Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friendly Body Language for Effective Communication in Teaching

 By: Paul Harrison

Albert Mehrabian at the psychology department of the University of California proved in the 1960s that 55% of all communication is body language. There may have been some debate about the exact figure since then, but one thing is for certain: body language is key to effective communication and is particularly important in teaching. Where our words make up a mere 7% of communication, body language makes over a half.

Of course, to teach effectively excellent communication skills are an absolute must. Thankfully, good body language can help us achieve and maintain those good communication skills.

There are many ways body language can help with tefraching, of which perhaps the most important is to create an approachable—friendly, if you will—image that makes students feel more comfortable communicating with their teacher. There are many keys to creating body language. Here I should like to offer insight into some of the most important. But before getting to that, a word of warning:

Unfriendly Body Language can Effect Even the Friendliest of People

Body language is problematically ambiguous to a degree that, at times, it can make a staple-gun seem like a rocket launcher.  The same gesture may have many different interpretations, some of which will be detrimental to a teacher’s image. Consider for instance the simple body language gesture of scratching the nose. This could have many different interpretations, ranging from lying to having bad hygiene to, of course, just having an itch. Likewise, a seemingly unthreatening body language gesture might appear aggressive to some people.

The Dos and Do Nots of Friendly Body Language

The answer to this problem of ambiguity is to learn which body language gestures to use and which to avoid. This list of dos and donts will help get you started.


Move and speak slowly and smoothly.

Leave your chest, throat and lower regions visible (except for clothing, naturally)

Show the palms of your hands

Hold your hands at your sides when not using them (rather than holding them behind your back or in front of yourself)

Gesture with your hands when speaking (serves as an invitation for the audience to get more involved and greatly helps when explaining complex theories)

Unfriendly Body Language to Avoid

Do Not:

Hold your eyebrows in a lowered position where they are brought closer together

Show your lower teeth

Use sharp and snappy consonants in your speech which can come across as being angry

Stare at anyone

Clench your fists

Cross your arms over your

Bang on an object or on your legs or other parts of your body

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