Do You Leak When You Speak

Leaking is body language that undermines your intention.

Imagine this:

You walk into your manager’s office for your appraisal and the manager says to you, “Firstly, you’re doing exceptionally well with (new client that’s worth tons of business).” They look you in the eye, smile, and use a small gesture that underlines the word ‘exceptionally’. All good. Until you notice them fidget with the ring on their finger as if they’re trying to detach the digit from their hand.

What do you notice?

Your eye will hone into the fidgeting fingers. The confidence with which you were infused just a minute before, is dissipated.

Such gestures are not part of the conscious intention of the speaker. However, as they’re unconscious, they carry more weight, reflecting an unspoken but very genuine feeling. of discomfort. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the manager in the above example was lying: it could be a manifestation of general discomfort at giving a compliment, or anxiety about an event which is about to happen and may have no connection with that specific interaction. These unintentional gestures are ‘leaking gestures’. They will detract from your intention. Typical examples are:

  1. biting or pursing the lips after you’ve spoken (cause: trying to keep some words back?)
    possible impression: are you lying?
  2. smiling (cause: embarrassed at what you’ve just said or trying to soften the blow?)
    possible impression: what’s so funny?
  3. tapping the foot (cause: impatient? urging a response?)
    possible impression: are you trying to get me out of here?
  4. rolling the feet in (cause: trying to make yourself look smaller?)
    possible impression: you don’t look very confident

Take courage: if you show confidence, others will pick up on that. Sustain eye contact and keep the body language controlled. Often the messages you relay are not your own, and it would be natural to feel uncomfortable – but project clarity and that’s what you’ll give.


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