Thanks, Margie.

I watched my seven year old daughter do her first choir concert at Christmas. Her tongue was going over and over her teeth to the point I swear she couldn't have sung a word, but she swears she sang every word :)

Kat said...

Hi Margie,

Great information, as always. I'm featuring your March class as a Top Pick on my website. Hope you get a lot of new students.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Thank you for giving such a comprehensive and informative blog! As I read I thought back to my public speaking class in college and how we could tell when someone hated being at the podium by their body language.

Also, occasionally I play poker (not for money or clothing) but I've noticed a lot of people have a "tell"--they do one of the things you mentioned and give away that they have a good hand or are bluffing. :)

Cher Gorman said...

Hey Margie!

Cher Gorman said...

Aack! I hit the enter key before I was ready to send!

Margie, have a terrific day blogging!

To everyone who drops in, Margie's brilliance knows no bounds. Sit up straight and pay attention. You will learn soooo much!

Happy Friday all,


Anonymous said...


Sandra said...


Thank you for your blog! I know a lot of people get nearly physcially ill when they have to go before a tough audience...other than deep breathing and visualization, what can you recommend for them?

On of the things I learned a long time ago was to echo body language of the person I'm trying to connect with. This seems to put the other person more at ease, which in turn has put me more at ease. During all the years I've worked I've never had a problem getting a job I wanted. I think paying attention to the other person's body language has been a factor.

KristaK1 said...

Good morning,

Thanks for your information on body language and for mentioning it's in your March Emotions class I'm definitely signing up.

Amanda Ashby said...


What a great blog post. As I was reading it I was thinking of some upcoming speaking things I need to do and automatically started to fiddle with my hair so I guess I've just found my first self touch!!!

Anyway, I'm really lookng foward to meeting you when you come to our NZ conference in August!

Margie Lawson said...

Judythe --

Ah -- You'll be watching my body language when I present Deep Editing in Houston next weekend. I'll have to work harder at not letting my self-touch behaviors slip through. And -- I'll be watching your body language too. :-))

Looking forward to seeing you again!

All smiles...........Margie

See you soon!

Margie Lawson said...

Jennifer -

Sounds like you tune into your body language and use it to your advantage in the business world.

I'm betting that you're appropriately ASSERTIVE in your mother lion role. :-))

Thank you for chiming in!


Margie Lawson said...

Stephen --

After taking my Empowering Characters' Emotions course, your characters will impress each other with their fresh body language. I bet your psychologically empowered writing will impress an agent too. :-)))

Thanks for dropping by the Title Magic blog.

See you in class in March


Margie Lawson said...

Trish --

You pop up everywhere too!

Great to see you again. ;-)))


Margie Lawson said...

Chris -

Interesting question. I believe you're asking if your anxiety coming through at critique group (reading your chapter out loud) could influence critique feedback.

It's hard to say. Your group could try providing a hard copy for everyone to critique -- and skip the reading out loud piece.

I like the idea that you'll work on projecting your voice and nixing some of the indicators of anxiety.

You could also discuss your anxiety with them. Seems like most writers are a little anxious in critique. They're discussing your baby. Addressing this topic may lower your anxiety.

Thanks for sharing. ;-)))


Margie Lawson said...

Dana --

Thanks for popping on the Title Magic blog. Have fun expanding your character's nonverbal repertoire. :-))


Nancy said...

Hi Margie! It's always so good to see you - anywhere!

Thank you for this great blog! I'm a toucher anyway, so I imagine I'd be shocked at how much self-touching I do. I have hyper-sensitive hearing, and I tend to speak too softly -- or remain quiet -- esp. when in a casual group situation. I need to work on that.

Funny story of lesson learned about rate of speech. In college, I student taught at a clinic. My evaluator told me I was great with the kids, but the parents couldn't understand me because I spoke so fast. I slowed my speech and lost part of my Okie accent. Flash forward years later to me meeting a ranch foreman in OK who was showing me around. He spoke so fast, I only understood 1 word in 10. It was an excruciating few hours, but, boy, did I get it!


Margie Lawson said...

Hello anonymous hair-tucker, :-))

Glad you'll be reading your WIP into a recorder. Excellent!

Sounds like you're a recovering eye-roller. You're so right -- that nonverbal has to be monitored. Eye rolling can be deadly.

Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous said...

Hello Margie,

I've signed up for your ECE course in March and am looking forward to it.
Growing up as a police officer's kid, I overheard stories between my father and his buddies, and the subtle indicators that gave perpetrators away in interrogations. I learned how to take a deep breath, relax my limbs and feign my comfort level - no matter the visceral war being wage inside. In many of instances, like when I was describing an insulin reaction my hubby had to my sister, only to realize that he was in the midst of another one, she commented later about how calm I was throughout the whole ordeal. Even at the point when I called the doctor because the ambulance attendants had left him behind, and I discovered that he was slipping into a coma. It gets better - the second rxn was 12 days before I gave birth to my first child.

Evelyn Marentette

Margie Lawson said...

Ginger --

Perfect story to spotlight using a prop to keep yourself focused and present the image that you were in control. Thank you for sharing it.

I trust that you have your characters use props in the same brilliant way. :-)))

You may know that I teach writers how to use the full range of nonverbal communication in my Empowering Characters' Emotions (ECE)course. I'm teaching it on-line in March. And -- the ECE lectures are always available as a Lecture Packet.

Thanks again.


Kimber Chin said...

Great post and a great reminder to use the entire body in our writing.

In business, knowledge of body language is a must. Usually the higher up the food chain, the more skilled the person is.

Oh, especially in the sales department. Watching a top salesperson work body language (mirroring, etc) is wonderful to see.

Edie said...

Margie, this is an awesome blog! I'm going to print it out and put it in my body language file.

I used to cross my arms over my ribcage when I was in social siturations, but I don't think I do it any more. Self-awareness makes a big difference.

Margie Lawson said...

Jen McA --

Hey -- Body language fascinates me too. Does that make me a geek?

I'm impressed that you caught yourself, fingers to lips. Like the way you phrased it, you were playing for time. Those self-touch behaviors do sneak through.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I bet you'll have fun tuning in even more to other's body language and give their idiosyncracies to your characters.

See you on-line.


Maura Anderson said...

Hi Margie,

Great post. I actually use some of the behaviors you list in my stories. Almost every person has what I call a "dither" behavior and often a "dither" phrase (you call it a self-touch behavior).

One of my characters has the habit of playing with the end of her braid and smoothing back her hair when she's really nervous.

I actually learned a lot about my own behaviors when I first started teaching technical classes at work. I get a huge amount of stage fright but I've learned how to look at my audience without focusing on them too closely. I've learned to stand confidently and walk around a little, rather than hide behind the podium.

And I've learned to not use dither words - umm, well, etc.

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Jax!

I haven't found any truly good books on body language. They cover the basics, crossed arms, angle of body, personal bubble, etc.

That's why I'm writing the book. Writers need it.

As you know, in my Empowering Characters' Emotions course, I go indepth into how writers can use the full range of body language for their characters.

Speaking to your question, rubbing eyes and rubbing chin -- likely indicators of high stress and high fatigue.

Great to see you!


Margie Lawson said...

Annie -

What a traumatic experience. You recall this trauma from 6th grade like it happened last week.

Sounds like you've powered through and now 'act as if . . ." Perfect!

Thank you for sharing your story. I bet your characters benefit from your experience too.


Nina Pierce said...

Margie, this is such a great blog. Both for personal use and in writing. Amazing what we do without being conscience of it!

Margie Lawson said...

Hello Mel --

Love it that you can appear to keep your cool (cliche alert!) when interacting with angry people. Excellent.

Looks like you have some work to do to retrain that squeaky fast-talking limp handshake girl and turn her into an I'm-nervous-on-the-inside-but-showing-you-my-ultra-cool-in-control-persona girl.

I'm betting you've tried these tips before -- and I recommend trying them until you master them: positive self-talk, breathing exercises, and practicing in-control body language. You may be surprised at how well you can learn to present yourself as being in control.

I appreciate you sharing this piece. I'm sure there are a lot of people reading this blog who are nodding.

I hope to meet you sometime.


Margie Lawson said...

Melissa --

I'm glad I made you think!

Thank you for dropping by.


Margie Lawson said...

Hey Leanna --

Kudos to you for reframing your anxiety about being interviewed on the radio as ANTICIPATORY anxiety -- and telling yourself you'd have fun. Excellent!

And -- you did have fun. Perfect!
I bet your listeners enjoyed your interview too.

Thank you for dropping by today.


Margie Lawson said...


Funny story about your daughter running her tongue over her teeth when she was nervous -- and supposed to be singing. ;-)))

Thanks for sharing it. Parents notice a lot of anxiety indicators
when their kids are in the spotlight.


LaDonna said...


Just had to stop by and say, hi! I enjoy your blogs, and when Edie mentioned you were here today, I ran over. So many great observations and tips today. Thanks for sharing!

Margie Lawson said...

Kat -

Woohoo! Thanks for featuring my ECE class as a Top Pick for March on your web site. Very cool!

Thank you.


Margie Lawson said...

Anitra --

'Tells' are fascinating. I include a section on tells, and how to write them in my ECE course. So fun!

Brad Meltzer is one of my stars of using tells. He writes them fresh. Great examples.

Thanks for chiming in!


Margie Lawson said...

Cher --

Thank you for dropping by and sharing your enthusiasm. I appreciat you!


I'll be back on-line late this afternoon. See you all then!


GeckoGirl said...

Great stuff, Margie! I'm always fascinated to realize how what people are doing can counteract what they are saying. It's a great lesson for writing as well--think about what your characters are doing that they don't know they're doing, and what that says about them! Thanks for the insights!

Michelle Hasker said...

Great information, Margie.
Thanks for pointing me here, Sandra.

I get nervous a lot in public. I don't like to be the center of attention so I'm sure there are many things I do.

One thing I've always tried to practice is the firm handshake. Always have to make a good first impression!

Shelley Munro said...

I really enjoyed your post, Margie. I find body language fascinating, and I'm looking forward to your next KOD class. I'm guilty of hair tucking and lip licking and do try to tone it down. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Margie, fascinating topic. I have read a few books on body language. However, your knowledge and info sound much more comprehensive. I assume you use hypnotherapy to assist people with body language issues.
I intentionally took speech courses in college because I was an absolute wreck in sixth grade giving a book review before the class. I discovered my ability to connect with the audience. Very powerful experience.
Ginger, I luv that orange story. That was just too good!
Mel, not a librarian -- but I've worked in retail a lot, and it does make a huge difference in your ability to deal successfully with people.
Thanks, Margie. We all needed this.

Karen Kish said...

Fascinating stuff, Margie. While a lot of body language is subtle and not easily picked up, it's really eye-opening when someone's verbal language is clearly at odds with their body language. The little nuances just pop! Our city is currently in the midst of a text-messaging/perjury scandal and psychologists went on the news to analyze the body language of the mayor when he finally made a public appearance and addressed the community. They picked up on things I never even noticed. Still, I imagine it's just as easy to over-analyze. Arms crossed over your chest doesn't necessarily signal you're in protective mode. It might just mean you're cold. :)

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...


I rushed on over when I heard the topic for today. Great, informational post!

I used to *wither* having to face a dental appt - use to call and cancel for the fear of it.

I cured my panic by becoming a dental hygienist. :D And I didn't shake. LOL


Hugs, JJ

joella said...

I enjoyed reading your article and find they teach a lot of the same in toastmasters. I joined last year in an attempt to position myself to be capable of speaking to groups so that when I am published and get asked to speak, it won't be so uncomfortable.

Mel Hiers said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Margie! I'll definitely keep working on it. :-)

Hiya, Sav! What I do isn't too much different than retail. It's just as much customer service as working at Sears only we deal with information instead of clothes or tools. I just wish we could get folks as good as the staff I work with into our local bookstores. I don't even go to the Barnes & Noble here anymore! :-(

Savanna Kougar said...

Mel, so true about the similarities. When I worked in fabric stores and the health food store, it was more about helping people the best way I could with info, etc. And, boy! was it an education in human nature, the good! mostly, fortunately -- but there were the bad, ugly episodes.
It's sad that,like you say, customer service is lacking -- the current dynamic in our over-stressed world.

Anonymous said...

great info! please enter me in the drawing, thanks!

Corrina Cowan said...

Very interesting topic. Thank you so much for those tips. I can use them. I don't have any success stories but I do have one on the negative impact of body language. For my day job I work in a cubicle farm, row after row of cubicles. My department is very small, 5 people, and we have a large, boisterous department surrounding us on both sides. Being the shy person that I am, I tend to walk by with my head down, don't make eye contact--all the things you mention not to do. Well, I heard from my co-worker that the women in the other department think I'm, well, I won't say, but not the nicest of people. I found it odd because I've never said or did anything to make them feel that way. But my co-worker said they felt like that because I never talk to them and just walk by hurriedly. It's just amazing how people ready body language. Long post, I apologize, but thank you for the tips. I'll put them to use.

Margie Lawson said...

Sandra --

You asked what I recommend to help people who are traumatized in some social situations. If it's a generalized social anxiety (or social phobia) I recommend psychotherapy supported by drug therapy.

If it's anxiety specific to something like public speaking, I recommend systematic desensitization. It works well for most people.

Mirroring body language is an incredibly effective tool to establish a bond at an unconscious level. Handy for job interviews, pitching to agents and editors, connecting with your mother-in-law. :-)))

Thank you for dropping by the Title Magic blog. I appreciate your comments.


Margie Lawson said...

Kristak1 -

Hello! I look forward to seeing you on-line in Empowering Characters' Emotions in March. :-))


Margie Lawson said...

Amanda --

I bet you'll be a fabulous presenter -- amazingly prepared, and aware of potential self-touch and other nonverbal pitfalls.

I am so THRILLED to be presenting in New Zealand and Australia this year. I am a lucky gal!

Looking forward to meeting you too!


Margie Lawson said...

Nancy --

Yay! It's you. :-)))

Ah -- You have some nonverbals to master -- self-touch behaviors as well as speaking up in groups. Good info.

LOVED your story about talking fast. Priceless. Often people who speak too quickly don't HEAR it. They don't get it.

Tape recording them conversing with someone who speaks at an average speed, then playing it back, is a great SHOWING not TELLING experience.

Nancy -- Great to see you here.


Hi Margie! It's always so good to see you - anywhere!

Thank you for this great blog! I'm a toucher anyway, so I imagine I'd be shocked at how much self-touching I do. I have hyper-sensitive hearing, and I tend to speak too softly -- or remain quiet -- esp. when in a casual group situation. I need to work on that.

Funny story of lesson learned about rate of speech. In college, I student taught at a clinic. My evaluator told me I was great with the kids, but the parents couldn't understand me because I spoke so fast. I slowed my speech and lost part of my Okie accent. Flash forward years later to me meeting a ranch foreman in OK who was showing me around. He spoke so fast, I only understood 1 word in 10. It was an excruciating few hours, but, boy, did I get it!


Margie Lawson said...

Evelyn --

I'm looking forward to teaching ECE in March. It's always such fun for me.

Police officers know body language -- and the use it well too. Raised in a policeman's family -- you know it well too.

Loved your story! You are good!

See you in class in March. ;-))


Margie Lawson said...

Kimber -

Most writers use the same nonverbal communication for their characters over and over and over again. Great to expand their options!

You're right -- salesman are amazing with mirroring and reading body language.

Thank you for dropping by today.


mcrowley41 said...

When I first started directing a small newscast, I was nervous beyond belief. I forced myself to stand tall in the control room and take deep breaths. My voice sounded much lower in the mic, which was strange but it made the crew pay attention. I still made mistakes, but I made them looking confident. LOL


Margie Lawson said...

Edie -

Self-awareness is huge, and oh-so-tough when we're anxious.

Thanks for dropping by the blog today.

I'm so glad I get to meet you when I present in Wisconsin in November!


Margie Lawson said...

Maura --

Excellent! Love your 'dither' behavior and phrases. Excellent.

Sounds like you've mastered your nonverbal communication when teaching. Good for you!

Thank you for sharing your good ideas.


Margie Lawson said...

Nina --

Thank you. Glad you liked the blog -- for real interactions and for our characters.

Thanks for chiming in!


Margie Lawson said...

Ladonna --

Thanks for zipping over here to the Title Magic blog today. Glad you liked the blog!

Thanks to Edie too!


Margie Lawson said...

Hello Geckogirl!

Hey -- You're digging deep into the fun stuff we can do with NVC for our characters. Incongruent nonverbals and dialogue - interesting and powerful.

Thank you for chiming in!


Great stuff, Margie! I'm always fascinated to realize how what people are doing can counteract what they are saying. It's a great lesson for writing as well--think about what your characters are doing that they don't know they're doing, and what that says about them! Thanks for the insights!

Margie Lawson said...

Michelle --

Sounds like you mastered a handshake that broadcasts confidence. Excellent! I bet you do well with your other nonverbal messages too.

Thank you for chiming in!


Margie Lawson said...

Shelley --

Thanks -- I'm glad you enjoyed the blog.

Yay! I'll get to see you on-line in ECE in March. :-)))

Prepare to dig deep into writing and editing for psychological power.


Margie Lawson said...

Savanna --

I do dig deep, deep, deep into using body language to add psychological power. :-)))

So fun!

Thanks for chiming in.


Margie Lawson said...

Karen --

Loved reading about the mayor and the psychologist. What an interesting situation!

Thanks for dropping by!


Margie Lawson said...

JJ --

Too funny that you overcame your fear of dentists - by becoming a hygienist! Hmm ... immersion therapy. ;-)))

Thanks for sharing!


Margie Lawson said...

Joella --

Woohoo! You joined Toastmasters to address your issues. Excellent!

I'm impressed. ;-)))

Thanks for sharing!


Margie Lawson said...

Hello Stamped with Grace!

You're in the drawing. Thanks for joining us today.


Liz Jasper said...

Hi Margie,

I took one of your classes and it was v. helpful. Improved my awareness of body language--and made me realize how easy it was to get lazy about descriptions. This is a nice reminder of what I learned.
: )

Margie Lawson said...

Corrina -

When someone doesn't know you, they read all sorts of stuff into body language. Stuff that wasn't there.

I'm hoping that you push yourself to make eye contact, chit-chat a little. You'll feel better -- and so will they. ;-))

I appreciate you sharing this story. I bet others appreciate you too.

Thank you.


Margie Lawson said...

Margs --

So fun to see you here!

Loved your directing a newscast story. You made mistakes -- but you made them looking confident. Perfect!

Thanks for dropping by the Title Magic blog. Stop by again. ;-))

Thanks again to you, and to COFW for my fabulous time presenting in Columbus. So fun!


Margie Lawson said...

Liz -

Great to hear from a graduate of one of my editing courses. :-)))

Thanks for sharing!


Margie Lawson said...



Congratulations Amanda!

Please e-mail me,,
and let me know which one of my Lecture Packets you would like:

1. Empowering Characters' Emotions
2. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
3. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

You can read course descriptions on my web site. Click on Lecture Packets --

Congratulations on being the winner on TITLE MAGIC today!

I look forward to hearing from you.


Margie Lawson said...

Hello Helen -- and All who posted on Title Magic today --

Thank you! I enjoyed my day with you all. I appreciate your comments and your enthusiam.

Have fun writing your characters' body language in fresh ways. I hope you dig deep to add psychological power to your writing.

I wish you great success with your writing careers.

Cheers! ...........Margie

Mona Risk said...

Hi Margie,

I took your one day workshop a year ago in Fort Lauderdale. It made such a difference in my writing. I need a refresh soon. I touch my neck when I'm nervous. Have to pay attention to that. Thanks for a great blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the advise shared today. As a teacher, I am conscious of body language, both mine and my students'. As a writer of Romantic Suspense, I had never thought about including body language in interrogations. May God bless you as you continue to share and help others.

Sharon Bailey

Brenda said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog. I have been doing some presentations for the past five years that are extremely painful to do and looking back over the years, I can see that I've grown as a speaker. Your recomendations are right on target. I appreciate what you said. I have to do more praying than I do speaking to be able to project and keep my audience's attention and most of the audiences I speak for are k-12 students! Thank you for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Hi Margie, I've found that when I'm around professionals I sound like a blubbering IDIOT!!!!! when I talk with them. A self-confidence issue? I've been trying to work on it and am getting better but.... What's a blubbering idiot to do??? Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter

wyldkat said...

What you say makes sense - I will try to incorporate this into my writing.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Thank you for the excellent teaching on the blog. I would love to win the contest.

Kara Lennox said...

Fascinating stuff, Margie! I am very interested in body language. It's useful in writing romance, because when people are aroused they do some predictable things--like licking their lips and leaning in.


Patricia said...

Interesting and valuable info. I'll have to pay attention to what I am doing.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Who knew just a touch could tell so much?
Susan Shay

Susan Stitch said...

What a great interview -- thank you for sharing so much actionable information. As an instructor I rely on body language messages for feedback, but I really hadn't considered the impact of body language within the context of writing. In this short session I have learned enough to change my perspective on characters. Thank you so much! I would love to be included in your drawing and I am definitely getting the book.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Margie,

I was happy to see your guest blog today. I just finished lurking through "Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors" last month. I hoped to join in the discussion, but time was short because I just moved and am job hunting. Still, your lectures were so enlightening.

I have to mention that you had a very profound effect on our RWA chapter after you spoke last March at Indiana's RWA Conference on an abbreviated presentation of your "Deep Editing." Our members talked about your presentation for days on our online loop. As I left the conference that day, so many women were saying that they couldn't wait to get home to try out your methods. I hope sometime to take your month-long class on editing to reinforce what I learned that day and to learn even more. I recommend your online presentations highly. For those who don't want to participate, I think they would learn so much just from ordering the lecture packets. I commented to someone just the other day that you are meant to be a teacher, because you do such a fine job of it!

Also, I wanted to say thank you so much for all the hard work you put into all your courses and presentations.

Peggy Dallmann
Indiana RWA member

Savanna Kougar said...

Helen, thank you for bringing Margie to us here at Title Magic.

Margie, what a tremendous inspiration and teacher you are! Thank you, for joining us. It's wonderful to see everyone gaining so much help with their writing and their lives.

Gina Conroy said...

Great article! I'm always looking for ways to use body language in a meaning way!

beverley bateman said...

Hi Margie,

I remembered to pop over and read your blog.
Awesome as usual and always informative.
Body language stories - I'm always nervous in front of a group. I've taught various classes - non-writing - and I'm always terrified right up until I actually start to teach - sweating palms, knees knocking - but I've used a lot of your suggestions about posture, voice, making eye contact - and it's funny because people come up to me and say "I wish I had your confidence." (And I'm really terrified.) :)


Ellen said...

Margie, body language fascinates me. along with the emotions it reveals. now to work harder at getting it into my writing-- I use it every day at the college, and read the body language of my students to see how best to connect to them

Saralee said...

Hi, Margie!

You are such fun to listen to (and to read!) and so gracious in sharing the information you've learned! I am so thrilled I got to attend your workshop in Columbus, OH.

Some people seem to understand instinctively how they're coming across to others (my brother is like that), but I've never known.

However, through my involvement in amateur theater, I discovered my own technique for overcoming anxiety and nervousness around meeting new people and public speaking--I convince myself that the message I'm there to convey (or the service I am to provide, or the job I'm doing, or whatever) is so much more important than I am.

Once I'm busy talking about something that is important, I forget to worry about myself.
I don't know if it actually cuts down on those anxious behaviors, but it feels a lot better!

katbaldwin said...

Hi Margie!
I always enjoy your lectures. You are brilliant and so insightful. But today you touched on a personal issue for me. I've got a question.

I enjoy speaking to groups but have tremors because of medication I must take. I know my shaking hands give the audience a false impression. I've tried explaining and joking about it, but as you said, people believe what they SEE more than what they hear.

It has almost ruined my love of public speaking. Is there anything I can do to put my audience more at ease?

Cheryl Wyatt said...

I absolutely love Margie's teachings. Margie, thank you for helping us know how to enrich our scenes for our readers. You are brilliant!

Cheryl Wyatt

Lexie O'Neill said...

Dear Margie,
Just wanted to chime in as another Title Magic lady to say THANK YOU for blogging for us. I learned a great deal and am thrilled at the traffic you created. Woohoo!

Anonymous said...

The "self-touch" was something I had not heard before. Interesting stuff.

Thank you.

Chloe said...

Hello Margie,

Having a major interest in body langauge I found your article very interesting and informative. I am currently writing up an undergraduate study for my dissertation on nonverbal behaviours in sport, and my results have beeen very interesting. I was examining the impact of manipulating a goalkeepers body language and clothing during a series of penalty kicks in football. It just illustrates how powerful nonverbal cues can be, and used in the right context, everyone can benefit from simply adjusting their postures.

Chloe Mulligan