We all know that body language can convey thoughts and emotions. But did you know that people are more likely to respond to your non-verbal messages than they are your verbal ones?
Dr. Richard Strozzi-Heckler says, "When people listen, only 7 percent is content, the other 93 percent is body presence, which includes your tone of voice."
Which means you ask your significant other, "Sweetheart what would you like to do this weekend?" But you're really thinking, "If you try to drag me to your mother's house again, I think I'll have to murder you." The non-verbal message is what the other person is going to take away.
The thoughts that you have in your head affect how you hold your body, your facial expression and your tone, all of which let the other person know exactly what you're thinking.
Strozzi-Heckler, founder of the Strozzi Institute and author of "The Leadership Dojo," has spent his lifetime studying the mind, body, spirit interface, and he uses somatics - the unity of language, action, feeling and meaning - to teach executives how to better align their bodies with their messages.
He says, "The human mind is always scanning for trust and credibility."
That means people are constantly subconsciously reading each other, and when they read angst or aggression they either turn away or respond in kind, even if they don't realize why they're doing it.
Which is probably why your nosy, narrow-minded neighbors find that people don't spend too long chatting with them at cocktail parties. They may say they want to get to know people, but if they make mental criticisms about everyone they meet, their bodies are going to be giving off judgmental vibes.
It's kind of scary to think that your body is telling the world what you really think. After all, who hasn't had bad thoughts about others from time to time? But if you want your body to convey a more positive message, there is something you can do.
You may have heard the expression, "act as if." If you want to be successful, act as if you already are. If you want to be a loving parent or spouse act as though you already are.
It might feel disingenuous or inauthentic to pretend to be something that you're not, but Strozzi-Heckler suggests that rather than thinking of it as faking, think of it as practice. If you practice with your body, which includes your mouth and your mind, your spirit will eventually follow.
Strozzi-Heckler has found that 300 repetitions of something gives your body the memory, and after 3,000 repetitions it becomes part of who you are.
So if you want to care more about your spouse's perspective, the next time he or she talks, practice acting like you do. If you want to be more empathetic to your co-workers, practice behaving like a person who really does want to hear about their weekend.
I've been doing this for years, and it really works. I'm probably at 3,000 repetitions with my clients and kids, so thinking good thoughts about them really is part of who I am.
But alas, I've probably barely cracked 300 repetitions with my husband.
However, I remain hopeful that with only 2,700 more practice sessions I will indeed become a more empathetic and loving wife, in both mind and body.
Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.