Advance Performance | Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Darcenia Teasdale
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Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Darcenia Teasdale

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Darcenia Teasdale

I recently spent two very entertaining evenings watching auditions for an upcoming comedy at my local theatre. There are a lot of very talented amateur actors in the North West! The focus on body language in characterisation reminded me of Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED Talk Your body language shapes who you are and the importance of body language in presenting ourselves at our best.

When planning for an interview, a difficult conversation, a meeting, or a presentation or talk, we spend the majority of our time thinking about what we want to say. We consider our “why”, our goals, and the information and emotions we want to share with others. We even plan carefully what we are going to wear to present our best version of ourselves. Planning our body language is usually quite low in our priorities – if some people even consider it while trying to remember interview answers!

As I watched the two auditions, I was struck how close acting auditions are to preparing for speeches, presentations and interviews. The focus is initially on the script and the words, and characterisation follows through the voice and face – and finally, we physically add mannerisms, positioning and movement to a character. Amy Cuddy’s talk “Your body shapes who you are focuses on the way we stand and walk, and how our body language reflects our persona to others. If we want to present our “boldest self” we need to prepare and practise bold and strong standing positions to feel confident in ourselves.

In the second audition, the actors were asked to improvise the character without using words, only their facial expressions, the character’s mannerisms, the way they stand and sit – purely focusing on body language. This was a fascinating exercise to recognise how each person thought and behaved so that their character could be shown effectively, but also how the character could tell their story within a scene. They were consciously working on their body language, but as the exercises progressed, the subconscious “taxi driver” led them to naturally react and add more subtle gestures as the character.

It was fascinating to watch the actors practise this new body language until the mannerisms were “acted” subconsciously as their dendrites were formed and strengthened – watching in real time the practice of the theory that we teach on our Advance courses. In just one evening, we could see the performers become their roles through focused thinking and practice of body language – and this is just as important in our professional roles. By practising a strong, bold and confident standing position or walk, the dendrites are strengthened, and the behaviour happens through our subconscious.

Looking back at our previous article about Presencethis quote still resonates:

Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves. In this psychological state, we are able to maintain presence even in the very stressful situations that typically make us feel distracted or powerless. When we feel present, our speech, facial expressions, postures, and movements align.

Cuddy explains in her TED Talk the link between body and mind – if you believe you can achieve a goal, your body will respond. If your body language reflects confidence, enthusiasm, and passion then you will think in the same way – and in turn behave in accordance to your thoughts and beliefs.  This thought process is very similar to Advance’s Tree and the essence of our ideas on behavioural change and being your best authentic self.

Just as the actors were creating characters with the characters’ own body language and presenting them as authentically as possible, we do the same in our professional lives. We want to present ourselves as authentic and as confident as possible in our role as teacher, mentor, sales person, CEO, leader, or whatever  – and we want others to respond appropriately, and trust us. Our body language reflects our spoken message. If we are genuine and believe what we say, this is reflected in our body language.

Finally, by asking the actors to leave their scripts on their seats, and take to the stage with just themselves we could see how prepared they were, how much they wanted a role, and whether they could let go of their nerves, and prove their abilities which they ALL had. Their body language and presence on stage very much reflected how much they believed in themselves as the characters so that we, the audience, also believed. As Amy Cuddy says:

Presence isn’t about pretending to be competent, it’s about believing in and revealing the abilities you truly have.

We saw from the actors auditioning, those who believed in their abilities and the character they were portraying, and they conveyed that Presence in their performances. They recreated the characters we knew from our television screen even though their physical appearances were different.

This is the key to Presence in reflecting your authenticself – your own self belief and revealing your true abilities.  You can only truly sell your competence, beliefs and passions if you truly believe in them.