This is a summary of the open space session I initiated at the beginning of the 2nd day of Agile Coach Camp Norway. The title was ‘Body Language when Coaching’. I wanted to learn more about the impact of body movements, positions and facial expressions and the impact while coaching on a personal and team level.
This is a summary of our discussions:
What types of body language do we know and what feeling do we associate it with?
- Rolling you eyes: perceived as disagreement or frustration
- Crossing your arms: holding back, protecting yourself.
- Leaning back: giving someone else the chance to share info
- Leaning forward: showing interest, wanting to engage.
- Lifting eyebrows: puzzled with something, astonishment
- Touching someone’s arm: sharing, caring, personal
- Stepping back from a circle: disengaging from group
- Mirroring your conversation partner’s position: agreeing, feeling connected.
What can you do when notice conflicts by a change in people’s body language?
The following technique was used by one of the session participants and he experienced it as very effective: When you’re having a team meeting and you notice someone tells by his body language that there is an issue, for instance by rolling his eyes, you can stop the conversation and ask in a supportive way what the person is struggling with. It might be a misunderstanding, a difference in viewpoint, a feeling of rejection,…
The point is that it is OK to share your mental models and we want everybody on the team to feel comfortable and included. We respect all opinions and try to reach a common agreement.
Any great tips to improve your body language for training or public speaking?
- You can learn a lot by asking someone in the audience to observe your presentation style and taking notes. This way, he can share his observations after the session and you can work on your weak points. Maybe even record the session on video, so you can look at the performance yourself afterwards.
- You can also take voice coaching to improve your speech and volume, especially when you have to talk a lot and often have a sore throat.
- Join communities like Toastmasters to practice and improve your speaking skills.
Some general body language tips to use when coaching
- Try to look relaxed without coming over as nonchalant.
- Put yourself at eye level of your conversation partner.
- Don’t get too familiar if you just met, but don’t be too neutral either.
- Keep eye contact, especially when the other is talking.
We talked a bit about the cultural differences in body language.
For instance: People from Southern Europe sit much closer together when pair programming than people from the North. They have more physical contact when interacting with each other with bigger gestures.
We also briefly discussed autism and what difficulties this brings in reading body language. Apparently the IT business has a higher percentage of people with asperger’s syndrome. This can cause misreading body language and lead to misunderstandings.
This was an interesting sessions, thanks to all participants for sharing their views and experiences.
To conclude, here’s a list with some related information that was recommended during the session:
The Core Protocols – Jim & Michele McCarthy
The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell