Become empowered using body language and facial expressions
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Catherine Hutchins - MBACP
20th July, 20160 Comments
Our facial expressions and the way we hold and project ourselves physically, undoubtedly affects how others see us in relation to our external world, but it also has an immediate and powerful effect on how we think and feel from the inside.
The physical body is the true language of the brain, and the brain is designed to respond/react to the millions of messages and signals per second it is receiving from the body. It reacts to these messages and signals by activating chemicals and hormones it believes we require moment to moment.
Let’s look at an example of this...
Imagine you have a meeting with your boss to discuss the fact that you had not been paid for some over-time. Your boss is quite a stern person and you know there is a chance that this meeting could be confrontational. So you are dreading it, and your mind is filled with negative and anxious thoughts about how it is going to go. These feelings and thoughts will be having an effect on your posture and expression and your brain instantly picks up these signals and instructs the release of chemicals and hormones. You have probably experienced what happens next, inasmuch as the thoughts become more and more anxious and then the body reacts more and more strongly.
At the appointed time, you nervously approach the office and tentatively knock at the door. Your body posture, body language and facial expression are all screaming that you are afraid! Chances are your boss will spot this and it will change how she/he reacts to your request.
This meeting could go two ways:
Firstly (and most commonly) the person in authority will, within four seconds and without a word being uttered will know he/she has the upper hand and will feel superior to you, and feel able to impress upon you their point of view and perhaps make you feel awkward and embarrassed about your request. The result: You creep apologetically out of the office feeling unfairly treated and blaming yourself.
Secondly: Perhaps your boss takes pity on your nervousness and makes allowances for you, and says this time he/she will grant your request but not to the amount you have asked for, because in fact you had had a medical appointment or something which the company had allowed. Result: You still creep apologetically out of the office feeling like he/she has done you a favour. You don’t feel good about yourself because you are aware that you have come across as vulnerable and subservient.
You will probably spend the rest of the day/week/month/year going over what transpired and feel negatively towards yourself, and may never feel able to ask again.
Let’s look at this situation from a different standpoint whether you are a confident person or not.
Rightly, you feel justified in requesting that the amount owed be paid to you. Throughout the morning the thoughts pop into your mind about the imminent meeting. Here is where we need to become aware of what is happening on the back of these thoughts. If your shoulders slump, open them outwards. If your body language closes in drop your arms to your side allowing the chest to open, straighten your back and regulate your breathing.
Next, check in with your facial expression. If you have an upside down smile, correct it or hold a pencil between your teeth. If you are frowning, deliberately relax these muscles.
Then, using a calm inner voice, talk to yourself in a reassuring way, letting yourself know that you are courageous and brave and you will handle whatever comes up.
Before you knock at the door, or face anything that unnerves you, take a deep breath straighten up turn the corners of your mouth ever so slightly upwards and give your body actions a look of purpose. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the change in how you feel.
About the author
Integratively trained Counselling Therapist and Group Facilitator and Trainer.
Qualifications & Experience:
Advanced Diploma in Integrative Counselling
Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Compassion Focused Therapy
Diploma in Solution Focused therapy
Specialist in counselling for problem gambling
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