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MCLEOD: What is your body saying about you?

Lisa McLeod

Lisa McLeod

What if other people could read your thoughts?

What if your boss knew what you were thinking during meetings?

What if your spouse knew what you were daydreaming about during dinner?

What if your coworkers and customers could hear your internal dialogue all day long?

Guess what? They can. They not only read your internal thoughts, they respond to them.

Human beings are always reacting and responding to each other. Some of it's conscious, but most of it's unconscious.

Studies show that when you're interacting with someone only 7 percent of what they respond to is your content, the actual words you say.

The other 93 percent of their response is to your mindset, tone and body language. Your actual words are only the tip of the iceberg, the rest of the conversation is happening beneath the surface.

For example if I asked you, "Where were you last night?" You'd know by my tone and body language whether I was accusing you, concerned about you, or just making conversation.

If I was angry because you stood me up, I wouldn't have to consciously tell myself, "Use an accusatory voice, stand with your hands on your hips, purse your lips, glare and flare your nostrils." I would just automatically do it. If I'm thinking about what a jerk you are, my body, face and tone naturally follow my thoughts without any internal prompting.

You'd likely know I was angry before I even started talking. You wouldn't consciously register my stance and tone, you'd just respond.

On the flip side, if you felt terrible about standing me up, you wouldn't think, "I better put my head down, widen my eyes and hold my hands outward palms facing up." Instead you would think, "Oh man, I can't believe I wrote the date down wrong and missed it!" Your body would automatically reveal your remorse.

If you were mad at me for expecting too much from you, you wouldn't think, "I'm going to jut my jaw, and narrow my eyes so that she knows I'm not sorry." Instead you'd more likely be thinking, "I can't believe that awful woman has the nerve to be mad at me!" and you'd automatically adopt a defensive stance.

We often mistakenly believe that we can cover up our internal dialogue. In reality, your internal thought track is leaking out all over the place. With every gesture, glance, and tone, your body is revealing your thoughts and the people around you are responding, in most cases without even realizing it.

Business professionals often go to body language seminars to learn how to use body language to convey the right message.

Personally, I think that's the wrong starting place. Your body and voice follow your thoughts. Isn't it a lot easier to just think the right thoughts in the first place?

For example, if you want a customer to buy something, don't think "I'm so worried they won't buy." That will only cause you to hunch your shoulders, furrow your brow and give off an anxious vibe. Instead think, "I'm so excited to be showing you this." You'll automatically smile, make eye contact, and open your arms.

If you want your kids or partner to be more loving, don't think, "Why can't you be more loving?" Instead think, "I really love you." They'll likely respond in kind.

Your body and voice follow your thoughts. Think the right thoughts and your body will take care of the rest.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of "The Triangle of Truth," a Washington Post "Top Five Book for Leaders."