How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Emphasis in Body Language
You can amplify the words you emphasize with your body. In fact you probably do without noticing it. A slight nodding of the head. The beating of an outstretched finger. The thrust of an entire body.
TV presenters are interesting in how they create emphasis. They know that only their heads are in view, so they twist, turn and nod their heads far more than you or I.
When emphasizing in two places, with the voice and with the body, beware of mixed messages. This includes emphasis from one whilst the other remains flat or stationary. If I say 'That's really great!" whilst standing rigidly to attention, you may be forgiven for concluding that I was not that enthused.
The basic rules of using your body to emphasize are to synchronize and exaggerate:
To make emphasis count, it must all act together. Words and intonation, as well as all the bits of your body you are using to support the emphasis. Imagine it as playing in an orchestra - you need to get the whole lot playing in tune, otherwise all you have is a cacophony that communicates very little.
When you want to emphasize, do thing bigger. Move such as an arm further and faster. Move the whole body with the arm. Include facial expressions.
Use big emphasis when you want to overtly show your energy and passion about a point. You are not trying to hide your light under a bushel here: the goal is to overpower the other person with the force of your point.
Your words should also synchronize with big emphasis, using power words, spoken more loudly with energy and passion. The other person should be under no illusion: this is a very important point.
Big emphasis is particularly useful if you are on a stage and need to communicate with those in the back.
Do remember also that it can be intimidating, which is more about coercion, where although you may gain short-term conformance, you may also get longer-term hatred.
For big emphasis, make big movements.
Big emphasis often (but not always) uses simulated aggression, such as:
In a less hazardous form than simulated aggression, you can use methods of connecting with the person to connect the idea more firmly to them.
Repeated moves are like blows to the body. A boxer can win with a big knockout blow or, more likely, with repeated blows that wear the other person down. The same effect is created with big emphasis.
Rhythmic action also taps into primitive senses and can create an almost hypnotic effect.
Big emphasis is not always appropriate and, done well, subtle emphasis can be a far more effective approach, especially in one-to-one situations. To do this well, it often helps if you are in a relaxed frame of mind and 'think small and delicate' as if big emphasis would hurt or damage the other person.
For subtle emphasis with your body, do movement in the small, including:
You can also do subtlety through the static shapes into which you put your body, for example:
Connect with them gently, ensuring they are listening. For example: